The Proof of Principle POP grant program administered through
the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has been in place
since 2001. It provides a unique source of funding not only to
academic researchers, but also to companies collaborating with
academic researchers through matching partnered grants.
Academic researchers with commercially relevant projects should
investigate funding opportunities offered by this program. Further,
companies with links to academia stand to benefit from this funding
program because of the opportunity for academic researchers to
receive funds to match the support of a committed industry
partners, which can effectively double the money available to a
project. POP award recipients will certainly be the investigators
to watch for their future commercialization and industry
POP offers two different phases of opportunity for
commercializing academic research. Phase I provides up to $160,000
to academic investigators with projects of potential commercial
application, if the intellectual property is not yet licensed
outside of the originating university. Phase II provides up to
$300,000 to academic investigators to match the funds committed by
a commercial partner.
Designed to advance discoveries towards commercialization, the
POP program encourages protection of intellectual property, and in
so doing, helps to bring academic innovations into commercial
application for technologies that can improve health outcomes for
Canadians. In order to qualify for funding, a project must be
demonstrate market and opportunity and will ideally be at a stage
where the funding award can tip the balance to permit critical
experiments to be done to establish the proof of principle for an
invention or inventive concept, potentially allowing a patent
application to be filed.
The POP grant program requires an applicant to work with the
institution's technology transfer office to assemble a
commercialization plan, complete with an overview of the
intellectual property position of the proposed work. The requested
budget for the application can include up to 20% for eligible
commercialization activities. Up to $15,000 can be attributed to
patent costs, which will go a long way to offset the costs of
drafting and filing a patent application within the 1-year term of
the award. Consulting fees, market studies, communication and
networking costs, and trips to visit collaborators are eligible
The POP review committee includes academic and industry
specialists, as well as intellectual property and commercialization
specialists. The combined expertise of the POP review committee is
unique in Canada, and reviewers provide beneficial feed-back to
unsuccessful applicants that often results in successful
re-application in a subsequent round.
In the published decisions pertaining to the Fall 2013 PoP
grants, fourteen Phase I applications were funded across 11
different Canadian institutions. Three Phase II applications were
funded, representing three different institutions, with AmorChem
(Montreal), DeCell Technologies Inc. (Halifax), and Aquila
Diagnostics Systems Inc. (Edmonton) as the funding partners.
The PoP program will continue in its current format for two
rounds in the 2014/2015 competition, but watch for changes in Fall
of 2015, consistent with CIHR's reforms of funding programs and
the peer review process.
Dr. Kathleen Marsman is the current Chair of the CIHR Proof
of Principle grant review committee, and is a patent agent in the
Ottawa Office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
Previously published in LifeSigns- Life Sciences Legal
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