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Needleman innovation program seeks proposals for therapeutic development

Up to $4 million in funding available to pursue ‘investigational new drug’ status

by Julia Evangelou StraitMay 5, 2023

Matt Miller

The newly established Needleman Program for Innovation and Commercialization at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis is seeking proposals to fund promising new therapeutic candidates with the goal of achieving designation as investigational new drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The program supports the urgent development of new lifesaving and life-enhancing therapeutics on the Washington University campus and is an integral element of a schoolwide campaign to support investigators committed to advancing WashU-generated therapeutics.

“We are excited about the opportunities that this first round of proposals from investigators will bring,” said Dedric A. Carter, PhD, vice chancellor for innovation & chief commercialization officer. “The Needleman Program will offer an alternative funding option for a select set of promising technologies that are positioned as impactful drug candidates. The WashU research community has tremendous capacity for developing new commercial therapeutics, and we’re embarking on a journey to tap into that potential.”

Funding will vary based on the goals of the individual projects, but initial awards are estimated to provide about $700,000 over the first two years, contingent on achieving specific milestones agreed upon in advance. Successful drug candidates may receive up to $4 million total to support the research necessary to take a potential new therapeutic through the FDA’s process for designating investigational new drugs (IND). Once IND status has been achieved, the new therapeutic then can be investigated in clinical trials.

Funded by Philip and Sima Needleman, the new program accelerates preclinical drug development within the School of Medicine by providing significant financial assistance, expert project management, drug development support and business mentoring. The new program builds on funding programs designed to support the earlier discovery-phase drug development research provided through the WashU Center for Drug Discovery and Office of Technology Management.

The successful application will have a validated target, a therapeutic lead with drug-like properties, animal models that validate efficacy and mechanism, and a clear description of the therapeutic and business potential.

Letters of intent are now being accepted. The deadline for the first round of proposals is June 16. For more information and instructions on submitting a letter of intent, please visit:

Julia covers medical news in genomics, cancer, cardiology, developmental biology, otolaryngology, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, and gut microbiome research. In 2022, she won a gold award for excellence in the Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards competition. Given by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the award recognized her coverage of long COVID-19. Before joining Washington University in 2010, she was a freelance writer covering science and medicine. She has a research background with stints in labs focused on bioceramics, human motor control and tissue-engineered heart valves. She is a past Missouri Health Journalism Fellow and a current member of the National Association of Science Writers. She holds a bachelor's degree in engineering science from Iowa State University and a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota.