CUREator – Australia’s national biotech incubator

Delivered by the Brandon Capital-managed MRCF, CUREator is backed by the Australian Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund. The MRFF’s $80 million Medical Research Commercialisation Initiative aims to support early-stage health and medical research and innovation in Australia through to proof-of-concept and beyond, providing opportunities for commercialisation. CUREator is responsible for managing a $40m portion of this fund, dedicated to supporting novel therapeutics and preclinical medical research.

 

Australia’s national biotech incubator

CUREator is a national biotechnology incubator run by the Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF).

Aimed at supporting the development of Australian biomedical innovations, CUREator is a nationwide program offering grant funding for a select number of preclinical medical research and medical innovation projects, and clinical-stage novel therapeutics.

CUREator will identify early-stage biomedical technologies over the initial three year term, providing clear milestone-driven grant funding and help to guide development of these assets through to the point they are investment or partnership ready.

Separately, CUREator will provide MRFF funding to support the clinical development of novel, clinical stage drug therapies to treat disease. Opportunities that successfully receive funding through this stream, will also have the opportunity to apply for matching investment from Brandon Capital or third-party funding. This program aims to keep support promising Australian companies to remain in Australia longer.

Successful applicants must perform the research in Australia (where possible); and funding must be provided to an Australian company. (Applicants may still apply for CUREator funding if a company does not yet exist – CUREator can assist successful applicants in establishing a legal vehicle immediately prior to award).

Expressions of Interest (EOI) for Round One are now open and close on Monday 6 December at 4:00pm AEDT. Follow the below link to apply.

For more information on CUREator and the application process, watch the CUREator Information Session + Q&A webinar here

We welcome and encourage applications from individuals with diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented genders* and diverse lived experiences (including those living with disability, rural and regional locations, neurodiversity, culturally diverse backgrounds and of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage).

*This includes cis women, non-binary people, and those who are otherwise marginalised.

Benefits

Both the preclinical and clinical-stage therapeutic streams will benefit from Brandon Capital and the MRCF’s extensive experience in managing biomedical investments, actively supporting investee companies to commercialise medical technologies and novel therapeutics. Investment opportunities will be assessed using the established MRCF processes and committees, together with independent panel members to ensure robust and balanced selections.

The experienced Brandon Capital/CUREator team will provide management expertise to support development of early-stage technologies and clinical-stage therapeutics. In addition, grant recipients can expect to benefit from connections to pharmaceutical companies, local and international venture capital firms and institutional investors. Through these networks, CUREator will assist projects and companies seeking follow-on funding through Brandon Capital or corporate partnerships. Grant recipients will also be able to co-locate at the MRCF offices across the country or at MRCF’s incubators in Melbourne and Sydney.

For more information, please contact info@cureator.com.au

FAQ

How does the grant application process work?

Both the Preclinical Stream and Clinical Stream applications entail a multi-stage process, modelled on the existing MRCF process. All applications commence with an EOI application which must be submitted online at: https://cureator.awardsplatform.com/

You will need to select which funding stream (Preclinical or Clinical) you are applying for as part of the application process. All EOI submissions must be submitted by 4:00pm AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time) on Monday 6 December 2021. Late applications will not be considered.

Successful EOI applications will then be invited to submit a full application for further review and due diligence. Full applications that successfully complete due diligence will then proceed to grant offer and acceptance in Q2 2022.

Applications for CUREator funding follow a three-stage process:

1. Expression of Interest (EOI): Interested parties with eligible projects submit a confidential EOI to the CUREator team for review.

2. Full Application: Successful EOI applicants will be requested to prepare a full application. This will expand on the information provided in the EOI to provide a full outline of the project that will be reviewed by the CUREator nationally representative sub-committee.

3. Due Diligence and execution: Successful full applications will work with the CUREator team to complete due diligence, IP (Intellectual Property) review, project planning, timing, budgets and milestones prior to contract execution.

What is the timeline for applying?

Expressions of interest open: Thursday 11 November 2021

Final date for EOI submission: Monday 6 December at 4:00pm AEDT

Notification for shortlisting of EOI applications: from Wednesday 15 December 2021

Full applications from shortlisted applicants due: early-mid February 2022 (TBA)

Who is eligible?

Any Australian small to medium size enterprise (SME), or life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute is eligible to submit an application. The proposed research must be performed in Australia (where possible).

Incorporated, Australian start-ups and SMEs are eligible to receive the grant for both pre-clinical and clinical funding streams. If your project has not yet incorporated, you can still apply but you will need to be incorporated prior to award (Q2 2022) to receive the funding. CUREator may be able to assist successful applicants in establishing an eligible, incorporated company, where required.

What are we looking for?

Innovative science – what does the science behind the project enable?

Highly differentiated – how is this approach distinguished from existing solutions?

Biomedical applications – unmet medical need and how it can be addressed?

Clear achievable plan – a credible plan to investability or commercial licence

For the Clinical Stream only: early clinical development program for novel drugs or novel uses for existing drugs to demonstrate commercial potential

What does the Preclinical Stream fund?

Funding for the Preclinical Stream is open to preclinical medical research or medical innovation projects with commercial potential. Preclinical medical research and medical innovation includes any intervention that prevents, diagnoses or treats a disease state, its symptoms or risk factors. It is required that the funding provided is to support activities that increase the commercial traction and investability of projects. This may include completing key proof-of-concept experiments, mechanism of action, lead optimisation and lead selection, formal development, indication selection, commercial positioning and validation activities. Each project supported by CUREator will need to be carefully designed, with clearly defined project deliverables and fast-fail milestones to ensure they reach completion on time, delivering key value-adding and de-risking milestones during the grant period.

What does the Clinical Stream fund?

Funding for the Clinical Stream is open to companies to progress the early clinical development of novel drugs, or novel uses for existing drugs with commercial potential. Funding for projects will focus on supporting to design, commence or complete phase 1 and phase 2 clinical studies, including investigator led and multi-centre studies. Patient studies (phase 1b and 2a and beyond), will be designed to validate safety but also to generate evidence of efficacy, by using both traditional measures of disease and novel, cutting edge biomarkers and analysis.

How much funding is offered?

The Preclinical Stream offers (non-dilutive) grant funding up to $500,000 for preclinical medical research or medical innovation projects. For the EOI stage, all applications must provide a budget for their ‘proof of concept’ research plan (i.e., submit a budget up to $500,000). All applicants submitting a $500,000 budget also have the option as part of the EOI to identify additional milestones and deliverables that can be achieved via access to extra funds (up to a further $500,000). Through the review process, a select number of projects will be invited to submit full applications for additional (non-dilutive) grant funding (up to an additional $500,000) on the basis of EOI submissions.

The Clinical Stream will provide (non-dilutive) grant funding of up to $1,500,000 to support the clinical development of novel, clinical stage drug therapies to treat disease. Opportunities that successfully receive funding through this stream, will also have the opportunity to apply for matching (dilutive) investment from MRCF/Brandon Capital Partners or third-party funding.

Do I need to be working for an MRCF member institution to apply?

No, you don’t! CUREator is a national biotechnology incubator run by the Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF). Applications are open to any Australian SME, or life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute. Applicants do not need to be from an MRCF member institution to be eligible for funding. We have included a list of MRCF member institutes and non-members in the application process to assist us with reporting and tracking for the MRFF.

What kinds of organisations are able to receive CUREator funding and how is this defined for eligibility?  

The EOI and Full application process is open to any Australian SME, or life science researcher at an Australian university or research institute. However, successful applicants will need to be incorporated (if not already) prior to award (Q2 2022) to receive the funding. 

Successful applicants may be a private or public, listed or unlisted (Pty Ltd. or Ltd.) Australian SME. An Australian SME is defined as a business that employs less than 200 people and is a registered Australian corporate entity (i.e., registered with ASIC). Unfortunately, not-for-profit organisations (NFPs), university TTO’s/IP holding companies, companies registered outside Australia, Australian companies with 200 or more employees and other Australian business entities and structures are not eligible to receive CUREator funding. These criteria reflect the requirements of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant that CUREator operates. Note that CUREator will be able to provide streamlined documentation to assist with company formation via an expedited process, where required.  

Can I submit more than one application?

Only one application may be submitted by the same business entity or project per Stream (universities, research institutes or other publicly funded research organisations (PFROs) may submit applications on behalf of multiple projects within their portfolio across either stream as relevant, but these institutions are ineligible to receive the grant funding themselves). Applicants are eligible to submit an application for both Streams (Preclinical and Clinical), as long as each application submitted meets the criteria. Where universities, research institutes or other publicly funded research organisations (PFROs) are coordinating proposals on behalf of multiple projects, the project (and ABN/ACN) must be clearly identified and distinguishable for each application to enable the review panel to differentiate between proposals.

Is this research funding, a commercial grant or will CUREator/MRCF take equity?

CUREator provides commercial grant funding (equity free) to projects in the Preclinical Stream and Clinical Stream (the MRFF has allocated $19.75M to CUREator/MRCF under each Stream over an initial three-year period). This funding is best considered as non-dilutive capital rather than a research grant. This means successful projects will receive tranched funding matched to achievement of commercially relevant milestones, that will be defined and agreed together with CUREator/MRCF as part of the full application process.

For the Clinical Stream, successful applicants who receive CUREator funding (up to $1.5 million) will also have the opportunity to apply for matching (dilutive) investment from MRCF or third-party funding on an investment for equity basis. Projects are not required to accept matching equity-based funding to receive the grant.

What happens if my project has grant funding, equity investment, or matching capital from other sources?

Matching capital (and in-kind support) will be well regarded as part of application review. Applicants should ensure that it is clear what the CUREator funding will be used to achieve and how this is measurably distinct from use of any other funding or support from other sources.

What is the period for use of the funds and what outcomes are expected?

Successful projects will have 1-2 years to complete project activities and achievement of milestones, agreed as part of the full application process. Successful Round 1 applicants will be expected to commence project activities in mid-2022.

How many applications will be funded in this round? Will there be another round or is this my only chance?

There is no quota or minimum number of applications to be funded in Round 1. CUREator aims to support at least 25 pre-clinical projects and at least 11 clinical-trial stage projects over a three-year period.

There will be further funding rounds over the funding period. Expressions of interest (EOIs) for the next application round are expected to open in June/July 2022. Opportunities that do not yet meet the eligibility criteria or that do not expect to be ready to submit an application in this round may elect to wait for later rounds.

Can I re-apply, or submit an application if I have previously submitted a proposal to the MRCF that was not successful?

CUREator will run future rounds of funding over our initial 3-year funding period. If you are unsuccessful at the full application stage, it is essential that you address the feedback from the review process before applying again. Similarly, unsuccessful EOI applications are encouraged to make progress towards their objectives in any intervening period before applying again. Remember, a key feature of successful start-ups is their tenacity in the face of obstacles and their ability to work around (or through) constraints.

Why is the EOI application period so short?

Our objective in running this first funding round now is to make a start on supporting great projects as soon as possible! Projects that cannot meet the initial Round 1 EOI deadline will still have the opportunity to apply for CUREator support through future rounds.

How confidential/independent is the proposal review process?

All applications will be treated under standard MRCF confidentiality arrangements. If confidential information is provided, please preface this with [Confidential]. It is not expected that you will disclose confidential information in the application to submit a successful EOI application. It is imperative that you can share enough technical information to demonstrate differentiation and novelty in the EOI but it may not be necessary to disclose confidential information in order to do so.

EOI applications will be reviewed by the CUREator Assessment Committee, consisting of Brandon Capital delegates and two independent members.

What is CUREator’s IP policy/what claims does CUREator/MRCF have on any IP associated with my project? 

Preclinical and Clinical Stream funding are non-dilutive grants and no claims are made on the background or project IP associated with projects on the basis of these grants. Successful teams may apply for MRCF funding and this is on an equity investment basis. 

Can I get any feedback on submitting an EOI application or on my submitted EOI application?

The CUREator team run information sessions/webinars as often as we can. The national webinar is available on the CUREator website. Where appropriate/possible, questions asked at these sessions will be added to the CUREator website FAQ.

Unsuccessful EOI applications will be advised as soon as possible during the review process. However, owing to the volume of applications we receive, applicants are not expected to receive further feedback at the EOI stage.

What will the full application form entail?

The full application will expand on the information provided in the EOI to provide a full outline of the project. Successful applicants will have 10 weeks to prepare a full application (details and template documents will be provided) to the CUREator team.

My application is stuck/lost in the system. What should I do?

Although we strive to offer a fantastic application experience, sometimes these things happen! Please get in touch by emailing the CUREator team at info@cureator.com.au with specific details of the issue you are facing.