Event Report: Inaugural Proposal Preparation Seminar – August 2014, Tokyo
The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund convened its First Proposal Preparation Seminar on August 2, 2014 on the Hongo Campus at the University of Tokyo. The goal of the event was to attract more proposals from development partnerships spearheaded by Japanese organizations. Dr. Hidehito Kotani, Vice President of MSD KK, served as the featured speaker and delivered a detailed overview of the proposal process.
Dr. Kotani began by summarizing the origins, business model, and aims of the GHIT Fund, while explaining the state of its investment activities to date. He also reflected on his experience as an external reviewer for the Fund over the past year, during which he encountered a number of extremely promising research ideas presented by Japanese companies, universities and research institutions.
Opportunities for Improvement
In a significant number of the proposals he evaluated, Dr. Kotani noted what he perceived to be a lack of experience among Japanese entities with the process and mechanics of submitting a proposal in the English language. This lack of experience contributed to low evaluation scores of the proposals and the concepts they outlined. Dr. Kotani lamented this fact, particularly in view of the quality of the ideas being presented. He also flagged considerable room for improvement in how Japanese entities convey the originality of their project management, R&D and other aspects of the ideas being proposed.
He specifically noted a pattern of insufficient information in proposals submitted by Japanese research organizations related to verification of chemical compound safety. This detailed information, along with sufficient data that supports it, is critical, Dr. Kotani stressed. “There is no chemical compound free of toxicity,” he said, emphasizing the importance of clarifying the concerns of chemical compound safety at each R&D stage for new drugs.
Setting Clear Milestones
Dr. Kotani underscored the importance of setting clear R&D milestones to serve as vital evaluation targets, noting the necessity of specifying the selection standards applied to the efficacy, safety, and other aspects of chemical compounds that must be verified at each and every step of the development process. He added that details about partnership history, risk management, governance, and budgeting are also crucial to include in proposal narratives.
Providing Reference Materials
Additional key components for research organizations to keep in mind when forming their proposals are reference materials, as proposal evaluators find references to be highly useful and instructive in evaluating project concepts and plans. Reference categories include books and other source documents, guidelines, the fruits of past research, unpublished data, dissertations, and similar materials valuable in tracking and confirming the background of the proposed research.
Three Key Points
In concluding his talk, Dr. Kotani noted three key points that will always be critical touch points in the evaluation of any proposal – perspectives that he strongly recommends applicants keep in mind in the drafting and preparation of their respective proposal documents. These three areas include: (1) Needs and Impact, (2) Science and Technology, and (3) Partnership and Project Management.
Audience Response & Requests
Dr. Kotani’s talk was followed by a question and answer session, during which participants from around Japan voiced a wide range of comments and inquiries. This format produced highly interactive discussions, with the GHIT staffers also joining in to help provide further clarity.
General impressions of the seminar, drawn from a questionnaire each participant filled out, were very positive, indicating the value of the seminar in helping attendees understand how to prepare and submit their own proposals. Specific remarks included:
- “We came to understand which areas of our own proposals require revision – the information we gathered is certain to be extremely valuable from here on out”;
- “The talk and subsequent exchanges effectively highlighted and clarified the points that have proved to be particularly inadequate in proposals submitted by Japanese institutions to date, providing a crucial reference for us in determining how to meet this challenge in the future”; and
- “It was highly informative to learn the particular points viewed as significant from the perspective of someone actually involved in the screening process.”
Our questionnaire also elicited requests for specific information, such as examples of Hit-to-lead-Platform proposals (a category newly added to the grant project scheme from the current year), and the GHIT Fund’s efforts to supply forums for encounters and discussions and between companies and scientific institutions.”
The GHIT Fund has made it a priority to sponsor such seminars and to take meticulous steps to reflect the opinions and other feedback received from those taking part. We appreciate and look forward to your ongoing consideration of our objectives, and sincerely welcome you to future events of this type.