How it Works

The CQDM Explore program is widely opened to the scientific community of Quebec and Ontario. CQDM and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) are working collaboratively to launch the 2015 Explore competition which aims to support unconventional and highly innovative research projects that could strongly impact the drug discovery process. Explore is designed to fund early concept validation of cutting-edge technologies, computational tools, novel approaches, techniques and devices that address the most crucial needs in drug discovery and/or development. 

The ultimate goal of the Explore funding program is to challenge the established practices in the drug R&D process. Projects funded by this program must have the potential for a breakthrough discovery that have the potential to radically transform the current paradigm or conventional wisdom. Research projects that result only in incremental improvements over the existing state of the art will not be considered in this funding program.

While no preliminary data is necessary, the rationale behind the application must be very strong and the applicants must clearly demonstrate how the scientific approach will be validated. The projects may indicate a higher level of uncertainty or exploration, as long as they address well-identified and crucial industrial bottlenecks of the drug R&D process.

Please note that applications to this program are currently closed. 

2015 Explore Competition Information Session:

Monday, July 13, 2015 (1:30pm-3:00pm)
156 Front Street West, Suite 200, Toronto ON 

View slides from the 2015 Explore Information Session



For each research application submitted in this program:

  • The disruptive potential impact of the project on biopharmaceutical research will be considered a priority
  • The program is widely open to the research community 
  • The research could be performed at universities or affiliated research institutions, hospitals or academic research institutions, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from the private sector (including SMEs in the field of life sciences, biotechnologies, biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics, engineering, imaging or contract research organizations (CROs))
  • Multinational pharmaceutical companies are not eligible to receive funding through the Explore Program
  • Federally-supported research entities (i.e., NRC, NCEs, BL-NCEs, CECRs, etc.) are not eligible to receive funding through the Explore Program 
  • The research must be performed in the provinces of Quebec and/or Ontario
  • Please note that in contrast to the previous CQDM Focus and Quebec/Ontario programs:
    • public/private partnerships and/or partnerships between Quebec and Ontario investigators are not required, and;
    • single laboratories/institutions/companies are eligible and encouraged to apply


Research Agenda

The research agenda extends to all scientific and technical fields related to biopharmaceutical R&D and all disciplines that could provide new cutting-edge technologies, computational tools, novel approaches, techniques and devices for biopharmaceutical research. The scope includes (without limitation): biological and health sciences, chemistry, engineering, nanotechnologies, computational sciences, medical devices, imaging, biosensors, etc.

For information purposes only, examples of projects that could be funded* by the Explore program are listed below:

  • Crossing the blood brain barrier
  • Epigenetics
  • Patient segmentation technologies
  • PKPD enabling technologies
  • siRNA delivery technologies
  • Back of the eye drug delivery
  • New approaches to study Alzheimer’s disease
  • Novel approaches to study multi-resistant gram-negative bacteria
  • Biologics
  • Innovative drug delivery tools
  • New predictive disease models
  • Next generation antibodies
  • Validated predictive and translational biomarkers
  • Approaches that improves bioavailability and permeability of molecules
  • Stem cell applications
  • Imaging biomarkers
  • Translational informatics tools
  • In silico predictive methods
  • In silico and in vitro screening systems
  • Predictive algorithms
  • Computational techniques to analyze and visualize big data

*Applicants with project applications not mentioned in the examples above are also encouraged to apply.

A list of areas of activities that can be funded by the Explore program is provided on CQDM’s website

Please note that this program is not meant to fund fundamental research projects.


Funding Specifics


Maximum two years (to be started after April 1, 2016 and completed by March 31, 2018).

Total amount

Grants will be for a maximum of $300,000 (including overhead) over a two-year period. The amount requested must be well justified and will be taken into account in the final selection of the projects.

Eligible costs

  • Salary of research personnel necessary for the project (students, post-doctoral fellows, and technical/professional assistants);
  • Material and laboratory supplies including services provided by third party suppliers necessary for the realisation of the project;
  • Travel expenses (field work and collaborations);
  • Administrative costs (overhead), up to 15% of the eligible research expenses.

Non-eligible costs

  • Equipment or facilities (purchase or rental);
    • Salary of the principal investigator and co-investigators.

Flow of Funds and Reporting Requirements:

CQDM (and OCE where applicable) will release the Year 1 funds upon execution of the funding agreement(s). A subsequent interim payment (50% of the Year 2 funds) will be released upon receipt of interim progress and financial reports, and satisfactory project progression and achievement of milestones. A holdback of 50% of the Year 2 funds will be released upon project completion and receipt of final progress and financial reports. 

For OCE-supported projects, the applicant will also be required to complete an annual OCE Metrics survey each April, for the part of the project that has been completed since the previous March 31. This annual report is mandatory for OCE to fulfil its contract with the Ministry of Research and Innovation. Required metrics reports from applicants must be submitted in order to maintain good financial standing with OCE.

Evaluation Process

The funding will be awarded following the submission of a full application using a competitive process in two stages: 1. Pre-Screen and 2. Final Selection

1. Pre-Screen

Applicants must submit a full application, which includes in its first 3 sections 3 pages on the summary/impact analysis/innovation aspects of the project using the form (also available on CQDM website at by September 4, 2015. The sections 1-3 which include a summary/impact analysis/innovative aspect will first be assessed by a selection committee composed of members from CQDM’s Explore Advisory Committee and OCE representatives (for projects based at Ontario academic institutions). This committee will select approximately 15-17 applications which will be reviewed in their entirety and from which the final selection of funded projects will be made. This pre-screen selection will be based mainly on the project’s potential disruptive impact on the drug R&D process. 

Please note that sections 1 to 3 of the full application will be the only part of the full application which will be assessed to determine which projects undergo the final selection process (see details in next section). 

The Explore program aims to support new and unconventional technologies with the potential to bring a breakthrough that can unprecedentedly increase, improve or enhance the productivity of biopharmaceutical research. Applicants should ensure that they discuss the specific industrial challenges they are tackling, and describe the potential impact that their technology will have on the drug R&D process within the 3-page summary/impact/innovation document. 

The innovative and unique character of the project will be evaluated according to the originality and novelty of the technology. It is highly important to compare the proposed technology to ongoing or existing research at the local and international level. Please identify the technologies that address the same goals you are trying to achieve, then highlight the differentiating factors and added value of the technology generated from your project. The focus should be on the scientific aspects of the technologies and not on the excellence of the team or facilities.

2. Final Selection

For the approximately 15-17 applications which proceed to full review, the full applications will be evaluated by an international committee under the responsibility of the FRQS (Fonds de la Recherche du Québec – Santé) taking into account the scientific soundness of the application. In parallel, a risk analysis will be performed by CQDM (and OCE, when applicable). The results of both assessments will be presented to the selection committee, comprised of CQDM pharma partners, as well as representatives from CQDM and OCE. This selection committee will make recommendations to OCE’s Internal Review Panel (for projects based at Ontario academic institutions) and CQDM’s Board of Directors which, in turn, will make the final selection of the research projects to be funded under the Explore program.
CQDM (in partnership with OCE, for projects based at Ontario academic institutions) will notify the applicants whose project has been awarded.


Grant Administration, Licensing Policy and Research Agreements

Research grants awarded through the Explore program will be administered by CQDM for projects based in Quebec and CQDM/OCE for projects based in Ontario.

Pre-existing intellectual property (IP) necessary for carrying out the proposed project must be free of all encumbrances. IP generated under this funding program will belong to the inventors and their affiliated research entities. A non-exclusive license option (royalty-free) will be granted to the CQDM industrial sponsors for the use of the results for R&D purposes only. If background IP is needed to use the results, a non-exclusive license option to use the background IP will also be granted to the CQDM industrial sponsors. In this case, the use of the background IP will be negotiated between the parties. The CQDM industrial sponsors will have no right to commercialize the results or the background IP.

A research agreement will need to be signed between CQDM and all the research entities involved in the project within two months following the final selection announcement (before March 31, 2016). The research agreement will include, without limitations, the following aspects:

  • A clear description of the project including main steps, milestones, deliverables and the role of each investigator
  • A detailed budget and payment schedule (annual) including the portion that will be allocated to each research entity
  • A commitment from all the research entities and the investigators involved in the project to perform the research according to all relevant regulations, to maintain complete records of the research, and to disclose to CQDM additional background intellectual property that arises in the course of the project
  • The obligation of the research entities to protect the intellectual property arising from the research project
  • The main terms and conditions of the license option in favour of the CQDM industrial sponsors for the use of the results generated by the project (and background intellectual property, if necessary) for research and development purposes. Basic representations and warranties by the research entities including the required rights, consents and/or approval to perform the research project
  • The schedule of financial and scientific reports
  • Disclosure and publication requirements, including the requirement to notify CQDM prior to presentation or publication of results, and, where necessary, to delay publication for a reasonable period to protect intellectual property: the obligation to acknowledge CQDM in all publications or presentations
  • Confidentiality obligations

Furthermore, for projects funded by CQDM and OCE, a funding agreement will need to be signed between OCE and the Ontario-based research entity(ies) within two months following the final selection announcement (before March 31, 2016). View a copy of OCE’s non-negotiable Funding Agreement.

Monitoring of Funded Projects

For all funded projects, a project manager must be identified by successful applicants. This person will be responsible for co-ordination of financial reports (annual) and scientific reports (semi-annually). CQDM (and OCE where applicable) will monitor the progress of the project, and continuation of funding will be dependent on satisfactory progress against agreed milestones and budget.

This program is designed for researchers who are interested in establishing closer links with the pharmaceutical industry. In that respect, all funded projects will be assigned mentors from the pharmaceutical sector with experience in the drug discovery and development process. Mentors are senior scientists from CQDM’s industry sponsors who provide expertise and access to useful resources. Their role is to ensure that the project is progressing well and that it remains aligned with the industry’s requirements in the drug R&D process.

Key Dates

Call for applications - launching

June 29, 2015

Information sessions

July 13, 2015 (Toronto, Ontario/Webex)

Quebec dates and times to be confirmed

Deadline for interested applicants to apply for username/password to submit an application (via email to

Note: applicants MUST register by this date in order to be able to submit a full proposal on or before September 4, 2015.
 August 28, 2015

Deadline for submission of applications

September 4, 2015

Notification of applications invited to proceed to full review 

Early November 2015

Final selection 

End of January 2016

Signature of research agreement(s)

Two-month window

Start date for projects

April 1, 2016

Project completion date  By March 31, 2018

Submission Procedure

An electronic version of all Quebec and Ontario applications must be submitted on CQDM’s secure site by September 4, 2015 at 5:00 PM. Applicants must contact Eugénie Bergeron-Côté at before August 28, 2015 to obtain their username and password.

The signed application form should be in PDF format. The file must be identified as follows: Last name of PI_Explore 2015.

Please remove all the security features on the PDF version of the documents.

Download the application form.

CQDM and OCE representatives are willing to help all applicants to better understand the specificities and objectives of this program. CQDM and OCE will organize information sessions in Quebec and Ontario (dates and locations to be confirmed). Furthermore, specific meetings with CQDM and OCE representatives could be organized on a per request basis.

Sponsors of the Program


CQDM is a pharma-based consortium active in pre-competitive research whose mission is to fund the development of innovative tools and technologies to accelerate drug discovery and development. Unique in the world, CQDM’s business model is based on a collaborative approach where all stakeholders share the costs of biopharmaceutical research and benefit from its results. CQDM also provides a common meeting ground where academia, governments, biotechs and the pharmaceutical industry converge to address numerous complex medical challenges. CQDM receives financial support from 6 of the largest pharmaceutical companies around the world (Merck, Pfizer Canada, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Novartis Pharma Canada and Sanofi Canada), as well as from Quebec’s Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Exportations (MEIE) and the Government of Canada under the Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence program (BL-NCE).

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc.

Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario’s global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario’s industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and government ministries. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, OCE invests in sectors such as advanced health, information and communications technology, digital media, advanced materials and manufacturing, agri-food, aerospace, transportation, energy, and the environment including water and mining. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario’s Innovation Agenda as a member of the province’s Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). 

For further information, please contact:

Marc Thibault
Director of Programs
(514) 766-6661 ext. 2190

Natalia Lobo
Program Manager
(416) 861-1092 ext. 1061