Early-stage drug discovery projects will now be able to apply for funding for up to two years to facilitate screening of chemical compounds to identify one or more lead series of molecules.
Later-stage projects, where a lead compound has already been identified, will still be eligible to apply for funding for up to four years, to support lead optimisation and preclinical development through to phase 1 clinical trials.
A successful early-stage project will be eligible to apply for further Seeding Drug Discovery funding as a late-stage project, without the need to repeat the preliminary application and triage process.
By separating out the levels of support into early and late stages, the Trust aims to progress drug development programmes further through preclinical development, up to and including phase 1 clinical trials.
The changes to the application process will take effect from November 2012.
The Wellcome Trust launched Seeding Drug Discovery in 2005 to facilitate small-molecule drug discovery. The scheme supports the development of experimental drug candidates to a stage at which they are attractive to follow-on investment or partnering. Over 40 projects have been supported to date and one project has already partnered with a major pharmaceutical company. A further two other projects have successfully completed clinical trials.