Canada: Funding Intellectual Property And Academic-Industry Collaboration Through CIHR Commercialization Grants

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 collaboration efforts.

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 expenses

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 Trends in Canada

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