There is a wide gap in Germany between successful fundamental medical and scientific research and its real-time, direct application in routine clinical practice for the benefit of patients. This is due, among other things, to the scarcity of funding for gathering the necessary preclinical data and for initial clinical trials. In the case of therapeutics that require a considerable amount of investment to bring them to market, for example, financially sound investors are often only interested in financing further product development with risk capital after the successful completion of clinical phase 1 and 2 trials.
The EKFS’s aim through its non-profit subsidiary For Tra gGmbH für Forschungstransfer is to fund and actively support research projects, in order to bring promising developments to the application stage as quickly as possible to help the sick or prevent diseases. The translational research funding line is open to all patient-side applications, regardless of market size.
The translational research funding line is aimed to support innovative projects with high translational potential, for which the respective patient-related application potential is clearly defined and for which the first convincing research findings have already been demonstrated. The EKFS supports translational research projects by funding of key experiments or studies that are required to validate the medical approach or the product (drug). In addition, projects that are funded from the translational research funding line have the possibility to receive close expert support for project development and technology and knowledge transfer into application.
Applicants can apply for validation and advancement of their project, for example by payment for external research services, such as a toxicity study, large animal model, etc.
- financing of further validation studies in cohorts for a new clinical diagnostics
- start-up financing for an initial clinical trial (e.g. “first-in-man” trial)
As most application-oriented projects are at different stages of development and require very different measures to advance them, the projects approved within the scope of the translational research funding line can receive further support via individually tailored support measures, e.g.:
- financing of consulting service, e.g. from a patent attorney or with regard to regulatory matters
- financing of costs to patent promising inventions
- assumption of the costs for professional advice on technology and knowledge transfer to the relevant technology or innovation by an external advisor recognized by the EKFS
- assumption of the costs for professional and intensive consulting with regard to project development and/or spin-off coaching for new spin-off projects by an external consultant recognized by the EKFS
The subsequent continued financing of an advanced-stage translational project supported by the EKFS, for example by an industrial partner, is expressly encouraged. One exception is direct or indirect (co-)financing of the development work of a commercial partner, who, for example, owns the property rights to the product to be developed, meaning that the project manager has no FTO (freedom to operate).
The main applicants are academic scientists, who can send an outline of their project to the EKFS at any time. The recipient of subsequent funding is the non-profit research facility in Germany that employs the applicants. No funding agreements may be concluded with readily established business firms.
Electronic application submission via email addressed to Professor Zörnig is possible at any time and does not require a specific format template. What is required besides the actual application itself is the filled-out Assessment Form for the “Translatorik” (‘Translational Research’) line of funding, which can be downloaded as a Word document from the EKFS home page (2018-11-01_Translation_Assessment_Form_de). A number of details regarding application submission can also be found among the answers to the “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)” on the home page. Making contact with Prof. Zörnig by telephone prior to application submission is recommended in order to clarify fundamental funding capability for the project along with the particulars involved towards application submission.
Application submission is possible at any time. There are currently no time limits or deadlines. Processing commences directly following receipt of the application.
Alongside the application itself, applicants must attach and include the completely filled out “Translation Assessment Form” from EKFS for the funding line “Translational Research”. The form can be downloaded from the EKFS home page.
The official funder of projects is ForTra gGmbH für Forschungstransfer, a non-profit subsidiary at the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) foundation. The limited-liability company concludes contracts with the respective employers of project directors. In other words, the funding recipients are academic research facilities (hospitals, research institutes, etc.) or other non-profit scientific/scholastic institutions.
There is no template for applications which, however, ought to include the following parts:
- A summary of the project, including indication of the funding sum being applied for, the term of the project and the designated object of funding
- An overview regarding the field that a non-expert interested in science is able to understand
- Own specifications and details, including relevant original data
- A precise indication regarding the amount of funding resources being applied for along with a precise portrayal of what they are supposed to be utilised for (work programme)
- A detailed depiction of how the project is supposed to be advanced after the funding from ForTra ends – Who is able to or shall make funds available following the funding from ForTra? Do investors exist who intend to invest money in the project upon achievement of certain “milestones” once the funding agreement has expired?
A maximum sum for funding has not been established. Until now the average funding sum has amounted to around EUR 300,000, but in the past projects involving either higher or lower project costs have also been supported. The co-financing of projects together with another sponsor is equally possible. The foundation assumes only those types of project costs that applicants are unable to finance via other organisations and/or investors.
The potential terms for projects that can be applied for are flexible. Many projects are funded for 2 or 3 years, but depending on the respective work programme both shorter and even longer terms are possible.
On average it takes roughly 3 months from the day the foundation receives the completed application until the final funding decision.
At the present time, the non-profit company ForTra GmbH für Forschungstransfer at EKFS does not conclude any funding agreements with readily existing firms/spin-offs, only with academic research facilities (hospitals, research institutes, etc.) or other non-profit scientific/scholastic institutions (in other words, with the project directors’ employer).