Catalyst Awards for the Development of Therapeutics, Diagnostics, Devices and Digital Health

The Catalyst Award combines customized product development advice and funding to help drive promising early-stage research through the lengthy and complex process of translating ideas into patient benefit. Previous awardees include UCSF investigators whose works span a broad range of innovative concepts in therapeutics, diagnostics, devices and digital health. The expert consultation and funding they received enabled them to reach key milestones along the most effective development path toward safe and effective treatments and interventions.

ShangPharma Awards for the Development of Therapeutics

UCSF now has a collaboration with ShangPharma Innovation to progress therapeutics projects (small molecule and biological) towards the clinic. This collaboration, managed by the Catalyst Program, includes both in-kind services to be provided by ChemPartner including full discovery services (chemistry, biology & preclinical development, pharmaceutical development and biologics development) as well as direct project funding.

Award Amounts


  • if chosen for a collaboration with ShangPharma Innovation, a project can qualify for funding of up to ~$400,000/year together with up to ~$600,000/year in additional support provided as paid-up CRO services — a total of up to ~$1 million/year. Some or all of these services will be provided by ShangPharma’s preferred partner and affiliate, ChemPartner. Funding award size will be based on 12-month workplans developed by the PI in close collaboration with the ShangPharma Innovation team.
  • if chosen for UCSF Catalyst funding only the maximum award is $100K

Devices and Diagnostics - Up to $100,000

Digital Health - Up to $50,000

Award Process (New for Spring 2018)

The Catalyst Program, which manages the award, is supported by an exclusive panel of over 200 expert advisors from academia and life sciences industry. There are two award cycles a year. Applications are submitted through RAP and are reviewed in four categories: therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, and digital health products. Successful applicants negotiate through three distinct stages to receive critical feedback, expert consulting and funding for their projects:

Stage 1

The first stage involves a thorough review of the applications by panel members with expertise in specific technology area. All applicants receive thoughtful feedback that highlights the promising aspects of their research as well as key gaps that need to be addressed to strengthen their likelihood for progress to commercial implementation and clinical practice.

Stage 2

A select number of applicants will advance into the second stage. This will involve a pre-presentation consultation and a presentation to a group of selected reviewers from the Catalyst expert advisor panel. The expert panel will then score the applicants and those evaluations are used to decide who receives a Catalyst funding award.

Stage 3

The successful applicants will be matched with expert advisors in their field, who will help them to address the gaps that were identified by the review panels and to identify the optimal development pathway for their technology. A final budget for the award will be agreed at this point.

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Principal investigators at UCSF and affiliate institutions (including faculty in all series and at all ranks) qualify for this program as long as they have an obligation to assign inventions and patents to The Regents of the University of California in accordance with University of California Patent Policy. Existing intellectual property should be assigned to or jointly owned by the Regents. Postdoctoral scholars are eligible to submit applications as PI with a faculty member as Co-PI.


Research projects with a clear clinical indication (or use case) and early target validation or early proof-of-concept data will be eligible for consideration. The therapeutic area can cover any disease where there is an unmet medical need or the potential for significant improvement over current treatments, diagnostics or services. If patents or patent applications have not been filed, there should be a strong potential for obtaining defensible intellectual property.

Is Catalyst right for you?

Get immediate feedback — does your project have:

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. If I submit an application for the Catalyst Award can I still submit an application via UCSF's Resource Allocation Program (RAP) to another grant mechanism?
    Yes. Applicants are allowed to submit a proposal for consideration to both the Catalyst Award and another grant mechanism via RAP. However, funding cannot be accepted from both mechanisms for the same scope of work.
  2. If I can submit an application for the Catalyst Award and an additional grant mechanism via RAP, can I choose instead to submit a proposal to two grant mechanisms of my choice via RAP?
    No. Only one application per cycle is allowed to the traditional grant mechanisms via RAP. Applicants are allowed to submit an additional proposal for the Catalyst Award because some of the Catalyst support comes in the form of consultations with expert advisors, rather than funding.
  3. Is the amount requested (up to $100,000 and $50,000 for dHealth) the total amount (including indirect costs) or is it the total direct costs?
    The award amount represents direct costs only. The awardee is not charged for, nor do they pay, indirect costs. Indirect costs do not need to be included in the Catalyst Award application budget.
  4. Can I use Catalyst Award funds for international research?
    No, you cannot use Catalyst funds for any international expenses including travel outside of the U.S.
  5. Can my digital health project receive funding of over $50,000 if warranted?
    No, at this point a digital health project cannot receive more than $50,000.
  6. My project has 2 main PIs instead of 1 lead and 1 Co-PI, can we both be weighted the same if funding is achieved?
    Yes, you can have 2 main PIs on the application and they will be weighted the same. 2 is the limit.
  7. How can I tell if my project is too early for the Catalyst Awards Program?
    To answer this question it is best that you answer the questions in the ‘Is the Catalyst right for you?’ questionnaire at the top right of this page. The five points listed there are critical but if you still have questions please feel free to reach out to us.
  8. Is filing intellectual property a requirement?
    Not necessarily at the outset. The team will help judge whether /when this is necessary. Keep in mind that "patentability/potential to generate intellectual property" is one of several criteria for scoring the technology proposed by reviewers. The potential for obtaining intellectual property should exist, if not be already filed. Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss proposed technologies with the UCSF Office of Technology Management.
  9. What if my project is the development of an app but IP potential is somewhat limited?
    We have funded apps in the past so it is still worth going through the above questionnaire and determining potential based on those results.
  10. Is activating a clinical trial a requirement?
    Absolutely not. Most of these will be for development steps prior to clinical trials. The costs of trials that would be submitted to FDA for new indications are tremendous and one would expect a licensing of IP prior to that step in most (but not all) cases.
  11. Can the proposed project be testing an already existing drug, device or therapeutic for a new application?
    Yes, but please keep in mind that one area of proposal evaluation is "patentability/potential to generate intellectual property". In the case where an already existing drug is being tested for a new application, intellectual property issues will be increasingly relevant especially if the intellectual property for the drug is held by someone other than UCSF.
  12. How much time am I expected to spend with my advisor during the consultation stage?
    Typically, the consultation awardees spend 5-20 hrs with their advisor(s), depending on the gaps and issues that are being addressed.

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