UCSF Funding Opportunities
Industrial Expertise, Mentoring, & Seed Funding

Depending on the field and stage of your research, often familiar funding sources do not fit the product development process. At UCSF there are many non-traditional funding sources available which are designed to specifically support this process with access to customized industrial expertise and mentoring as well as non-dilutive seed funding.

Note that the funding opportunities on this page exclusively fund research in a UCSF academic lab; Other funding sources are available after a start-up has incorporated.

1. Catalyst Program 

The Catalyst Program provides customized industrial mentorship and funding for UCSF research projects at the early stages of development into a commercial product. Catalyst focuses on five areas:

  • Therapeutics - Approaches to create and develop small molecules, biological drugs, cell and gene therapy, as well as other modalities
  • Diagnostics - Approaches to create and develop assays for biomarkers of disease and precision medicine therapeutic approaches
  • Medical Devices - Development of medical devices to address patient need
  • Digital Health - Using digital technology to support the needs of patients
  • Biotools - Approaches to create biological platforms for scientists 

Once a year, Catalyst requests proposals from the UCSF community (via RAP). Awardees receive funding and mentoring from industry experts to refine their ideas. The program continues to support the development of Catalyst projects, which may include additional funding, help with strategic industry partnering, and more.

Catalyst has over 80 active industry advisors who work with innovators to develop their research toward products for patient benefit. 

The current Catalyst cycle is closed and the next cycle will open in August 2022



Contact for more information:

Charles Hart, PhD
[email protected] 

2. Catalyst + Plus

Catalyst expanded its program to Catalyst + Plus, an addition that aims to provide additional support to the previous Catalyst projects with successful progress but who still require business advice and/or supplemental funding. The first Catalyst + Plus Awards were given in Fall 2017.

Contact for more information:

Charles Hart, PhD
[email protected] 

3. UC Drug Discovery Consortium

The University of California Drug Discovery Consortium, (UC DDC) strives to leverage the biomedical research and commercialization strengths of the UC system to accelerate the development of life-saving therapies. The UC DDC is a cross-campus initiative created amongst seven University of California campus medical centers, with future goals to expand to all UC Campuses. Together, leaders from these institutes work to promote drug development by providing expertise in drug discovery education and training to UC researchers, promote access to related core facilities throughout the UC system for researchers and partners, and build relationships between industry partners and researchers for enhanced project translation.

Contact for more information:

Jason Gestwicki, PhD
Executive Committee Member & San Francisco Site Lead
[email protected] 



4. Funded Collaborations with Industry

UCSF has unique and close relationships with many large pharmaceutical and biotech companies that are excited to fund early research at UCSF within their strategic areas of interest. On a regular or rolling basis, our partner companies ask for proposals from UCSF investigators and will fully fund a number of those projects in their key interests. (Link to UCSF-specific industry funding opportunities.) UCSF works closely with many other companies not listed on this page, so please reach out to the Office of Strategic Alliances within Innovation Ventures with inquiries about working with industry. With many companies, UCSF has existing agreements in place that allow the sponsored collaboration of a research project to be executed quickly.

Contact us for more information:

Peter Kotsonis
[email protected]
(415) 323-3108

5. Area Specific Funding Opportunities

6. Ono Pharma Breakthrough Science Initiative Awards Program

Ono Pharma Foundation invites you to apply for their eighth annual Breakthrough Science Initiative Awards Program and is accepting proposals from Principal Investigators considered for high-risk and high-reward science research projects in the Chemical Biology field.

  • Chemical Biology is defined as the interface between chemistry and biology; the criteria for this field are deliberately broad so as not to disqualify potentially innovative/groundbreaking projects
  • Three awards are planned from Principal Investigators nominated by 52 institutions in the Chemical Biology field for laboratory investigation with two (2) nominees from each institution
  • Award installments will be sent every six months in advance based on six six-month reports after the granting of the Award
  • Awardees will be invited to an annual science symposium held by the Ono Pharma Foundation; the Foundation will reimburse transportation and accommodation
  • UCSF Office of Strategic Alliances is facilitating an internal process to select two (2) proposals to advance to Ono Pharma's Breakthrough Science Initiative Awar 

For more information, please refer to the program website.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • PIs applying must be working at one of the nominating institutions. Nominating institutions might be replaced or added to in subsequent years.
  • The PI must have a PhD and/or MD 
  • The PI must be a new applicant to the Ono Initiative, or, if they are a returning applicant, must be applying for a project different from the one they previously proposed
  • The PI must have 15 or fewer years of experience from starting an independent academic position (Appointed no earlier than 1/1/2009)
  • The PI may not already be engaged in other sponsored research with Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and/or grant program with Ono Pharma Foundation
  • The PI may not apply for funding to amplify current work. However, PIs may research a new idea based on a prior finding of the PI.
  • The PI must not be a healthcare professional (defined as individuals currently holding an active state license for which they are (a) qualified to prescribe, administer, use or supply any medicinal or medical products or (b) perform any professional clinical services). A PI with an MD but without an active state medical license is still eligible.     
  • PIs serving on a healthcare formulary or similar committee are not eligible

Important Dates:

  • UCSF internal application deadline: 5:00 PM PST on Wed, Feb 7, 2024 (application closed for 2024)
  • UCSF nominee announcement & LOI submission to Ono Pharma: Thurs, Feb 15, 2024*
  • Ono Pharma nominee announcement for RFP: Thurs, April 11, 2024
  • Proposal submission deadline: Thurs, May 9, 2024
  • Announcement of the awards: Mon, July 1, 2024

*UCSF Office of Strategic Alliances will assist you with the submission of your application.

For further details regarding this opportunity, please contact Peter Kotsonis, PhD at:

[email protected]

Program Website

Frequently Asked Questions