Program in Human Organs, Physiology and Engineering (HOPE) Launched

Wellcome Leap’s first funding programme is Human Organs, Physiology and Engineering (HOPE). HOPE aims to leverage the power of bioengineering to advance stem cells, organoids and whole organ systems and connections that recapitulate human physiology in vitro and restore vital functions in vivo.

In the past 15 years, the number of new drug candidates in development has nearly doubled, but 90% of those that succeeded in preclinical animal studies failed in human trials. An inability to replicate human physiology, especially functional organs and immunological responses, is the central problem. New solutions are required to foster synergies between organoids, bioengineering and immunoengineering technologies, and advance in vitro human biology – much closer to how organs and immune cells function and interact in the human body – by building controllable, accessible and scalable systems. HOPE has two goals:

1. Bioengineer a multiorgan platform that recreates human immunological responses with sufficient fidelity to double the predictive value of a preclinical trial with respect to efficacy, toxicity and immunogenicity for therapeutic interventions targeting cancer, and autoimmune and infectious diseases.

2. Demonstrate the advances necessary to restore organ functions using cultivated organs or biological/synthetic hybrid systems that would result in a doubling of the five-year survival rate of patients on replacement therapy or awaiting organ transplantation and point to a fully transplantable, non-rejected human organ within 10 years.

Funding is available in five ‘thrust’ areas:

Thrust Area 1: Human cell survival, expansion and identity

Thrust Area 2: Immune system – structure and function

Thrust Area 3: Tissue/organ maturation, scalability and standardisation

Thrust Area 4: Tissue/organ vascularisation and resident immunity

Thrust Area 5: System demonstrations

Proposals should be for work in one or more of the five thrust areas. Proposers should clearly relate work in these thrust areas to one or more of the programme goals.

Application is open to universities, research institutions, companies of any size (including venture-backed), government organisations and non-profit research organisations. Applicants can be based in any country around the world.

Funding will be provided for work carried out over three years (with a potential additional one-year option). Award amounts are dependent on the nature of the proposals submitted and work selected for funding. There are no pre-set number of awards. The total programme budget is $50 million.

There is a two-stage application process: abstract submission followed by full proposals. The following key dates apply:

Abstract submission deadline: 1 December 2020

Abstract feedback: 15 December 2020

Full proposal submission deadline: 13 January 2021

Proposal decision: 11 February 2021

Multiple collaborators can be on a single submission, but only the Principal Investigator (PI) will be able to submit the application on the portal.

More information about this research funding opportunity and the application process is available on the RESEARCHconnect funding information platform. RESEARCHconnect provides up-to-the minute content, insight and analysis on research funding news and policy. To find out more about how RESEARCHconnect can keep you in the know, and subscription fees, contact us today.