November 14, 2022

Biotech and MedTech Funding Series: Funding an Oncology Startup with CPRIT

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The perfect funding source for your oncology R&D startups

Young MedTech and biotech product development companies face a tougher financial environment as monthly venture investments dropped by 61% between March 2021 and March 2022. Why is this happening? Well, with an increasing number of oncology startups emerging, investors and funding services are becoming more selective and cautious of the financial risks associated with new cancer companies bringing in a victory with their funding. 

However, do not be discouraged; cutting-edge cancer startups and their therapies continue to improve the lives of millions of people all over the world. Although each funding source comes with its own challenges, finding the right funding source for your oncology company in its early R&D stage is what Contract Research Organizations aim to do. 

Table of Contents:

  • The perfect funding source for your oncology R&D startups
  • Let’s see how CPRIT began in Texas
  • How much money has CPRIT funded Institutions and startups over the years?
  • What can CPRIT really do?
  • How to apply for a product development CPRIT grant?
  • Administrative review, scoring, and final decisions after a CPRIT submission 
  • More on CPRIT impact stories
  • How can Contract Research Organizations (CROs) help with your CPRIT grant?
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CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas) is a multifaceted funding source located in Texas, offering grants for Product Development Research, Preventative Care programs, and Academic Research for oncology startups and services. Contract Research Organizations assist businesses in making the best use of their CPRIT funds by providing oncology trial designs and budgeting resources. Continue reading to find out how oncology CROs can help with grant support.

Let’s see how CPRIT began in Texas

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is presently the second-largest state agency and public sponsor of cancer research in the United States, trailing behind the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

On May 24, 2007, a joint resolution was made proposing the constitutional amendment, H.J.R No. 90, establishing CPRIT. This proposal would authorize obligatory funds for scientific research on all forms of human cancer. With a staggering number of Texas voters approving this constitutional amendment, the proposition was passed on November 5, 2007, making it now a $6 billion initiative to finance and invest in research to prevent and cure cancer. 

Texas is currently leading the fight against cancer, making them a global innovator in product development research by bringing science from the laboratories into cancer drugs, diagnostics, and therapeutics. When CPRIT first presented itself, its purpose was to:

  1. Invest in cutting-edge cancer research technologies and services to increase the likelihood of medical advancement in cancer treatment and prevention while developing the necessary guidelines and oversight organizations to guarantee funds are allocated effectively.
  2. Develop or enhance the research capacities of public or private higher education institutions and other public or private organizations to support an increase in cancer research and the creation of new, high-quality jobs in Texas.
  3. Continue to develop and implement the Texas Cancer Plan by promoting the development of statewide public and private policies, programs, and services related to cancer and by encouraging thorough planning among the public, private, and volunteer sectors involved in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and research.
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Image from CPRIT

Today, the CPRIT mission remains the same, but it has taken on a whole new significance for the Texas life science infrastructure in accelerating the flow of safe and dependable products to treat cancer patients. With more than 8.18 million cancer prevention services provided to startups, institutions, and cancer patients residing in Texas, CPRIT has delivered on its promise in cancer care by trying to fund as many applications, or projects, as possible.

How much money has CPRIT funded institutions & startups over the years?

When it comes to CPRIT financing, many product development and academic projects are rising to the top and getting funded positively following a thorough screening procedure. CIPRIT funds are meant to be spent in Texas, with a portion going to the state's universities. The top 10 universities that had been awarded CPRIT funding as of October 2016 are shown in the graph below. Today, Baylor College of Medicine received an additional 12 grants, adding another $15.6 million to their total grant money.

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Source: Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas. Current as of October 2016.

By 2021, Texas businesses and institutions had received more than $2.9 billion in awards from CPRIT.  Oncology startups in Texas experienced enormous projections in product development research, preventative care, and academic financing that same year, with 107 grants awarded. As CPRIT awards continue to grow, the total has now risen to $3 billion.

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2021 CPRIT Annual Report

As of February 2022, 74 additional grants totaling more than $112 million have been announced by CPRIT. Some major grants, totaling $9.7 million, were given to numerous organizations that work to prevent, identify, and treat youth and adolescent cancer. An early-stage biopharma startup called Ares Immunotherapy received a $3 million grant to perform in-person clinical studies for the deadly cancer mesothelioma, which is typically linked to asbestos exposure.

A $3 million award was also given to Iterion Therapeutics for their clinical-trial business. With the award, they want to progress their clinical trials for their small-molecule drug Tegavivint, which targets and inhibits the TBL1 protein that interacts with a number of signaling pathways that regulate cancer cell growth.

You must be wondering, what steps should a product development startup take to apply for a CPRIT grant, and what is the approval process like?

What can CPRIT really do?

CPRIT itself can be used by entities within Product Development Research, Academic Research, and Prevention Programs. 

The Product Development Research Program finances start-up businesses and projects that showcase groundbreaking products or technologies for people with cancer. CPRIT grants for R&D can be used to support studies that establish preclinical proof of concept, product validation, design, and clinical studies demonstrating safety and efficacy.

Within the Academic Research Program, CPRIT funds underfunded areas of cancer research such as early detection research, computational biology, childhood cancers, and hepatocellular cancers. One of its program highlights includes the CPRIT Scholars grant, which allows for the recruitment of world-class scientists to Texas universities. 

Lastly, for the Prevention Program, CPRIT funds data-driven prevention interventions and early detection methods for all cancer types by investing in technologies and services across the state.

Image from CPRIT

Note: Although you might feel as if there has been little talk within the medical device and software industry, CPRIT is also committed to funding projects within these areas too.

There are many ways to use the CPRIT grant money once approved and several ways it should not be used. Understanding the allowable costs established by the Uniform Grant Management Standards (UGMS) and possibly working with an oncology CRO, like Proxima, is vital to understanding the limits for each CPRIT grant contract.

How to apply for a product development CPRIT grant?

Cancer research and prevention proposals follow the guidelines provided by the Request for Application (RFA). Within the RFA, information such as deadlines, eligibility requirements, evaluation criteria, funding limits, and special considerations can be found. 

All applicants must submit proposals through CPRIT’s electronic portal by creating a user account and designating an authorized signing official through, cpritgrants.org

In addition to the proposal, Product Development applicants must submit a preliminary application containing a 2-page executive summary, a 16-slide overview of the scientific basis for the proposed project, and a 1-page explanation of the project’s aims and requested budget.

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Additionally, what makes CPRIT grants so special is that its funds are only awarded to companies, organizations, and institutions residing in Texas. However, companies and institutions operating in Texas can communicate and collaborate with companies outside of the state. 

Companies residing outside of Texas are eligible to apply for any Product Development award only if they plan on relocating to Texas.

Administrative review, scoring, and final decisions after a CPRIT submission

The CPRIT grant process travels through various reviews, panel discussions, and scorings to potentially receive the grant award contract. The grant review process for Product Development Research follows these common steps. However, compared to Academic Research and Prevention, each program has its slight process differences:

  1. Administrative Review - Application reviewed for compliance against administrative requirements
  2. Review Conflict of Interest (COI) Identification - Experts in cancer research provide a summary of sources of funding and potential COIs
  3. Reviewer Assignment - Peer reviewers within their expertise are assigned to panels for discussions, presentations, or scoring
  4. Initial Evaluation & Scoring - A detailed two-stage peer review takes place where the application is evaluated by the peer review panel and prioritization is placed by the Scientific Review Council
  5. Panel Discussion - A full peer review with around 12 to 15 reviewers are conducted to then provide individual overall scores 
  6. In-Person Presentations - Selected applicants are invited to present their proposal to the review panel 
  7. Due Diligence Review - Applications that score well after the in-person presentations will go under an in-depth evaluation
  8. Review Council Recommendation - After verifying the panel’s recommendations, the Chair and Panel Chairs conduct a programmatic review by assigning a ranking score to each application
  9. Program Integration Committee (PIC) Review - The PIC committee will then approve by a majority vote and with an explanation for its recommendation, the final applicants that will make it to the Oversight Committee Action 
  10. Oversight Committee Action - Two-thirds of the Oversight Committee present and vote to approve or deny each applicant submitted by the PIC
  11. Grant Award Contract - CPRIT contracts are granted to oncology CROs, other companies, or institutions informing the responsibilities and obligations of the award

Remember before submitting that CPRIT supports all three-year projects with a $3 million funding cap. However, with a well-justified explanation, you may extend the contract's duration or request any amount of funding. Check to see if you fall under these categories of product development grants.

The four categories of product development grants include: 

  1. Texas Therapeutics Company Product Development Research Award 
  2. Texas Diagnostics and Devices Company Product Development Research Award 
  3. Texas New Technologies Company Product Development Research Award  
  4. Seed Awards for Product Development Research. 

Oncology startups and early-stage companies are advised to apply for product development research grants to advance cancer care technologies with the help of CPRIT funds. 

More on CPRIT impact stories

Since 2010, CPRIT has awarded over 1,794 grants, averaging a total of $3,123,633,340 in grant money. Recipients included 127 academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and startup companies either relocating or residing in Texas. With an average of over 320,000 annual services supplied throughout Texas, CPRIT also assisted in providing over 18,400 screenings and 4,000 diagnostics annually to the state's rural areas, putting Texans in the hands of cutting-edge cancer care.

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Source: CPRIT


CPRIT recently made a significant return to Texas by authorizing multiple Product Development Research programs totaling more than $48 million in grants. One Product Development award was a $16 million grant given to ImmuneSensor Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company working to create a class of medications known as STING, that will stimulate the immune system and combat different cancer cells. 

Texas has produced more than $7.66 billion in additional revenue thanks to the migration of over 51 businesses, which will be used to fund more public and private initiatives as well as most of its revenue going back towards the fight against cancer.

The CPRIT grants that have been awarded over the years for various product development initiatives are listed below. Visit CPRITs Grants Funded website to learn more about these grants.

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Overall, CPRIT is a work in progress with governing bodies dedicated to the mission of treating cancer and saving lives. Today, CPRIT grants have become a go-to funding source thanks to the assistance of oncology CROs.

How can Contract Research Organizations (CROs) help with your CPRIT grant?

Contract Research Organizations (CROs) like Proxima Clinical Research, help design trials, programs, and strategies to better assist your MedTech or biotech company in its early-stage clinical trials. As an oncology CRO, Proxima also prides itself on helping your startup meet every milestone while staying on a budget after receiving a CPRIT grant. Producing a successful oncology trial is essential to utilizing the grant accurately and bringing new therapies into the marketplace effectively. 

Proxima recently helped oncology R&D organizations with their CPRIT funding applications by providing Letters of Support. Based on the prospective grant, this letter would outline how Proxima will assist a company's endeavor by offering the services required for clinical trials.

The product development CPRIT award aims to assist startups in bridging the gap between bringing a novel cancer treatment from the lab to the patients. As funding becomes more difficult to attain, Texas believes in investing in the cure for cancer through CPRIT grants. 

You can be the one to receive a CPRIT grant and change the world.

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