DF/HCC Incubator Award Program

The Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) aims to foster collaborative translational and basic cancer research and efforts to address the unequal burden of cancer and cancer outcomes in diverse populations.  To advance these goals, DF/HCC has established an annual funding initiative for Incubator projects among teams from different DF/HCC institutions to tackle questions that align with the Center’s strategic priorities. A key element of this award mechanism is to support teams that commit to sustained collaboration through imminent submission of new extramural multi-investigator grants. In addition to providing critical seed funding to establish new collaborations, DF/HCC will offer administrative assistance in preparing subsequent multi-PI grants that emerge from these collaborations.

Teams of two or more investigators from different DH/HCC-affiliated institutions are eligible. Up to four teams will be funded for up to two years at $250, 000 (total direct costs) per year. The second year of funding is contingent on demonstration of progress toward submitting at least one application for an extramural multi-investigator award. One award will be reserved for a proposal aimed at understanding and devising solutions to relieve disparities in cancer burdens that result from racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic factors.

Letter of Intent (10/16) & Full Application (11/6)

If you plan to submit a proposal, please submit a Letter of Intent online by Monday, October 16, 2023. Provide a project title, the names of all PIs and their affiliations, and a brief (less than 1 page) description of the project. This notification helps us plan the review process. You will not receive an invitation to submit a full proposal. ALL applicants may submit a proposal online before 5 PM Monday, November 6, 2023. Awardees will be notified in early December. For submission questions please contact us at dfhcc@partners.org. 

Eligibility and Requirements

Applicants must be DF/HCC members (Full or Associate). Projects must represent a new collaboration between two or more DF/HCC members at different institutions and, preferably, in different Programs. To learn more about DF/HCC Programs and members, please visit https://dfhcc.harvard.edu.

Sources of Funding

To enable this expanded portfolio of team science, DF/HCC will support some projects from the Cancer Center support grant and other projects in partnership with the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School and the Bertarelli Rare Cancers Fund at Harvard Medical School. As such, projects in the partnered awards must align with the priorities of one (or more) of these Centers. The DF/HCC Executive Committee will determine the source for each award after peer review.

The Ludwig Center at Harvard supports collaborative projects related to understanding and overcoming resistance to any modality of cancer therapy, including primary and acquired resistance mechanisms that limit the efficacy of current and emerging therapies. The Center emphasizes collaboration and an interactive community of investigators to maximize cross-fertilization of ideas and to create synergies that advance scientific understanding and clinical translation of resistance mechanisms. This funding source has specific terms and conditions that recipients must comply with. Those terms and conditions are linked here. More information about the Ludwig Center at Harvard can be found at  ludwigcenter.hms.harvard.edu/.

The Bertarelli Rare Cancers Fund supports research in prevention, etiology, molecular characterization, diagnosis, and treatment of cancers that occur at rates of less than 1 case per 100,000 individuals. In aggregate, cancers identified as such are equal in number to even the most common cancers. The Fund seeks to raise awareness of rare cancers and to overcome the hurdles that researchers face when attracted to studying rare cancers. More information about the BRCF can be found at https://brcf.hms.harvard.edu.

DF/HCC priorities. The Center’s overarching goals are to identify the genetic, biological, behavioral, and environmental causes of cancer; to develop effective strategies that reduce cancer risk and improve preventive and treatment outcomes; and to reduce disparities in cancer burdens that result from racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic factors. Thus, in addition to partner priorities related to therapeutic resistance, and rare cancers, successful applications may address the following areas. Many of these priorities have a path for extramural funding through opportunities recently promoted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the DF/HCC-Koch (MIT) Bridge Project, the Department of Defense (DoD), and others that support team cancer research.

  • Detection or treatment of minimal residual disease/dormancy
  • Pediatric cancers: mechanisms of pathogenesis and treatments
  • Targeting oncogenic pathways historically regarded as ‘undruggable’
  • Multi-disciplinary approaches to advance pre-emptive cancer risk assessment
  • Cancer immunotherapy beyond immune checkpoint blockade
  • Understanding and/or targeting epigenetic changes in cancer
  • Targeting cancer vulnerabilities (e.g. metabolism, DNA damage, stress pathways)
  • Therapeutic approaches for difficult cancers: brain, pancreatic, ovarian, acute leukemias
  • Drug discovery/targeted drug delivery
  • Early Detection or Prevention (using definitions found in the NCI SPORE PAR-20-305)
  • Strategies for developing effective combination therapies
  • Cancers funded by DOD/CDMRP that also provide collaborative funding mechanisms
  • Combatting persistent inequities in cancer care, access, and research environments
  • Integrating Health Disparities into Immuno-Oncology Research
  • Translation of basic and clinical discoveries into clinical and public health interventions

Proposal Submission Information: 5 Items

Incubator Award Coversheet: List the title of proposal, inter-institutional collaborations, and the names and DF/HCC Program affiliations of each collaborating Principal Investigator.

Research Proposal: Describe the proposed research, including 1) background, 2) specific aims and 3) research plan. Highlight how investigators will work together and why this collaboration will lead to unique insights and sustained extramural funding. The proposal should not exceed 5 pages, including preliminary data and figures. References and budget pages are not included in this limit. Appendix material is not permitted.

Future Funding. Briefly describe a plan to secure extramural funds that sustain the collaboration beyond the period of the Incubator Award, e.g., Interdisciplinary multi-PI R01 grants, SPORE awards, Program Project (federal P01) grants, and philanthropic sources, including SU2C and other foundations, CRUK Grand Challenge Awards, and community or state organizations.

Biosketches and Other Support: Current NIH Biosketch for all collaborating PIs (DF/HCC members), including all funding sources.

Budget Request: Direct cost budget estimates should be submitted on NIH 398 form with major divisions of funds (personnel, equipment, supplies, other, with adequate justification). PIs should include a level of effort and salary support commensurate with their efforts on the incubator project. Support and effort may be split between collaborating PIs. Subcontracting is not required between collaborators; DF/HCC will award funds directly to each collaborator.

Indirect costs (IDC) should not be included in the Budget Request. These will vary and will be based on the specific funding source, as previously negotiated with each DF/HCC institution.

Milestones and Assistance Provided for Future Grant Applications

Funded teams will present their research progress and their progress toward applying for extramural funding to the DF/HCC Executive Committee 9 months into the first year of funding. The Executive Committee will provide written evaluation and the second year of funding is contingent on satisfactory progress.

Funded teams will be offered administrative and project management support to help organize and prepare multi-investigator grants emanating from the new collaborations.