Cancer Research UK's expanded 5-year funding strategy includes an annual award for mid-career scientists providing £1.5 million ($2.3 million) over 6 years to cover the costs of running a lab.

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has launched an annual award program for leading mid-career scientists as part of an expanded 5-year funding strategy that significantly boosts investment in key areas of cancer research.

The Program Foundation Award will be a stepping stone between CRUK's Career Establishment Award, which provides 6 years of funding for promising new scientists, and the Science Committee Program Award, which supports established, senior researchers. The new award will provide up to £1.5M (US $2.3M) over 6 years to researchers with 8 to 14 years of postdoctoral experience.

“When someone came to the end of a Career Establishment Award (or a Clinician Scientist Fellowship), they were then expected to compete with senior researchers for a Program Award,” says Iain Foulkes, PhD, executive director of strategy and research funding for CRUK. “That's a big ask for researchers who have just set up their lab within the past 6 years. We wanted to bridge that gap.”

The Program Foundation Award is the first of eight new awards included in CRUK's expanded research strategy, which boosts overall spending by 50% to about £580 million ($907 million) per year over the next 5 years, making it the second-largest funder of cancer research worldwide, next to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, says Foulkes. Other awards include an innovation grant for small-scale, high-risk/high-reward research; a multidisciplinary award aimed at encouraging collaboration between biomedical researchers and engineers and physical scientists; and a Grand Challenge award to stimulate a consortium-based approach to some of the biggest questions in cancer.

The new strategy aims to accelerate progress in several key areas of cancer research, including identifying and developing new markers for early detection, and focusing on areas of clinical unmet need, such as lung, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers and brain tumors, says Nic Jones, PhD, CRUK's chief scientist.

“Our new strategy builds on our existing strengths and further establishes the UK as a leading center for cancer research,” says Jones.

CRUK currently funds 80 new investigators, many of whom will be competing for mid-career funding, along with any other scientists who meet the eligibility criteria, which include having a full-time post at a UK university.

Starting in 2015, CRUK will select 10 Program Foundation Award winners per year, says Foulkes. The award covers the costs of running a lab, including staff salaries, doctoral student stipends, and associated operating and equipment expenses. At the end of 6 years, awardees are expected to be ready to compete for the Science Committee Program Award, CRUK's largest grant, providing up to £2.5 million ($3.9 million) for 5 years.

“This is a significant new funding scheme that will support a cadre of future research leaders at a time when other funders are cutting back,” says Foulkes. “Researchers who successfully compete for this award will be able to apply for various other awards that we're developing.”