Despite the substantial and growing investments in medical and healthcare R&D being made globally, securing funding in the medical and health science fields remains very challenging. This paper examines the applications for R&D funding that have been received in three funding rounds by CARB-X since its launch in 2016. CARB-X is an internationally funded, global translational R&D program, which can fund projects to diagnose, prevent and treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria from discovery through Phase 1 clinical testing. We conducted the study via interviews with CARB-X’s project coordinators and analysis of CARB-X’s database of applications. The data available to us only allowed us to perform a qualitative analysis, rather than a statistical analysis. CARB-X uses a stage-gate assessment process1 with four stages—(1) an initial application, referred to internally as the Expression of Interest (EOI) form, (2) the Short form, (3) the Long form and (4) Board Review. For the initial, non-confidential EOI stage, it is vital that the applicant emphasize how the project will tackle the problem and provide sufficient scientific data to give reasonable assurance of technical success. For the second and third stages, program relevance and impact, team capabilities and experience, and overall scientific and technical merit of the program must be justified, since these three attributes are the main scoring criteria used by CARB-X in the assessment process. In the final stage, financial and intellectual property (IP) issues are evaluated prior to decisions on funding.
We reach two primary conclusions: (1) CARB-X funding is highly attractive and so the program must be highly selective in the projects it funds; and (2) the success rate for public sector research institutions (PSRIs, which include universities, teaching hospitals, national laboratories, and not-for-profit research institutes) is only half that of corporations and we identify important factors in preparing applications for funding to such programs.