Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund
What institutions are eligible to apply to this fund?
Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions recognized as CFI-eligible can apply to this fund on behalf of a facility.
What are the details of the competition for biocontainment and large-animal facilities?
CFI issues draft call for proposals
August 25, 2021
Deadline to submit feedback on the draft call for proposals
September 13, 2021
CFI issues call for proposals
September 21, 2021
Information sessions for potential applicants
September 27, 2021 (English)
September 28, 2021 (French)
Deadline to submit notices of intent
October 18, 2021
Deadline to submit proposals
December 7, 2021
Review of proposals by Expert Committees
Review of proposals by the Strategic Review Committee
Decision by CFI Board of Directors*
March 22, 2022
*The CFI Board of Directors will make funding decisions for the Biosciences Research Innovation Fund only after a contribution agreement with the Government of Canada for the $500 million allocated in the 2021 federal budget is finalized.
The CFI will invest up to $115 million in research infrastructure funding through this competition and will fund up to 60 percent of a project’s eligible infrastructure costs. In addition, the CFI will provide up to $34.5 million for associated operating costs through the Infrastructure Operating Fund.
Funding through the competition for biocontainment and large-animal facilities is intended to:
- Address immediate infrastructure needs in postsecondary institutions’ and affiliated research hospitals’ capacity to support pandemic preparedness and respond to emerging health threats, consistent with Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy
- Support the development of strong linkages among researchers working in a variety of settings, including government laboratories, and users of research results in all sectors
- Create an environment to attract and train highly qualified personnel linked to the needs of the biomanufacturing and life sciences sector.
Eligible infrastructure projects
An eligible project is one that involves acquiring or developing research infrastructure to increase research capacity in existing CL3 or CL4 facilities and only those CL2 or CL2+ facilities that are essential to the operations of the CL3 or CL4 facilities.
Projects submitted may include renovations, repairs to existing infrastructure (whether CFI-funded or not) and equipment housed within the CL3 or CL4 facilities or which are necessary to maintain, renew or augment their Canadian Biosafety Standards certification to work with human pathogens.
In addition to containment facilities, eligible projects may involve associated facilities for large animals. Small-animal (e.g. rodents, ferrets, etc.) facilities are not eligible.
See the call for proposals for more information on eligibility.
What does an institution need to do before applying?
To participate in any of our funding competitions, you must first make sure your institution is eligible to apply for funding, has signed an institutional agreement and that you have an account on our CFI Awards Management System (CAMS).
What is the process to apply?
Follow the steps below and consult the call for proposals for complete instructions on how to apply.
Step 1: Submit a notice of intent
Submit a notice of intent if your institution plans to seek funding through this competition.
We will use notices of intent to:
- Plan the merit-review process
- Start recruiting reviewers
- Identify potential eligibility issues with the project or infrastructure items requested.
Step 2: Submit a proposal
Consult the call for proposals for detailed instructions on how to submit a proposal.
Step 3: The review process begins
After the deadline to submit proposals, the merit-review process begins. This is how we will assess which proposals receive funding.
Resources for applying to the competition for biocontainment and large-animal facilities
View recordings of our information sessions and consult the slides from the presentations for details on how to apply.
Mark Lagacé: Welcome, everyone. You’re at the CFI’s information session for the Biosciences Infrastructure Fund (BRIF). My name is Mark Lagacé. I’m here with my colleagues Ryan Gill and Sébastian Denizé who is carefully camouflaged as CFI/FCI and host of the meeting.
For today, we’ll have a brief presentation and probably about half an hour talk to go through some of the key concepts for the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund, but we’ll leave plenty of time for questions at the end.
I will go over a couple of housekeeping items to start. First of all, you probably noticed as you’re joining in, this session is being recorded. We will post it on our website as soon as we can after the session has completed so that those who couldn’t make it here can get access to this material and you can go back and refer to it later if you’d like.
We do want to get to your questions. I recommend you use the Q&A box. The interface location for that moves around depending on which version of Zoom you’re using. But if you open up the Q&A and submit your questions, please feel free to do so throughout the talk. My colleague, Ryan, will try to answer some of those as we go and then, as I said, at the very end I’ve got some time to go through any other questions that you’ve got or go over some things that might need additional elaboration beyond a little typed answer, so please feel free to use that. The chat is also available, but the advantage of the Q&A box is that it’ll keep the questions and answers together and it’s much easier to refer to at that point.
The main focus of this talk is going to be on the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund competition, this one for biocontainment labs and associated animal facilities. But before I jump into the competition, I wanted to give a bit of context as to where this came from and sort of highlight the Biomanufacturing Life Sciences strategy from the Government of Canada that was released, I believe at the end of July. I don’t remember the exact date. But the focus of the talk will largely be on what we’re calling the BRIF competition and this is the first competition under this new fund.
As I mentioned, the biomanufacturing strategy came out this past summer. I don’t expect you to read all of the text on the slide, but I did want to highlight that there are five pillars in this particular strategy: strong coordinated governance, which I’ll come back to later because it really is a structure in place to try and make sure that the investments we make through the CFI and through a number of other mechanisms are aligned towards supporting this new strategy. The second pillar being laying a solid foundation by strengthening research systems and the talent pipeline, and I think this is one of the pillars under which the CFI’s investments is clearly a part of supporting this pillar of the strategy and this is for investments in post-secondary institutions and research hospitals. But I did want to highlight there are a number of other pieces of the puzzle, including growing businesses, building public capacity and enabling innovation in regulation and that the goal of the strategy is really to rebuild Canada’s biomanufacturing sector and establish a pipeline all the way from knowledge generation through to production of new vaccines, new therapeutics so that we don’t find ourselves in the situation where we did with the COVID-19 that really highlighted the lack of domestic manufacturing capability for vaccines, highlighted a number of global supply chain issues that have come out. And so the government has put forward this strategy to really try and address some of these acute challenges that came up and better prepare the country for any future pandemics or emerging health threats.
Early in 2020, the CFI undertook a survey with the chief science advisor of our eligible CFI institutions to ask them about their biocontainment laboratories and particularly, capacity in containment level three laboratories. And one of the results of this survey was it came out loud and clear that these laboratories need investments to maintain their readiness to respond to future pandemics. In fact, over 70% responded that they were at risk of losing their biosafety standards without additional specialized equipment or critical upgrades. Along with this, other key pieces of the puzzle were infrastructure for associated large animal facilities was identified as a critical need and so the CFI had proposed to address some of these challenges through $120 million capital investment to address these needs.
What came out in Budget 2021, as you can see, was $500 million over four years of which this first competition is really to address some of those needs that we identified in that survey and other critical needs out in the community and in the institutions right now. But there is additional funding, obviously, for additional competitions that will follow this first one. I also wanted to highlight that there are a number of other investments going out into the tri-councils, to the CIHR for clinical trial, VEDO, adMare, Stem Cell Network and over $1 billion through the Strategic Investment Fund from [00:05:50] and so all of this fits within this context of the biomanufacturing and life sciences strategy. There’s over $2.2 billion worth of investments in Budget 2021 of which the competition that we launched last week is actually just the first piece out the door.
What are the objectives of this particular competition? As I mentioned, it was launched very quickly to respond to urgent needs that were identified through this survey that we conducted and so we want to see a quick implementation of the projects funded through this mechanism. The focus is really to address this immediate infrastructure needs to support preparedness and respond to emerging health threats. The strategy also seeks to, as I mentioned, sort of establish and strengthen the pipeline of research and development all the way through to the production of vaccines and the production of therapeutics. And so, the development of strong linkages among researchers working in a variety of settings both amongst the academic researchers but also with government laboratories, private sector and users of the research in all sectors is very important in this context and so we want to support the development of these strong linkages with this investment. And finally, highly trained personnel are a key component of this system. There is a need for additional trained individuals to be able to work throughout the biomanufacturing pipeline if you wish. And so, these investments are really to create an environment that will attract and train highly qualified personnel in areas that are essential to the biomanufacturing and life sciences sector.
We have $115 million to invest in infrastructure projects and 30% on top of that, so $34.5 million that will go into the Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF) to support the operating and maintenance needs of these projects.
Unlike our other funding, we’re providing up to 60% of the total eligible costs in the projects for projects funded under this mechanism. Where our typical innovation fund would be a 40% maximum, here we’re going up to 60% and one of the consequences of this is in fact, that the operating maintenance costs, we are providing a slightly higher proportion if you wish of operating maintenance compared to our other mechanisms. So if a typical CFI project would have 40% capital costs from us and then 30% of that, it works out to about 12% of the total infrastructure costs. Whereas in this particular mechanism, that would be up to 18% of the total eligible project costs that are going into IOF.
Unlike our other funding, all of the funding that was provided to the CFI for the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund is really in support of the strategy and so the Infrastructure Operating Funds that are generated by successful projects in this competition must be used just for projects that were funded through this competition. Typically, the IOF is available to institutions for any CFI funded projects. In this case, the IOF must be attributed to the projects that are funded through this column and we have a minimum project cost of $3 million. We are seeking to fund larger scale projects that will have a big impact on the capacity to respond to pandemics and emerging health threats. This is a minimum of $3 million in total project costs and not CFI contribution.
What types of projects are we looking for? I’ve mentioned before, the main focus of this is to provide CL3, so containment level 3 facilities with the infrastructure they need to maintain their certification and to expand their capacity to work with human pathogens. We expect only one infrastructure project per CL3 facility to be submitted. That being said, there’s no limit on the number of projects that institutions can participate on so these can be multi-institutional projects, but per CL3 facility, we want to see one project.
CL2 and CL2+ facilities only when those are essential to the operation of the CL3 or 4 facility and so in this case, it would be expected for you to justify the need for any CL2 or 2+ investments. These would be facilities that are typically directly tied to an existing CL3 facility.
Our goal here is not to invest in new facilities where none existed before. It’s really to ensure that the existing facilities are at the leading edge and can work with the CL3 level pathogens. When it makes sense to do so, an existing facility could be replaced or consolidated but there should be a cost-effective reason for doing so. For example, if you know you want to consolidate capacity that exists in more than one CL3 facility into one new facility, that is acceptable, or if you want to replace an existing CL3 facility with a new construction. In those cases, we’d expect you to present arguments as to the cost effectiveness of building a new one rather than renovating the existing one. That being said, we do want you to consider the full life cycle costs of the facility when you do so. So there may be a higher initial investment and capital for a new facility versus renovation of an old one, but when you consider the operating costs over the life cycle, it may be more efficient to replace it rather than repair or renew it.
For CL4 facilities, this would only be accepted on an exceptional basis. A very strong case would have to be made for the need for another CL4 facility above and beyond the existing National Microbiology Lab (NML) that exists already. And the decision to accept a facility of this type would be made on the basis of the business case. They would be evaluated by the expert panels.
We will also accept renewals and upgrades to associated large animal facilities. We’re not looking for mice or rodents here. These are typically non-human primates: pigs or other large animal facilities are welcomed in this competition, but they would have to be associated with a CL3 facility.
What type of eligible costs? Within the context of an eligible project that I’ve described, all of our typical CFI eligible costs for infrastructure projects are also eligible within this competition: equipment renovations, construction, shipping, initial training of infrastructure personnel. All the usual categories of expenses that we accept are eligible.
We have also added two additional eligible costs. One being repairs to existing infrastructure and this can be to CFI funded infrastructure or non-CIF funded infrastructure. So if there’s something in the existing CL3 lab that requires repairs, that is an eligible cost within the project. And we also accept security-related costs. This can include both physical and cybersecurity and this is both within the capital project. So if there are locks, barriers, firewalls, these kinds of infrastructure pieces that are required, that’s eligible within the project and within the IOF, the Infrastructure Operating Funds associated, security costs can also be included for sort of the ongoing operating costs related to the security of these facilities.
We do have a couple of requirements. As I mentioned earlier, what we’re looking for is really to support facilities that can enhance our capacity to respond to pandemics and emerging health threats, and so we’re looking for facilities that can support a broad range of research in these areas rather than an individual research lab. Not that there’s a lot of CL3’s that are dedicated to one person, but we really do want the facility to be open to supporting a number of different areas of research and so they must have a management structure and a user access policy in place to support this as well.
The other requirements I have on the slide here, like most of our programs, we will accept some costs that predate the call for proposals. The earliest date for eligibility of costs in this fund is April 19th, 2021. So we’ll accept any costs incurred after that point within an eligible project in this competition.
And finally, as you know, the focus of this is really to build up Canada’s capacity to respond to these threats. Infrastructure funded through this completion must be located in Canada.
Our timeline is fairly aggressive. We do want to come out with a decision very soon as we’re really hoping to address some of these immediate needs. The call was launched last week and we are asking for notices of intent by October 18th so it’s three and a half weeks from now. Proposals are due on December 7th, and we will review them mostly in January, maybe extending a bit into February for the expert review. There will be a strategic review committee for this competition, and I’ll get into that a little later in the presentation that will meet in early March and we will make the decisions on funding at our March board meeting.
The application process is a two-step process. The notice of intent is a mandatory step, but this is not reviewed. Similar to our Innovation Fund competition, you must submit a notice of intent to be able to submit a proposal afterwards, but we use the notice of intent for planning the review process and it’s not a reviewed step. We will go through the NOI’s and ensure that the projects that are submitted to us are in fact, eligible to this fund and so we may return projects that are not eligible at that stage, but there is no formal review process for the NOI. Everyone is invited to submit a proposal in the next step of the application process.
The notice of intent, as I said, we do use it for planning a review process, so we do ask that it reflect as closely as possible what you intend to submit in the proposal, including the total eligible costs and the amount that’s anticipated to be requested from the CFI. That being said, this competition, we don’t have envelopes assigned to different institutions and we do recognize that that timeline is very aggressive and so if there are some changes in the budget between the notice of intent and the proposal, that will be accepted. Obviously, if you can inform us as early as possible if there is something that is going to be significantly different, that would be very helpful. We do use the information to plan the review process and while the budget is not necessarily the determining factor, it is one factor in how we go about convening the expert committees. So do inform your senior program officer if there are any changes between the notice of intent and the proposal.
In the notice of intent, it’s the usual CFI sections that you’ll see, so basic project information, the project title, key words, research disciplines, etc. We’re asking for plain language summary. We’ll ask for the representative members of the research teams. These individuals will have to accept to participate in the project before you’re able to submit the notice of intent. So they would be notified through CAMS, an email notification and will have to accept. The project description is up to four pages. This is to describe the research that is proposed. The infrastructure that will be requested and the partners that are going to be involved in the project and this is important for us in terms of avoiding conflicts of interest in the reviewers that will be recruited to review the proposals. Likewise, we do ask for suggested reviewers so please try to pay attention to conflicts in interest when you’re making recommendations for suggested reviewers and we do encourage you to suggest a diversity of reviewers. Equity, diversity and inclusion is very important at the CFI and we want to make sure that our review committees are representative of the diversity that’s out there in the research community that use these labs. All of this information will make its way to into the full proposal or at least the sections that are the same between the notice of intent and the proposal. CAMS will automatically transfer the information over for you so you don’t have to re-enter that.
The proposal itself is made up of three different modules: the project module, finance module and suggested reviewers. The project module, again, contains the plain language summary and the project information.
A project summary, and this should be an executive summary of the whole project; it’s very important that this summary cover how the project will meet the objectives of this competition and how it fits within that broader biomanufacturing life sciences strategy, because this section of the proposal is the only part of the proposal that will be shared with the strategic review committee for that second stage of review. So it should be able to stand alone as a summary of the project.
The main proposal, of course, is in the assessment criteria attachment, which I’ll go into in a few extra slides. And we also have additional project attachments to allow for attachment of a research security, cybersecurity and data management plans.
The finance module is exactly the same as our other funds, so a detailed cost of the individual items. Construction and renovation plans has a separate attachment and again, here this is really for the plans and for the detailed timeline and table of costs; it’s not for a justification of the need for the construction and renovation and that should be within the assessment criteria. And likewise, we want to find out about the eligible partners whether the infrastructure is going to be used 100% for research or needs to be prorated and the system will generate an overview of funding there.
The forms should be up very shortly. I apologize that they’re not there when we launched the call for proposals, but we do anticipate they’ll be up this week. I think I indicated the 30th as the date that they will be available, but they may actually be up a few days before that. So we’ll have those available for you in CAMS to start filling out very shortly.
Going into the assessment criteria section, this is a PDF attachment; it’s a maximum of 30 pages for projects under $10 million, 35 pages for those requesting more than $10 million from the CFI. Please be aware that the system will allow you to upload a document of up to 35 pages regardless of the amount you’re asking for and it will only throw an error at the point when you’re trying to submit if your request is under $10 million, so do pay attention to the page limits. If it’s under $10 million, it’s 30 pages long for this section. And this section is there to address all six assessment criteria in this competition. These are listed on this slide: research excellence, research teams, capacity, collaboration and partnerships, sustainability and the anticipated benefits. I’ll go through in the next few slides, some of the information that we will request that you provide us to address each of these evaluation criterion.
For research excellence, the criterion standard is on the slide, I won’t read it to you. But essentially, we are looking both backwards and forwards in this case. So looking back, we want you to describe the breadth of activities that have been enabled by the biocontainment facility, or the associated animal facility depending on what you’re requesting infrastructure for over the past five years, so I guess in the recent history. And we want both qualitative and quantitative data on things like the number and types of infectious diseases that have been studied, any vaccines or therapies that might have been developed, and any animal models of disease that have been developed or characterized in the facility over the past five years and really, to highlight some of the most significant research accomplishments that have occurred. And then the looking forward piece, of course, is to describe—well, with the infrastructure that you’re requesting, what are the proposed researcher technology development programs that will be enabled and in there, explain the methodologies that’ll be used, discuss their feasibility, identify some of the challenges and how these will be overcome and obviously, highlight what are the innovative aspects of these programs. This should all be positioned within the context of both Canadian and international sort of state of the field. So we do expect to be funding things that are internationally competitive and so that context of how this fits within the broader international context is important. You can include references in the proposal and where appropriate, should do so. But these must all fit within the 30 pages that are provided for this section, there’s not an additional section to allow extra pages for references.
For the team’s criteria, as I mentioned, we are looking for facilities that can support a broad range of different research and a number of different researchers that are working on different areas. We ask that you describe the breadth and diversity of the major users of the facility. Consider things like the disciplines of research, career stage sectors, type of organization and geographic distribution and so on. And then describe their relevant experience and expertise to conduct what you are proposing to do and you can highlight scientific and technical contributions to the areas of the proposed activities.
One thing to highlight is that we do want to collect information on the diversity of the users and so for funded projects, we may follow up with a survey after we’ve funded and towards the end of these projects to get more information on the representation of all the users of the facility. We recognize that up to 10 people that are included in a proposal are really just a subset of all the users of a facility like this.
The third criteria is looking at enhancement of the capacity to respond to emerging health threats. In this section, we’re really looking at what existing capacity is there and how the infrastructure will enhance that capacity. We do expect you to justify the need for each item of infrastructure that is requested, explain how it will be used and needed to conduct the proposed research activities and how it will enhance our capacity to respond to pandemics, emerging health threats.
For construction and renovation, as I mentioned, there is a separate attachment within the finance module where you can provide the detailed plans, timeline, and detailed cost breakdown, but the justification for the need for any renovations or construction should be in this section of the proposal.
Collaborations and partnerships, you’ll recall this is a key component for this particular competition and one of the major objectives that we have set. We do want you to describe any existing collaborations and partnerships that you have both academic and with other laboratories or facilities in other sectors as well and any plans to enhance existing collaborations and partnerships or support the development of new ones and explain how these partnerships are important to the realization of the objectives and desired outcomes of your proposal.
Sustainability, this actually is a very detailed criteria that we’re looking for. The criterion standard really talks about the optimal use of the facility and sustaining it over its useful life and looking at sort of best practices in the management of its operations and risk mitigation. To address this criteria, you will need to describe what is the management structure and for larger facilities perhaps governance structure of the facility and demonstrate that the management team has the necessary training and competencies to ensure the facility’s safe operations, identify some of the key risks of the facility, strategies to mitigate these risks and describe the expertise and specialized support that are available and planned in the facility. We also want you to describe the user access and identify any barriers to access in the facility for any underrepresented groups.
And finally, in that same vein, we’re asking for plans for research security, cybersecurity and data management. These are attachments not within the 30-page limit and I’ll describe those in a couple slides. Also, obviously these are facilities that are relatively expensive to run and so we want to know what are the plans from the institution to cover the cost of operating these facilities, including sources for operating and maintenance costs, plans for maintaining current sources of funding, securing and diversifying sources of funding and contingency plans in case there are funding shortfalls.
This one, as I mentioned there’s a lot of information that feeds into the evaluation of the sustainability of these projects and it’s one of the six criteria, but it’s obviously something that will require a fair amount of analysis and evidence to demonstrate that it will be sustainable.
And last but not least, of course there are anticipated benefits and here we really want to know what are… describe some of the potential benefits and then detail the plans to see the realization of these benefits, including how the institution will protect and IP for the benefit of Canadians. And we also want to know, essentially, about the team’s experience in knowledge mobilization and tech transfer to get a sense of the likelihood of these benefits being realized.
And the final piece in this of course, is looking at the training and explaining how this will create an environment for training and talent development in areas of importance to the biomanufacturing and life sciences sector. For this, we’d like to see the number and types of highly qualified personnel, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians who have been trained at the facility and the anticipated number going forward assuming the CFI investment is successful.
I mentioned data management plans, cybersecurity plans and research security plans. These are an attachment to the proposal. For the research security plan, we expect it to outline all physical aspects of research security and aspects related to security of the personnel. The data management plan should define how the security integrity of the data will be managed and protected. This should follow the tri-agency guidelines on research data management plans.
And finally, the cybersecurity plan is to identify potential risks, cybersecurity through electronic storage, transmission, analysis and other uses of the data and/or unwarranted access to the research infrastructure. For these plans, it should be in the context of the project itself and of the facility itself. These are plans specific to what you are asking for and these will be evaluated as part of the expert review of the proposal.
Speaking of expert review, I’ll move into the review process. We are using a two-stage process for the review of these proposals. Expert committees will assess the strengths and weaknesses with respect to the six assessment criteria I just described. This will be a pass/fails stage of the review. The expert committees will be asked only to recommend funding for those proposals that meet the bar of excellence for this competition and projects that are not recommended by the experts will not be reviewed at the next step by the strategic review committee.
For the expert committees, we may convene virtual face-to-face meetings between the experts and representatives from the applicant institution and projects. These will be set up for proposals that we deem are particularly large and complex. Typically, this is reserved for proposals that are a significant investment for the CFI, but the financial side of it is not the only determining factor for whether we will do a face-to-face meeting or not. Once we receive the NOI’s, we will review these and make that determination and we’ll inform the institutions which proposals we expect to need a face-to-face meeting for. As a reminder, these will take place in sort of the latter half of January of next year, is where we’ll be doing most of the expert committee reviews for this competition.
The second stage is the strategic review committee and this committee is really to look at a strategic alignment of the proposals with the biomanufacturing and life sciences strategy and other investments and that’s the slide. Actually, I have this here. So really their remit is threefold to recommend projects that are in strategic alignment with the biomanufacturing strategy to assess any other benefits to Canada of the proposals and of course, to recommend the amount that the CFI should award for each proposal. And as I mentioned earlier, this committee will be informed by the summary of the proposal and by the expert committee reports that are generated through the expert review that detail the strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to the six assessment criteria that we’ve defined.
Just to clarify in terms of the strategic review committee, this is actually a committee that will be shared between a number of the different investment mechanisms that came out in Budget 20211. This is a committee that will review the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund proposals but also the investments through the tri-council programs that will follow and the CIHR Clinical Trials Fund that will come. This is a shared committee that will have a broader view of all of the investments that are being made under the auspices of this biomanufacturing strategy. And so the committee members will probably resemble a sort of typical CFI multi-disciplinary member profile type of individuals. The members are being named by CFI and the tri-councils. This is a committee that we are putting together, but the membership will be subject to approval by the ministers of industry, science and innovation and health. As mentioned, this committee will only look at the proposals that have already been deemed excellent through the expert review process and they will their recommendations to the CFI board of directors who will make the final funding decisions for these proposals.
I’m going to stop there and open the floor to any questions and maybe not to put you on the spot Ryan, but maybe if you want to go through, if we’ve had questions that have come in already, maybe you want to go through those and then we’ll open up to other questions.
Ryan Gill: Maybe there’s a first question that I haven’t answered in writing yet that’s about the research excellence criterion which would make it more difficult for newer facilities to apply because we’re looking for that track record. But just to say that existing CL3 facilities that are newer are not excluded from applying, but they will need to demonstrate their track record of excellent research. It’s not really phrased as a question so I don’t really know how to answer it. But that is just part of the criterion.
We did have a question about is there a maximum number level of funding allowed or a number of applications we’re intending to fund? There’s not a specific maximum that anyone can request other than obviously the total.
Mark Lagacé: I was going to say you can’t request more than $115 million.
Ryan Gill: And we don’t have a target for the number of applications. And as Mark mentioned, it’ll be up to the strategic review committee to determine the amount that’s recommended for each project.
Mark Lagacé: So that’s just it, there aren’t any envelopes that are being used for this competition so there’s no maximum number of proposals that an institution can submit, for example. The limitation there is we really only want to receive one proposal per containment level 3 laboratory. So if there are a number of different pieces of equipment required for a number of different projects, they should all be within one proposal for that facility.
Ryan Gill: We’ve got a question from Judith Chadwick about if we could explain more why we’ve limited the projects to only large animal facilities and not other animal models that could be linked to CL3 or 4 facilities.
Mark Lagacé: One of the reasons for that is really to focus this competition on some of those urgent needs that we had identified and so there are a number of other sources of funding that were in place that covered a lot of the smaller animal facilities. There was less of a critical need for investment in those facilities. So because the focus of this is really on looking at those containment laboratories and an associated large animal facility, we really wanted to maintain that focus there. I think it’s really the focus here is really looking at the containment labs and if the animal facilities are necessary for establishing safety and testing vaccines and so that it’s typically the large animals that we need to invest in at this point.
Ryan Gill: We’ve got a question about the results of that survey that we did. That’s an internal document, if I understand correctly, right? That’s not something we’re publishing.
Mark Lagacé: So that was done with the chief science advisor and I don’t believe there’s a report that’s made public from it. No, unfortunately I can’t share anything with that.
Ryan Gill: At the NOI stage versus the proposal stage, there’s no maximum variance that we’re allowing between those two? We hope it’s as accurate as possible.
Mark Lagacé: With the caveat that we don’t want to have to completely change our plans for the review committee. As I said, based on the NOI’s, we will make that determination of whether we’ll need to do a face-to-face meeting and we’ll plan out our expert committees and try to balance the workload for the experts. So if there are major changes between the NOI and the proposal, as soon as you are aware, please let us know. And obviously, ideally we’d like to avoid as much as possible.
Ryan Gill: We have a question about biobanks and whether they’re eligible.
Mark Lagacé: Projects that are predominantly for biobanks are not. You can include infrastructure for banking and storage of infectious materials, but the focus here is really on equipping CL3 laboratory space, not biobanks.
I see a couple more questions in the chat from Judith. One, thoughts on complimentary CFI IF 2023 proposals.
This competition, obviously, is being launched first the decisions for one will be coming out in March, which I think is—I don’t know the timeline. I don’t have in hand for the next innovation fund, but obviously if you have a proposal that it fits within the Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund, I recommend that it come in through this mechanism and if there are complementary proposals for the IF, then that’s certainly acceptable in the IF.
And there was a question as well, assume no adjudication benefit for asking for less than 60%. So it’s our standard thing. Our maximum amount is 60%. Obviously, we encourage as much as possible, institutions to work with other partners and present the proposal that makes the most sense. You don’t have to go up to 60%, but we don’t have a point waiting system saying someone’s asking for less so we like it better.
Ryan Gill: We’ve got a follow up to that question about research excellence. I guess the question is similar to how some research funding opportunities provide special consideration for early career researchers, are we giving special consideration to newer facilities? And that answer, from my understanding, is there’s no special consideration and we are looking for facilities to have a track record of excellent research.
Mark Lagacé: I think obviously, the key here is really to address the criterion standards. It’s basically what we are asking as the criterion standard is that the facility has a demonstrated track record of excellence. It doesn’t have to be a long track record of excellence. Our statement of the past five years is really because we don’t really want to know what you did 30 years ago. It’s perhaps not relevant at this point. But if you’ve only been up and running for a couple of years, we still expect you to be able to demonstrate that it’s been used for excellent research in that time.
I see a question from Marcel B. Preparedness needs people and processes as well as training new people, is there a complementary program to provide operating funding for CL3 labs given that this is mostly about equipment and upgrades?
You are correct. This one is about equipment and upgrades. We do have the IOF that is associated with the funding that comes from the CFI for these projects that will assist with that. But I did note early in the slide that there has been $2.2 billion worth of investments in support of the biomanufacturing life sciences strategy in Budget 2021 and so there’s a number of different sources of funding out there and programs that are being developed. Certainly the second phase of this Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund from the CFI will be launched in collaboration with the tri-agencies. They have $250 million in the most recent budget for their Biomedical Research Fund as well and so this is being developed with collaboration with them, where obviously the tri-council funding will go towards people and research costs and other costs that are typically covered through their mechanisms. So I guess the answer is yes. There are complementary programs coming and there are other mechanisms out there as well. But within the context of this one, it’s for existing labs and so I think you’re able to show that the existing lab is operational, this should hopefully help maintain that and help enhance those existing labs.
The next question is: Will there be a competition later that focuses on improvements to creation of small animal CL3 labs? So the intent is for the next competition to be a broader focus than this one. This one was launched very quickly to address that specific need for CL3 labs and large animal facilities. But the next competition, the BRIF, will have a broader focus and hopefully we’ll be able to share some information as to what’s coming within the next weeks, at least give an indication of what those next competitions will look like and more will come later this fall as we’re preparing the next calls for proposals.
I’m checking the chat to make sure I’m not missing any.
Ryan Gill: There’s a question in the chat and I’m typing an answer to it.
Mark Lagacé: We have had conversations with the provinces early on the development of this funding opportunity and more recently, I can’t confirm participation on the part of the provinces. I do encourage you to contact your provincial representatives and find out. But I can certainly say that they’ve been informed and engaged throughout the process of developing this fund and so they’re very much aware that this is coming and they’re aware that this is in place and are aware of the timelines that we were looking as well. We are also contributing a slightly percentage in this case of the total project costs being able to go up to 60% so there may be opportunities or I guess less strain on the part of the province’s budgets and confirmation from Quebec that they are there. Thank you Denis.
Sébastian Denizé: Mark, I think there’s a question that still has not been addressed. It’s referring to whether there’s going to be a complimentary competition for small animal CL3 labs.
Mark Lagacé: The next BRIF competition will be a broader focus than this current competition. So it’s not necessarily going to be directly for small animal facilities, but I’m sure that will fit within the broader objectives of the next BRIF competition.
If someone’s typing right now, I’ll give a few more seconds for any more questions to come in. Otherwise, I do want to thank everyone for their participation here and for the questions that they’ve submitted. Obviously, I encourage you to get in touch with the CFI. If there are any questions as you’re going forward, then by all means contact us. Either contact your senior program officer or we have the BRIF-FIRSB [at] innovation.ca email address as well that will work.
There’s a question from Tom Hobman regarding small animal facilities: Can we ask for infrastructure within the CL3 facilities?
Again, if this is within the context of ensuring the CL3 facility can maintain its certification or improvements to the CL3 facility, then that can be done. But if it’s strictly for small animal housing, then no, we’re not looking for those types of expenses within these projects. But I mean, if there’s things like imaging equipment and so on, yes, but expanding the small animal housing capacity is not part of this competition.
If you have specific questions of specific concerns about eligibility that you might not be certain, I do encourage you to get in touch with us and we can look through the specific case by case and let you know whether that will be accepted or not within the competition.
Thank you, Ryan, for typing out the email address, which nobody would be able to do from spelling it out live.
Ryan Gill: Just to get to Judith’s question about when we’ll be publishing the slides and recordings. I think we’re hoping to have them done within a week, but it may be a little bit dependent on how busy our communications department is.
Mark Lagacé: No, we’ve lined up the resources so hopefully within a week they’ll be up on our website. The slides, if you want just send a quick email and I can send those right away after the presentation as well.
Well, I think I’m going to call that a day for this particular session. Thank you again for everyone that was here. And as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Give us a call, send us an email and we’re happy to answer anything that comes up.
Thank you all and have a wonderful afternoon or morning for those west of Alberta.
How is my proposal assessed?
After you submit your proposal, it is assessed through our merit-review process.
1. Administrative review
We review each proposal to make sure it’s complete and adheres to our guidelines.
2. Expert Committee
Expert Committees assess small groups of similar proposals against the assessment criteria for the competition. They recommend to the Strategic Review Committee the proposals that meet the standard of excellence for the competition.
3. Strategic Review Committee
In the second stage of review, the Strategic Review Committee ensures that research infrastructure investments are well-aligned with and directly support the objectives and priorities of the Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.
Informed by the Expert Committee reports and a summary of each project, the SRC:
- Recommends projects that are in strategic alignment with the objectives of the Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy, as well as with other related investments
- Assesses other benefits to Canada
- Recommends to the CFI Board of Directors the amount that should be awarded for each proposal.
Who makes the final funding decisions?
Funding decisions are made by the CFI Board of Directors.
What are the assessment criteria?
The assessment criteria for the competition for biocontainment and large-animal facilities are:
- Research excellence
- Research teams
- Enhancement of the capacity to respond to emerging human health threats
- Collaborations and partnerships
- Anticipated benefits
See the call for proposals for details of each of these assessment criteria.
If your institution receives funding through this fund, there are a few things you will need to do to finalize, manage and report on your award.
How are awards finalized?
Submit an award finalization form to finalize your award. You will need to finalize your award before we can release funds to your institution.
What is required of institutions to mitigate security risks?
The recipient institutions must conduct a consistent and appropriate due diligence review of potential security risks for funded projects and put in place timely measures to appropriately mitigate those risks. Tools and guidance are available through the Government of Canada’s Safeguarding Your Research portal, National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships and Safeguarding Science workshops.
What is required of institutions for reporting on a funded project?
Once a project at your institution is up and running, you will need to submit progress and financial reports in CAMS. (The specific reporting requirements for each project, including deadlines and frequency, are included in the terms and conditions of each award agreement.)
How can institutions access operating support for funded projects?
Institutions can access financial support for the operating and maintenance costs of CFI-funded research infrastructure through our Infrastructure Operating Fund
Read and share good practices for managing your funding
Staff at our funded institutions have developed good practices, policies and processes for managing the funding they receive from the CFI.
Browse our good practices for institutions and write to us at good.practices [at] innovation.ca to share your own.
CFI investment through the first competition of this fund
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the CFI and the Office of the Chief Science Advisor of Canada surveyed institutions about their capacity to respond to COVID-19 and possible future pandemics.
The institutions pointed to critical issues with their ability to respond to the coronavirus and its variants, as well as their readiness to respond to future infectious disease outbreaks.
Notably, 94 percent of institutions with CL3 facilities reported needing investments to maintain their readiness to respond to a future
pandemic, and 70 percent indicated they were at risk of losing their Canadian Biosafety Standard certification without additional specialized equipment and critical upgrades.
The World Health Organization recognizes that animal models are key to advancing COVID-19 treatments. Canada’s federal COVID-19 Therapeutics Task Force further noted that access to animal models and laboratories with the appropriate expertise is a challenge faced by researchers and smaller Canadian firms in developing therapeutics. This challenge is equally valid for numerous infectious diseases beyond COVID-19.
To advance the Government of Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences priorities, Budget 2021 announced $500 million for the CFI to support the infrastructure needs of postsecondary institutions and research hospitals in these areas.
Canada’s leading post-secondary institutions and their affiliated research hospitals anchor much of the bioinnovation ecosystem. Important foundational components are centred in these institutions, including laboratories, research and talent.
Canada’s scientists need high-performance tools and innovative research spaces and laboratories to bring their ideas from discovery through development and commercialization. In many cases, their work requires specialized equipment in appropriate biocontainment facilities to ensure that infectious-disease research is conducted safely. Supporting surveillance, diagnostics, and pre-clinical and clinical trials with flexible research infrastructure capacity is critical to Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences ecosystem.
The Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund was created in 2021 to respond to these critical needs.
Research infrastructure supported through this fund will strengthen the capacity of academia to work with industry and government to advance promising discoveries and promote training and talent development.
Funded projects will:
- Meet a high standard of scientific excellence
- Best respond to government priorities to address pandemic readiness and emerging health threats
- Hold the greatest potential to develop commercially viable vaccines and therapies.
CFI investments will ensure that funded facilities are collaborative, durable, flexible, multi-institutional and capable of serving researchers in all relevant disciplines in support of Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.