Innovation is deeply embedded in all that the National Foundation for Cancer Research does. Our focus has always been to provide scientists “adventure funding” to discover—and then to incubate their novel ideas and approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer in support of Research for a Cure.
This commitment still inspires us today, and in that spirit we’ve leveraged NFCR’s access to leading scientists at major universities, cancer centers and research hospitals into the Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research. The newly launched program is proudly named in honor of the co-founders, Franklin, Sr., and Tamara Salisbury, and their son, Franklin, Jr., the organization’s chief executive officer for two decades. Over 80 years of combined service, the three Salisburys galvanized NFCR into a significant force in cancer research worldwide.
The Salisbury Award platform is an extension of NFCR’s longstanding support to the kind of “high risk/high reward” research that is providing key insights into the underlying causes of cancer and new approaches to treatments and cures. Its goal: catalyzing promising laboratory cancer research and placing resulting technologies onto a pathway toward clinical trials and patient impact.
Cancer research follows a path from an idea, through several stages of laboratory work, to clinical trials that, when successful, end in regulatory registration and approval of a new technology product. The process typically takes between seven and 15 years, and many promising and innovative discoveries stall inside laboratories at the Pre-clinical/Phase I stages. Researchers refer to these stages as the “Valley of Death,” where innovative discoveries die due to lack of research funding.
In 2017, NFCR launched a translational research program as a complement to its enduring commitment to basic cancer research. The goal is to provide dedicated support for translating breakthrough discoveries into new cancer treatments for patients. Our organization’s expansion into the translational cancer research area, first through entrepreneurial program related investments and NFCR Recoverable Translational Research Grants and now through the Salisbury Award platform, truly reflects our founders’ philosophy.
The Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research is being anchored by NFCR’s longstanding affiliations with several dozen renowned cancer research laboratories within leading universities and hospitals worldwide. The initiative is designed to catalyze and advance promising laboratory research discoveries which are either still within these schools and medical centers or that have recently been spun out of the institutions.
Through the two stages of the Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research platform—Award Competitions and Venture Competition—NFCR is able to identify the most promising discoveries and cutting-edge technologies. Our organization will then provide critically needed funding to these discoveries still in the laboratories or technologies within early stage oncology spin-off companies. The former, to accelerate them along the path to commercialization, and the latter, so as to generate essential data for regulatory agency filings.
Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research support will also help enable access to additional capital for further growth. Furthermore, NFCR will help increase visibility of the program’s top projects and help introduce their principals to key experts among our global cancer research and development network. In short, through the Salisbury Award platform, we aim to speed up the translation into clinical trials of novel therapeutic product candidates that could benefit cancer patients around the world.
The Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research program consists of branded, half or whole-day sets of Shark Tank-style Award Competitions, coordinated with major cancer laboratories and/or associated technology commercialization offices, and followed up by a larger Venture Competition among Award Competition winners and runners-up. These Salisbury Competitions will be:
- made by faculty and non-faculty investigators;
- presenting therapeutic concepts, breakthroughs, discoveries or technologies in the treatment of cancer;
- with emphasis on a project’s feasibility, novelty and patient impact;
- and judged by panels with a mix of expertise in cancer research, clinical development and commercialization, and venture capital or other funding experience.
Multiple Salisbury Award Competitions for Entrepreneurial Translational Research will be conducted per year. These can be either institution-agnostic, open to multiple or all established cancer research organizations though conducted at one location, or institution-specific, held at particular major universities, cancer centers, research hospitals or similar organizations. At least one winner and one runner-up will be selected per event, with prizes granted from NFCR of at least $3,000 and $1,500, respectively. Winners and runners-up will be announced through NFCR’s various communication channels, as well as in conjunction with the host institutions. These awardees and their projects will also be introduced to relevant NFCR fellows and scientific advisory board members for potential collaborative research programs.
The Salisbury Award Competition winners and runners-up from various preceding events will converge to compete in the Salisbury Venture Competition for Entrepreneurial Translational Research—winners of which will receive up to $250,000 in the form of investment or grant funding toward their related start-up efforts.
As is the inherent nature of life sciences development, most start-up projects will fail to reach the late clinical stage. Due to such failure rates, very few profit-seeking investors—including banks, venture capitalists or private equity firms—invest in high-risk-bearing research projects carried out by early stage companies, especially those directly out of the lab. The National Foundation for Cancer Research, however, is committed to fund such “high risk/high reward” efforts, either at leading research centers or early stage oncology companies.
The Salisbury Award for Entrepreneurial Translational Research encourages academic scientists to focus on the translation of their discoveries into potential therapies with commercial potential that can benefit cancer patients. It also honors and acknowledges the Salisbury family’s legacy and vision for cancer research that has resulted in treatments that are saving lives.