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Frequently Asked Questions

The following FAQs are provided to assist applicants with preparing proposals to NCBiotech research grant programs. Please refer to the program web pages for current guidelines and application instructions.

Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG)

How are BIG proposals evaluated?

Please carefully read the BIG guidelines posted at www.ncbiotech.org/big for a detailed description of the program and its goals. In these guidelines, you will also find the specific criteria and rating scale used to evaluate all proposals.

It is also critical that proposals follow the prescribed instructions, which are detailed in step-by-step fashion in the guidelines.

How do I find a suitable Commercial Development Adviser for a BIG project?

The Commercial Development Adviser should be an individual or a group independent of the applicant who is experienced in product development and brings the necessary business perspective and expertise needed for the specific commercial development goals of the BIG project.

The Commercial Development Adviser may directly execute the activities outlined in the commercial development plan, or may serve in a project management role coordinating the activities of others.

Many universities offer on-campus assistance to faculty inventors and entrepreneurs, such as the UNC Kenan Institute of Private EnterpriseKickstart VenturesNCSU MMB and TEC programs, and Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship, etc.

Also, a number of organizations throughout the state provide commercialization guidance to faculty entrepreneurs. These organizations include the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network and Southeast Tech Inventures (STI).

There are also numerous industry consultants and veterans who are qualified to serve as Commercial Development Advisers, and many of them participate in the Center’s BATON Referral Network.

What are some examples of commercial development goals for a BIG project?

The commercial development goals should be connected to achievable deliverables and should be developed by the Commercial Development Adviser in close collaboration with the technical PI. These will vary depending on the project’s needs. Some examples from awarded proposals include:

  • Conduct due diligence for IP prior art; evaluate and develop IP claims
  • Conduct primary or secondary market research to clarify needs of end users, payers, partners or investors; deliver market
  • Analyze of market drivers, demand and/or competition for each product application being considered
  • Model and analyze the economics of product development or production
  • Identify potential licensees for further development or commercialization
  • Review regulatory pathway and reimbursement options
  • Confirm compatibility of technology with existing protocols/procedures /technology or infrastructure

The Commercial Development Adviser is expected to prepare the Commercial Development Narrative for the proposal and perform or oversee the commercial development project.

Can a member of the management team of a startup associated with the invention be the Commercial Development Adviser on a BIG?

No, this is likely to create conflict of interest issues. Similarly, the CDA or a potential licensee cannot conduct the technical project experiments. These arrangements carry the risk that the project may appear as subsidized R&D for a company, which is not consistent with the objectives of the program.

I already have a company partner or licensee lined up for my invention. What are the chances of my BIG proposal being funded?

If you have already reached a stage where you have a company partner, your project is beyond the scope of the BIG. You may want to explore the Technology Enhancement Grant (TEG) which is designed specifically to advance technologies to make them more attractive for licensing.

Is the BIG program appropriate if my university or institute has filed a provisional or non-provisional patent application relating to the technology? 

One of the goals of the BIG program is to provide data that will allow the university to determine whether or not it should move forward with the patenting process. At a minimum, an invention disclosure must be submitted to the university tech transfer office prior to application. If the project is based on technology that is the subject of an active provisional patent application, then it is eligible for BIG funding consideration. If you are doing additional research to broaden or extend the claims of a related patent, then the BIG may also be appropriate. If the university or institute has already filed a non-provisional patent application (i.e., a full or PCT patent application containing specific claims and supporting data), then the technology is past the point of a BIG award and the TEG may be suitable. Please request a consultation with staff if you have questions.

How will the deliverables described in the commercial development narrative of a BIG proposal be evaluated? 

The commercial development deliverables should contribute directly to product or commercial milestones and will be evaluated based on the degree to which they mitigate commercial development risk and build value. Commercial development deliverables should be well-defined, realistic and appropriate for the stage of development of the technology. See the Review Criteria section of the guidelines for more information.

BIG guidelines indicate that legal fees are not an allowable budget item.  Can BIG funding be used to engage a patent attorney to assess the patent landscape for our invention?

A BIG grant request may include the costs of commissioning an independent assessment of the patent landscape or preliminary freedom-to-operate by a patent attorney or other qualified resource. However, legal fees associated with securing IP, such as patent fees, litigation fees, or licensing fees, are not allowable as part of the BIG grant request.

As a faculty member, can I use my salary toward the match amount for the BIG Program?

Yes, an in-kind match of salary or salary release is allowed for the BIG program.

My technology is easier to understand through a video than a picture or figure. Is there a way to include a video with my submission?

Yes, you may include a link to a video in the body of your proposal. It will be up to you to determine where the video will reside, whether on a university website or on YouTube or other hosting site. Please confer with your Tech Transfer Office on the best method to do this so as not to compromise efforts to secure adequate IP protection. It will be important to include sufficient text in your proposal so that the reviewers can adequately understand your invention and the video presentation.

 

Budgets

How do I calculate how much match I have to put into the budget?

The required match amount is a percentage of the amount requested from the Center. For example, if the maximum grant award is $100,000 and the program requires a 10% match, you may request $100,000 and must have an additional $10,000 for the match for a total project cost of $110,000.

Do I need to request the full grant amount?

No, the amounts shown are the maximum you may request for each grant. If you don’t need the full amount or are only able to get a smaller match, then you can request a lesser amount.

What is meant by “percent effort” on the budget form?

Enter the amount (percent) of work time that will be devoted to the project. If you have questions on this we encourage you to contact your sponsored programs office for assistance. “Percent effort” has a very specific meaning according to federal regulations and/or university policies. Universities have to document what’s called “certification of effort” on all federal funding.

What is the definition of "person months?" How do I calculate person months on the budget form?

Person months is the metric for expressing the amount of time funded by the Center that PI(s), faculty and other personnel devote to a specific project. This is not the same as percent effort as defined by federal granting agencies. Only calculate person months for personnel supported by Center funding for your project.

To calculate person months, divide the dollar amount budgeted from the grant for personnel support (salary only) by the total salary that person will receive. Do not include benefits in this calculation. Prorate the resulting value based on the type of appointment that person has (annual, 9 month, summer only). See the examples below (see separate FAQ regarding benefits).

♦     12 month calendar appointment:
Calculate person months by dividing the dollar amount requested from the Center for salary by the annual salary for the personnel. Multiply this result by 12 months to get the person months request.

 
For example, $22,500 is budgeted for a post-doctoral fellow for one year. His/her annual salary equals $45,000. In this case:

That is, $22,500 will pay 6 months of salary for the post-doc. Put "6" in the Person Months column of the budget sheet for the post-doctoral fellow.

     9 month academic year appointment:
Calculate person months by dividing the dollar amount requested from the Center for salary by the academic year (9 month) salary for the personnel. Multiply this result by 9 months to get the person months request.

For example, $3,000 is budgeted for a PI for one year. The PI's 9 month salary equals $60,000. In this case:

That is, $3,000 will pay 0.45 months of salary for the PI. Put "0.45" in the Person Months column of the budget sheet for the PI.

♦     3 month summer term appointment:
 Calculate person months by dividing the dollar amount requested from the Center for salary by the summer term (3 month) salary for the personnel. Multiply this result by 3 months to get the person months request.

 
For example, $8,000 is budgeted for a summer student for one summer. The student's 3 month summer pay equals $8,000. In this case:

That is, $8,000 will pay 3 months of salary for a summer student. Put "3" in the Person Months column of the budget sheet for the student.

Can I request personnel benefits as part of my budget?

Yes, personnel benefits are an allowed expense. Benefits can be charged only for the person months requested. In the 12 month appointment example above, benefits can be requested for the post-doctoral fellow only for the 6 person months proposed. IF the amount requested on the budget sheet includes benefits, please indicate the breakdown of salary and benefits in the Budget Justification section for each person supported on the grant.

How do I list supplies?

Supplies should be grouped in categories of approximately $5,000 to $7,500, as reasonable. For example if you have general lab supplies for $1,800, reagents $1700, and solvents $2,000 you could group them as Reagents and supplies $5,500.  If you have $12,000 in “tissue culture supplies” you can break it down into broad subcategories such as TC media $7,000, and plastics and disposables $5,000, or whatever groupings that make sense. It is not necessary to list every item separately.  If you have a single category that can’t be broken down, such as $10,000 for antibodies, it is OK to list as is.

Is it necessary to have matching funds for each section of the budget form, i.e., salary, equipment, and supplies?

No, we do not require a line for line or section by section match, as long as the total match meets the program requirements. However, in the BIG program in cases where equipment over $40,000 is purchased, a 25% match for that piece of equipment is required in addition to the 10% match for everything else.

Does the Biotechnology Center allow core facility or equipment use as part of the match?

The Biotechnology Center allows facility or equipment use fees directly related to the research project to be included as part of the match for a proposal. The Center does not allow facility or equipment depreciation, overhead, or service contracts to be included in the budget, neither as requested funds or matching contributions.

Can travel expenses be used as part of the match?

No, travel dollars may not be used as matching funds. If allowed by the specific program, travel funds may be requested for travel directly tied to the project, but cannot be used for scientific or business – related conferences. Travel budgets should be modest and reasonable and must be justified.

Does the 10% match need to come directly from the institution or can it come from another funding source the PI has?

The funding must be “institutional funding.” If you have monies you received from a grant, or startup funds etc., that is under control of the institution (i.e., not an outside entity) and is not allocated specifically for another use, then these monies could be used.

Does the match need to come from the PI's department or can it come from another department?

The match may come from a collaborating department.

As a new faculty member, the University has provided startup funds. Can the startup funds be used as a match for the Biotechnology Center's grant programs?

Yes, using "startup" funds that the university gave to the PI is an appropriate match, if the funds are used directly for the proposed project.

Does the university’s contribution toward PI salary count as matching funds?

PI salary can be used as matching funds in the BIG program. Salaries for post-docs or technicians can also be used toward matching funds.

Can I request funds for PI salary?

You can request reasonable funds for PI salary in the Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG) program only as appropriate for the overall BIG project budget.

Can I request funds to support a graduate student’s salary?

No. Requesting funds for graduate or undergraduate student salary, stipends or tuition is not allowed on any of our grants.

Can graduate student salaries be used as matching funds?

No.

Can I use grant money to pay for a graduate student’s tuition?

No.

Budget Justification

What information is required in the Budget Justification?

Justify each line item in the budget. Include how the funds will be used for specific research. Do not simply provide a detailed list of supplies. Show calculations or supporting information on how amount was determined. Include information on matching funds. See example below.

Budget Justification Example
Personnel:

PI: No salary requested; 10% effort. Responsibilities include overseeing and coordinating the project. Data collection and purification of compound X.

Co-PI: $7,500 salary course release covers one course release during the first year. This will allow more time to focus on performing experiments, supervising students/technician in the lab; request $4,000 for one month summer salary at 50% effort to conduct sample preparation and data collection.

Technician: $15,000 salary request for two years, 15% annual effort. A technician is necessary for field planting, data collection, sample preparation, pollinator management, and statistical analysis of results.

The department will provide $10,500 in matching funds toward technician salary.

Equipment:

$1,750 - Analytical balance: For precise quantitative analysis of plant alkaloids.

We are requesting funds for basic equipment to increase the efficiency and sample throughput capacity.

$9,500 - Thermal cycler: This will be more rapid than our current machine, and will increase the efficiency and sample throughput capacity of the lab.

$9,500 - Benchtop centrifuge and rotors: This is needed to accommodate up to 30 microcentrifuge tubes or 96-well sample plates.

$17,000 - Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer: Digital visualization and documentation system for purity and quantification analysis of PCR product.

$5,985 - Sample concentrator needed to prepare samples for electrophoresis.

$2,500 - Autosampler that allows for good reproducibility of injections, reducing error and improving precision.

The department will provide $5,000 in matching funds towards the purchase of the equipment.

Supplies and Travel:

Lab reagents are requested to perform DNA extraction, PCR amplification and DNA sequencing. Funds have been requested for enough reagents to generate 360 DNA sequences.

The required reagents and consumables include:

$1,250 over two years - DNA extraction & PCR tubes and pipette tips, Taq DNA polymerase, primers, nucleotides, buffer, adjuvants, QiaQuick PCR purification kit (Qiagen). (Total $2,500)

$4,600 each year - Sequencing supplies, primers, Big Dye® Terminator v3.1 Cycle Sequencing Kit (Applied Biosystems), electrophoresis consumables. (Total $9,200)

Supplies required for analytical HPLC (total $3,500):

- HPLC solvents: 16 HPLC-grade acetonitrile. $250 each year for two years

- HPLC columns: $1,000 The column is required for the analytical method for quantification of plant compounds. These funds will buy two columns.

- Chromatography standards: $2,000 We are planning on analyzing at least 10 different compounds.

$3,200 - Travel: To allow PI to make two trips for off-site research required by the project ($1600 per trip, airfare, lodging, per diem).

General

I am concerned about IP issues. How much detail about my research/technology do I have to put into the proposal?

You are not expected to put details about your research or technology that you feel are proprietary or particularly sensitive. However, you should include sufficient information for staff and reviewers to adequately assess your proposal. Also, include a statement indicating that certain information is omitted for that reason so that reviewers will not perceive it as a weakness in the proposal.

Can I use grant money to pay for a graduate student’s tuition?

No.

Is it OK to use an out-of-state contractor for part of the work?

It depends; if there is not an available in-state source of the work and it is well-justified in the proposal and the budget, then it may be reviewed positively. However, proposals that do not justify out-of-state work will be unfavorably reviewed.

Can someone with fixed-term full-time appointment (non-faculty) qualify to serve as PI?

Depending on the program, a researcher holding a full-time permanent position with an independent laboratory and research program at a university or non-profit organization can qualify. Visiting professors, adjuncts and post-docs are not eligible.

Which Biotechnology Center research grant applications allow co-PIs?

All Center research grant applications are required to be submitted by a single PI from a university or non-profit organization. The electronic application form does not include space for a co-PI, but if pertinent to the project Co-PI information can be included on the coversheet and in the proposal for the CFG and BIG programs.

I have received information from my co-PIs which I have put into my proposal. Do they still have to write Letters of Support?

Yes. Although you include information about the roles of the co-PIs in your proposal it is important to see in writing that your co-PIs are committed to the project.

I would like to apply for an Institutional Development Grant (IDG) and a Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG) in addition to the Collaborative Funding Grant (CFG). Am I allowed to apply for all three as a PI and, if so, would I be eligible to receive more than one award at a time?

You may apply for all three, but you are only allowed to have two active awards at one time. If you plan to submit for both the CFG and BIG programs, you should consult with Program Staff to make sure that you have appropriate projects for each of these programs. And you may wish to have another major user apply as PI for the IDG.

I have a project to develop a new instrument that will be of value in molecular biology research. Which program is most appropriate?

Although projects such as this have excellent scientific merit and commercial opportunity, the Center does not have any programs for the development of new instrumentation. In select cases, we may allow customization and development of special equipment to be used in research projects in the IDG program. You should check with Program Staff to be sure your request is appropriate.

What is included in the page limit associated with the Research Plan? Are the Budget Justifications, Biographical Sketches and Letters of Support included?

Follow the detailed instructions provided in the guidelines. In general, the Research Plan should include the Technical Objectives, Experimental Design and Methods, and the Data Analysis and Interpretation sections. All other sections - Bibliography, Timeline, Budget Justification, Personnel, Team Management, Facilities, Biographical Sketches, etc. are not included in this page limit.

I have preliminary data that I feel must be included in my proposal. Where in the proposal should it go?

It is very important to include preliminary data. It should go in the Background section.

What are you looking for in a timeline diagram?

There are many ways to do a timeline diagram – you may use a Gantt chart, a bar graph, a line diagram, a table, etc. Be sure to include a short description of each aim or objective and the major tasks necessary to accomplish these aims along with the relative start and completion dates. Here are a couple of examples:

Timeline Example 1

                           

Aims

 

Year 1

Year 2

 

 

Month
1-6

 

Month 7-9

Month 10-12

Month 1-3

Month 4-6

Month 7-9

Month 10-12

Aim 1 (Description)

PI-1

Aim 1a / (Obj. 1)

 

Aim 1a

Aim 1b

Aim 1c

 

 

Aim 1c

 

Aim 2 (Description)

PI-1

 

Aim 2a

 

Aim 2b

Aim 3 (Description)

Co-PI 2

 

 

 

Aim 3a

Aim 3b

Etc.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Aims/Tasks
Aim 1: Describe Aim-1 and individual tasks or objectives, etc.

 

Timeline Example 2

 

Collaborative Funding Grant (CFG)

What types of research projects does the CFG program support?

A CFG award funds a research collaboration between a university researcher and a partner company. Examples of eligible projects include research studies intended to improve the features; performance or scalable production of an existing product; test new commercial applications for a technology; or explore new foundational science that can contribute to novel commercial products.

How do I find a company to partner with me on a CFG grant?

It is the responsibility of the PI to identify a suitable company partner and establish a relationship appropriate for a CFG partnership. The University Tech Transfer Office may be able to offer assistance.

What types of funds can be used toward the university-in-kind match for the CFG program? 

University-in-kind contributions may include PI salary, laboratory and equipment use, core facility use, and costs of materials and supplies.

Can the PI hold any management position in a company partner when applying for a CFG? 

No, a PI may not hold any management position or have equity stake in the company.

I am the company partner on a CFG award. Whom do I contact about making arrangements to fulfill my matching obligation?

The Center does not negotiate or manage the contract between the university and its company partner. A company representative should contact the university’s Office of Sponsored Research to ask for guidance in this matter. For assistance in locating the appropriate university representative, contact the Biotechnology Center’s Contracts and Grants Office at (919) 549-8846 or contracts_grants@ncbiotech.org.

Institutional Development Grant (IDG)

May I lease equipment and then apply for an Institutional Development Grant (IDG) to pay for it on a lease to own basis?

No. You must receive the award first, and then purchase the equipment.

The exact equipment we need for our research is not available off-the-shelf. Can we build or customize the equipment we need with support of an IDG?

Yes, this is allowable in select situations. You should check with Program Staff to be sure your request is appropriate.

I have received a fund-if-funds permit award and am waiting to find out if there will be funds.  I have a time-sensitive quote – may I order the equipment in hopes of getting the award?

No. If you order the equipment before the grant contract has been signed and activated, your award will be voided and you will not be eligible to receive funds.

Technology Enhancement Grant (TEG)

Our institution does not have a Technology Transfer Office or a designated Technology Transfer Officer.  Who would serve in this capacity if we have researchers who want to apply for a TEG?

The role of the Tech Transfer Officer can be filled by the person at the institution who has senior authority to license intellectual property owned by the university. One example might be the university counsel.

What are the differences between NCBiotech’s Technology Enhancement Grant (TEG) and the Biotechnology Innovation Grant (BIG)?

The goal of the BIG is to fund research and a preliminary commercial development assessment needed to streamline the decision process for full patent filing. The TEG funding is designed to come further downstream and to support additional studies needed to make an invention licensable. A list of key differences is below:

     Biotechnology Innovation Grant

  • Supports a project that explores the creation or refinement of a technology based upon a body of academic research
  • Requires that an invention disclosure has been submitted to the university’s technology transfer office but that the invention has not yet been converted to a full non-provisional or PCT patent application. Note that the filing of a provisional patent application is allowable but not required.
  • The academic faculty researcher is the applicant and recipient of funds
  • The funded project incorporates an evaluation of commercial development as well as scientific potential
  • Builds on basic research that has potential for commercial development/IP  

     Technology Enhancement Grant

  • Supports a project for which IP protection (including a provisional patent application) has been initiated by the university
  • The university Tech Transfer Office or related university commercialization partner is the applicant
  • Provides funding that is necessary for the licensing of the technology to a commercial interest
  • Research funds may be directed off-campus (e.g., a local contract research company)

If you have questions as to which program would be appropriate, contact Deborah_De@ncbiotech.org

Resubmissions

I have been invited to resubmit. Where does my response addressing the reviewer comments go in the proposal? Does it count in the page limitation?

The response should go at the beginning of the proposal and each comment/concern should be addressed directly, although responses to similar concerns can be combined. The response does not count as part of the page limitation; however, it should still be concise and clearly written and submitted as part of the proposal document.

Can I use the same cover sheet and letters of support from my previous submission?

No.  We require a new cover sheet and letters of support with current dates and signatures. Also, check the grant program webpage and guidelines for updated instructions and any new forms.

Post-Award

I was notified that I have received funding and I have a question about the award. Whom should I contact?

Contact the Biotechnology Center’s Contracts and Grants Office at (919) 549-8846 or contracts_grants@ncbiotech.org.

I have received an award with contingencies. Where do I send my response?

Responses should be sent to the Biotechnology Center’s Contracts and Grants Office at (919) 549-8812 (fax) or contracts_grants@ncbiotech.org.

I have been notified by email (or phone) of an IDG award and have a time-sensitive quote for a piece of equipment. Can I order it right away?

No. You must first receive the official letter from NC Biotechnology Center’s Contracts and Grants Office. Once you receive the letter you must activate the grant to order the equipment. Funds are released as a reimbursement and require the receipt to be submitted to the NC Biotechnology Center's Contracts and Grants Office. However, you may notify the Center of your situation to expedite the process.

Where can I find grant reporting forms?

Reporting forms can be found on our website at this link: www.ncbiotech.org/postaward

I am the company partner on a CFG award. Whom do I contact about making arrangements to fulfill my matching obligation?

The Center does not negotiate or manage the contract between the university and its company partner. A company representative should contact the university’s Office of Sponsored Research to ask for guidance in this matter. For assistance in locating the appropriate university representative, contact the Biotechnology Center’s Contracts and Grants Office at (919) 549-8846 or contracts_grants@ncbiotech.org.

How do I apply for a no-cost extension?

A no-cost extension request should be completed and submitted to contracts_grants@ncbiotech.org. The no-cost extension form is located at www.ncbiotech.org/postaward. Please include an overview of the work accomplished to date, an explanation of why the extension is needed, and a justification for the length of the extension period. Include a new timeline showing completion dates for specific aims and objectives for the remaining experiments. Requests are typically granted for periods of around six (6) months. Longer extensions may be granted if found to be fully justified.

For further reference, refer to guidelines at this link:  http://www.ncbiotech.org/postaward