Foundation / Corporation
North Carolina Biotechnology Center
Grants to North Carolina universities and nonprofit research organizations for studies that explore the potential commercial applications of life science innovations. This program fosters collaborations between university researchers and commercializations advisors. Projects will involve a scientific or technical research study in conjunction with an exploratory commercial development project.
The Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG) supports studies that explore potential commercial applications of translational research-stage university life science inventions. BIG grants enable strategic “go/no-go” decision-making regarding the further development and/or pursuit of intellectual property protection and strengthen the entrepreneurial culture within a university or non-profit research institute.
BIG awards are intended to foster new collaborations between university scientists and commercialization advisers to explore potential of both the scientific and product development applications of inventions.
The lines of research supported by BIG awards are extensions of significant foundational research already accomplished and are intended to transition basic research discoveries into translational research phases of development.
This program is intended to work upstream of the Center’s other technology development program for universities, the Technology Enhancement Grant, which supports subsequent technology licensing efforts by the university.
A BIG project is comprised of two arms:
1. A scientific or technical research study and
2. An exploratory commercial development project
Each proposal will be evaluated on both the technology development project and the commercial development project and on the likelihood that the proposed work will advance the invention toward intellectual property protection and/or commercialization.
The technology must have the potential for significant contribution to the development of a commercial product in the life sciences sector. The commercial development project must advance the strength of the business case for the technology.
A clear decision whether to support a university’s continued investment in further intellectual property protection and commercialization efforts or not (i.e. go/no- go) is considered a successful outcome of a BIG project. Project outcomes that support the decision to discontinue investment of time, effort, and funds in the technology and/or related IP are viewed by NC Biotech as valid and useful.
A technology or scientific discovery is poised for BIG funding when the basic research phase has been completed and is entering the translational research or preliminary product phase of development.
Examples of technical project studies include:
-Proof-of-concept and feasibility studies
-Compound screening against a validated target
-Scale-up pilot studies
-Other studies designed to achieve commercially relevant milestones
A BIG proposal focuses on translational research, therefore, the technology development project must focus on a single, achievable research project with clearly defined success criteria and go/no-go decision making points. The research plan must detail milestone-based objectives for each scientific aim of the study.
Simultaneously, and in close co-ordination with the scientific/technical researchers, a partner referred to as the Commercial Development Adviser (CDA) undertakes the commercial development project. The CDA is responsible for writing and executing the Commercial Development Narrative, a project plan that details preliminary commercial development tasks to be achieved during the project.
The Commercial Development Project may include, but is not limited to, the following tasks:
-Examination of the market for the discovery/invention/product
-Analysis of the intellectual property (IP) landscape
-Creation of a commercial technology development plan (distinct from the technical development plan) that addresses specific product development milestones
-Clarification of the regulatory path necessary to gain market approval
-Assessment of a product’s potential impact on the market
-Competitive analysis of the market
-SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis
-Studies designed to assess commercial feasibility and guide further IP protection
-Analysis of other factors influencing commercial development
GrantWatch ID#: 178030
A maximum of $100,000 may be requested. A minimum of 15 - 20% of the requested funds is expected to be directed toward commercial development project activities.
The projected start date for BIG awardees is no earlier than February 1, 2019, depending on the terms and conditions of the award. A project period of up to 18 months may be requested.
Proposals may be submitted by any North Carolina university or nonprofit research organization.
Eligible projects support inventions that have been disclosed to the university’s technology transfer office but have not yet been converted to a full non-provisional or PCT patent application. Note that the filing of a provisional patent application is allowable but not required.
Principal Investigator Eligibility:
At the time of submission, the Principal Investigator (PI) must hold a full-time, tenure-track or tenured faculty appointment, or an appointment as full-time research faculty with a dedicated independent lab at the applicant institution.
-The PI may not have a financial relationship with the Commercial Development Adviser or with any firms funded by this award. Any potential conflicts of interest MUST be disclosed in the application.
-The PI may have no more than two active awards from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center at the same time.
Commercial Development Adviser Eligibility:
The CDA role allows for a wide variety of relevant experiences and backgrounds, including but not limited to:
-Business expert(s) outside of the lab but within the university, such as an entrepreneur-in-residence, business school faculty, or university staff responsible for new ventures development
-Commercial experts outside the university, such as serial entrepreneurs, industry-experienced product development consultants, or investors with experience serving on the boards of startup companies or venture capital funds
-Representatives of local entrepreneurship support organizations
A proposed CDA who is a member of the institution’s technology transfer office is strongly discouraged, except in a project management role overseeing and coordinating activities conducted by experienced commercial development experts.
There are a number of organizations throughout the state that provide assistance to entrepreneurs and could potentially serve as CDAs. See the FAQs for examples of qualified advisers and information on resources available for entrepreneurs in North Carolina.
-The CDA cannot conduct any portion of the technical project.
-The CDA may not have a financial relationship with any firms or contract research organizations funded by this award. Any potential conflicts of interest MUST be disclosed in the application.
Biotechnology Center grants do not support any type of overhead or indirect costs.
Technical project activities cannot be subcontracted to any commercial firm with a financial relationship with either the PI(s) or the CDA. These arrangements carry the risk that the project may appear as subsidized R&D for a company, which is not consistent with the objectives of the program.
There is a minimum 10% match required from the university. In addition to the minimum 10% match, any equipment costing over $40,000 requires a direct 25% cash match.
Although not required, a pre-submission consultation is strongly encouraged. Please contact program staff at least three weeks prior to the deadline if you would like to schedule a consultation or have a draft proposal reviewed.
Important First Step: The Principal Investigator for the proposal must register for an account on the NCBiotech Funding Portal prior to submitting a proposal. Click here for instructions and more information:
The BIG application form will be available online after August 1, 2018. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, August 29, 2018 (noon).
Frequently Asked Questions:
Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.
Deborah De, Senior Director, Grant Process Operations
USA: North Carolina