The CIHR Proof of Principle program, cancelled last year by the CIHR, was a unique funding opportunity for Canadian researchers to de-risk and develop their research discoveries so that they could form spin-off companies, or license the intellectual property to established companies. This small pot of money, approximately $7 million annually of the CIHR's total budget of $1 billion, was truly transformative in terms of impact and innovation. Over the years The University of British Columbia received 90 PoP awards (73 Phase 1 (~$150,000 each) and 17 Phase 2 (~$300,000 with a company match requirement), and these awards directly led to the founding of 21 spin-off companies and an additional 5 exclusive licenses with established companies. The resulting spin-off companies have raised more than $400 million in private capital (the largest being Aquinox Pharmaceuticals ~$200 million raised; NASDAQ:AQXP) and directly employ hundreds of people. The licenses include the one of the largest ever Canadian university licensing deals, involving a promising prostate cancer drug and Roche Pharmaceuticals.
The absence of this program impairs the ability of Canadian universities to successfully commercialise their discoveries by removing badly needed funding for product development, and also the program's contribution to patent costs. Please consider reinstating this program, it fundamentally contributed to our success at commercialisation and innovation.
J.P. Heale, Managing Director, UBC Industry Liaison Office