LEAP is an asset development program and gap fund designed to provide intellectual and financial capital to translational research projects as they partner with existing companies or spinout companies with funding. LEAP identifies and funds promising technologies, coaches, clinicians and scientists, and partners with academic and corporate collaborators, and manages projects to maintain focus on development goals. Regardless of funding, our careful individual assessments provide significant value to projects.
Promising projects may be granted up to $50,000
The LEAP Cycle
LEAP runs on a semesterly cycle with three stages:
Projects with existing or potential University IP are eligible to participate in a preproposal and initial review process. In this stage you will:
- Develop a Project Summary Pre-proposal with a focus on partnering your tech
- Benefit from personalized assessments by LEAP staff
- Gain visibility for your project to development mechanisms (Skandalaris’ I-Corps, ICTS’ CTRFP & JIT funding, CDD Microgrants, Fundamentals @ BioGenerator, Arch Grants, etc.)
Outcome: Developed Project Summary for consideration into the LEAP cohort
Selected projects are invited to join the LEAP Cohort (i.g. LEAP Fall 2020 Cohort). In this stage you will:
- Receive detailed feedback from LEAP staff and industry experts to further frame your product opportunity for potential partners and LEAP judges
- Present your project to LEAP's industry expert judges for funding evaluation
Outcome: Refined project summary & presentation, expert feedback on innovation
Projects that receive LEAP funding are accelerated towards partnering/ launch. In this stage you will:
- Obtain support from LEAP staff who provide oversight on the deployment of funds
- Participate in facilitated interactions with accelerators and potential partners
Outcome: LEAP-funded data, personal introductions to key resources/ accelerators
Facts about LEAP:
- Project summaries are evaluated by external industry reviewers and funding decisions are based on reviewer recommendations.
- Funded projects must be completed within twelve months of the date of the award.
- Although you can enter LEAP as an individual, historically teams have outperformed lone inventors.
- LEAP funds are essentially only for technology development expenses and not for personnel unless a strong rationale for such spending can be provided.
- Upon completion of a LEAP-funded project, researchers may apply for additional funds from LEAP.
To be eligible for LEAP funding a project must meet the following criteria:
- The technology has been formally disclosed to WashU OTM or the technology is disclosed to OTM by the initial intake meeting and the project falls under the IP policy.
- The technology is not yet licensed.
- If the technology is jointly owned, an agreement exists designating WashU as a joint owner.
LEAP Objectives and Outcomes
LEAP aims to stimulate licensing of university-owned technology and to propel high-impact academic technologies into the independently-validated, later-stage opportunities sought by industry partners and investors. This supports Washington University’s reputation as a source of promising new technologies, promotes economic development and growth in St. Louis and the region, and generates income via licensing and new ventures.
Outcome Goals for ALL LEAP PROJECTS:
- Define a meaningful problem space with baseline data.
- Develop an understanding of key problem drivers.
- Engage a working team to develop and test interventions.
- Set measurable targets for your work.
- Identify and engage potential partners (for licensing, research collaboration, and/or funding).
- Identify and engage operational stakeholders who will support your project once you have demonstrated impact.
- Define and articulate a business model to support your solution at scale. This includes demonstrating a clear return on investment for the health system and payers (if applicable), and other stakeholders with the resources to support your intervention.
Outcome Goals for LEAP FUNDED PROJECTS:
- Engage with an external partner for funding, human capital, acceleration, and validation.
- Test your intervention at a scale that provides the evidence needed for operational stakeholders to invest in further scaling up and sustainability.
- Develop and execute a strategy to operationalize your intervention in the near term at scale or through R&D with resources independent of the Center.
- Identify clear metrics and infrastructure for accountability and continuous improvement.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are LEAP proposals evaluated?
LEAP pre-proposals and final proposals are reviewed based on the following key criteria:
- Is there an advantage over the existing standard?
- Can this product be advanced by an external partner (e.g. a funded start-up or existing company)?
- Does the proposed work move the project towards partnering?
Who reviews LEAP proposals?
LEAP pre-proposals are evaluated by internal & external reviewers with strong technical expertise as well as industry experience in the commercialization of new products. LEAP reviewers & judges include venture capital partners (e.g., Avalon Ventures, RiverVest), R&D and Business Development executives at large companies (e.g., Eli Lilly, Pfizer, General Electric), start-up executives with significant exits, and other commiserate experience.
What does LEAP offer participants?
LEAP cultivates product development efforts of WUSTL faculty members through 1) individual assessments and 2) funding projects.
Through personalized individual assessments with participating projects, LEAP conveys a broad conceptual understanding of what external partners are looking for in academic product development efforts and then focuses on didactic skill development and provides resources especially needed by asset developers including:
- The conception of the product “value proposition”.
- Feedback on market niches and assessment of business models for potential products.
- Assessment of required data packages to attract human and financial capital.
- Advancement of product development plans and aligning them with the needs of partners.
- Guidance on interacting with commercialization experts and consultants to synthesize project goals.
Through funding, LEAP bridges translational research projects to greater commercial partnering opportunities such as seed-stage investment, SBIR/STTR funding, or accelerator participation for spinout companies, and research collaborations & licensing to existing companies. The ideal LEAP project requests funding for the exact data to interest potential partners.
How much time does it take to participate in LEAP?
On average, LEAP deliverables take anywhere from 3-5 hours per week for those totally new to technology commercialization and 1-2 hours per week for those with greater experience in business considerations and developing intellectual property for licensing. Often the scientific work required to support the innovation you are developing takes the most time and this varies based on the project.
What are the resources available to LEAP participants?
- Skandalaris’ LEAP staff and our Gap Fund Analysts support all projects that participate in LEAP regardless of selection for a LEAP Cohort.
- Internal WashU Programs:
- For quick conversations with experts on specific issues, see the Skandalaris Center’s In-Residence Program and Experts on Call Program or reach out to the Office of Technology Management’s Licensing Professionals.
- To get training on how to better understand your market and customers, participate in the Skandalaris Center’s I-Corps Program or for biomedical entrepreneurship check out ICTS’s E4B
- For quick funding to support core lab work or small scopes of work, see the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences’ (ICTS’) JIT funding opportunity or the Center for Drug Discovery’s MicroGrants
- Ecosystem Resources:
What is the LEAP IdeaBounce®?
Teams seeking to participate in the current LEAP cycle are encouraged to give a two-minute pitch of their project and what is needed to advance the project during the LEAP IdeaBounce®. Any faculty member at the university is welcome to pitch a translational research project. We highly encourage post-docs, graduate/MBA students to attend and offer their support for any of these projects. The LEAP Staff ensures that industry experts are in attendance to network and provide feedback to teams that pitch their projects. This event is not required but is highly recommended.
Additional Resources & Funding Available to Eligible ApplicantsWashington University is pleased to offer an additional LEAP support opportunity in collaboration with Sun Pharma Advanced Research Company Limited (SPARC).
LEAP Experts on Call
The Skandalaris Center has identified subject matter experts to support LEAP teams during the program.
Terms of the LEAP Award:
Funds are provided to the PI’s lab. All projects and funds must be completed/expended within 12 months from the date of the award.
Award recipients may submit a written request for a one-time, no-cost extension no later than month 10 of the 12-month award period.
Award recipients will be required to meet regularly with LEAP Staff and their OTM licensing professional to review progress and prepare for industry engagement.
LEAP projects are divided into milestones, with incremental funding awarded as milestones are met. A standard progress report must be submitted at 6 months and a final report must be submitted within thirty (30) days of the award period to the LEAP Program Manager. There is a centralized report form.