How We Fund Research

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation offers a broad range of funding opportunities to support academic and industry investigators to pursue research on topics relevant to cystic fibrosis. Each application undergoes a rigorous scientific review process before funding is allocated.

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The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation provides many funding opportunities to both academic investigators and industry partners to conduct research to better understand cystic fibrosis and to develop potential treatments. Funding opportunities can be found on our website or on awards.cff.org.

Subject matter experts review applications and assign priority scores based on various scoring criteria depending on the application type. For certain clinical research programs, people with CF and their families also review the applications and provide feedback.

Request for Applications Review Process

Funding Opportunities and Research Priorities

The Foundation has standing requests for applications (RFAs) that accept proposals on a broad range of CF-relevant topics, as well as special topic RFAs that get released throughout the year. A list of research priorities can provide guidance on what research topics are of interest to the CF Foundation and the CF community. Awards and grants are arranged in the following categories:

Investigators can contact the Foundation to find out more about specific programs and which funding mechanism is most appropriate for their specific project.

The Application and Review Process

The application process includes multiple steps and can take anywhere from four to eight months from application submission to notification depending on the RFA. Some RFAs may require an approved letter of intent (LOI) prior to full application submission.

This graphic outlines the step-by-step application and review process.
The application and review process

 

The Review Process

The CF Foundation uses a rigorous review process called peer-review to select grants for funding. Peer-review is a grant review process used by many research funding organizations, including the National Institutes of Health. At the Foundation, the peer-review process may be conducted by one of several review committees or by an ad hoc committee set up for a specific RFA. These committees may be composed of researchers, clinicians, biostatisticians, and/or community representative reviewers depending on the type of applications they are reviewing. Each committee includes reviewers with expertise in areas related to CF care and treatment and/or subject matter related to the specific applications being reviewed.

Below are the standing review committees:

  • The Research and Research Training (RRT) Committee and Path to a Cure (PTAC) Committee review basic and translational science applications.
  • The Clinical Research Committee (CRC) reviews clinical research proposals.
  • The Physician-Scientist Training Programs (PTP) Committee reviews 3rd-5th year clinical fellowship and physician-scientist career development proposals that include a research proposal. 
  • The Professional Education Committee (PEC) reviews 1st and 2nd year fellowship training applications.

For special topic or targeted RFAs, ad hoc review committees may be formed to ensure the sufficient and thorough evaluation by the appropriate subject matter experts.

Once an application has been submitted, it will generally be assigned to a committee for review. The role of our review committees is to evaluate the proposal on its scientific merit, relevance to the Foundation's mission, and other criteria relevant to the specific RFA. Career Development and Training Awards include additional evaluation criteria for the reviewers to consider, such as the individual candidate, training plan and environment, and mentorship.  

In some cases, a review committee may also participate in a review meeting where applications are discussed among the larger review committee. During these meetings, the reviewers assigned to the application will provide their scores for the application, provide a brief summary of the proposal, and discuss any relative merits and weaknesses noted. After the assigned reviewers have all presented, the application is opened up to the entire review committee for discussion. At the end of discussion, all reviewers will provide their scores for the application. 

Funding Decisions

The Foundation makes funding decisions based on the recommendations of the review committee, our current research portfolio, and the application's relevance to the CF mission. Once funding decisions are made, the Foundation Grants Office will notify applicants of their status and will provide blinded reviewer critiques. 

Therapeutics Development Program Opportunities for Industry Partners

Pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology organizations can learn more about funding opportunities and other means of support the Foundation offers such as the Therapeutics Development Award Program, the Path to a Cure Initiative, and the Infection Research Initiative. For possible funding for a product or developmental candidate that is relevant to CF the initial proposal usually should come from submission of an Industry-specific LOI to see if there is interest on the part of the Foundation. The LOI must be submitted through awards.cff.org.  

If the LOI is accepted, then the company or biotech is invited to submit a full application for a Therapeutics Development Award. External independent reviewers will evaluate the application and provide a scientific merit score. If the full application scores well, aligns with the mission of the CF Foundation, and there is need within the Foundation industry portfolio for such a product, a Therapeutic Development Award is given either in full or amended based upon external and internal evaluation of the project specific aims. Subsequent to the award, the Foundation and awardee negotiate a contract agreement with an award payout that is typically milestone based. Note that awardees are required to provide matching funds equal to the amount provided by the Foundation.  

Regarding non-funding support, the Foundation can provide patient samples, such as sputum, and bronchial epithelial cells (either wild type or with specific mutations in the CFTR) to industry or biotech companies for use in their development plan. The Foundation also can help these organizations access other disease models for testing or make introductions to leaders in the CF research community for guidance or recommendations for their product development.

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