Priority Area Announcement: Advancing Drug Discovery to Identify New Therapies

The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is pleased to announce a Request for Applications (RFA) to advance early drug discovery efforts against validated melanoma targets. The intent of the RFA is to support new therapeutic entity identification, optimization and testing in preclinical models, with an emphasis on targets including adapter proteins, transcription factors, cell surface proteins, etc (ie: CRKL, TERT, GAB2, YAP, LZTR, B7H3). This RFA represents one of three Priority Area Announcements that will be released throughout 2024 as part of MRA's Next Steps Program, a separate and distinct grant mechanism from the MRA’s annual RFP call for applications.  

MRA's Next Step Program intends to help advance translation of discoveries into the clinic by supporting: 1) needed preclinical resources and tools for the research community to identify and begin to develop new therapies and 2) infrastructure to analyze and build large datasets to identify better diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers leading to hypothesis-driven research proposals for submission to MRA and other funding agencies. 

RFA Background:
Treatment of advanced melanoma has dramatically improved over the past decade with 16 new therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even with these treatment advances, 50% of patients with advanced melanoma will either not respond to any of these treatments or their disease will progress. Furthermore, the approved therapies do not appear to be as effective in patients with acral, mucosal and uveal melanomas, 3 rare sub-types of the disease. Based on these reasons there is a critical need to find new therapeutics. Through extensive genomic analyses of the different types of melanoma, new targets have been identified and validated that have the potential to lead to novel therapeutic entities. Much of this discovery research was funded, in part, through prior MRA grant awards. Furthermore, in the last decade drug discovery has significantly advanced using new technologies and approaches showing promising results for targets that have previously been considered “undruggable”, several of which have been identified in melanoma. The goal of this RFA is to provide initial support to identify new therapeutic modalities including small molecules, antibodies and cell therapies against validated melanoma targets; with an emphasis on targets that are applicable to rare melanoma subtypes. Support from this RFA will be geared towards early stages of the drug discovery continuum that could result in an optimized lead compound or biologic showing activity in appropriate melanoma preclinical models.  It is anticipated that achieving the aims of the proposal may require the expertise from different departments in a given institution or collaborations across multiple institutions and core facilities.

RFA Deadline:
Applications will be submitted through Proposal Central using this link and are due on 3/28/2024 by 11:59 PM EST.

Award Duration:
1-2 years

Funding Level and Additional Support:
Up to $250,000 depending on the scope of the research project with potential for follow-on funding.

In addition to funding, MRA will provide additional support by connecting a program with outside resources that have drug discovery and drug screening expertise. For projects involving rare melanomas, MRA has created catalogs of cell lines and patient-derived xenograft models for both  Acral and Mucosal melanomas from various institutions worldwide. The catalogs serve as a launching pad for research programs who need a variety of acral and mucosal melanoma preclinical models – providing awareness of models that have been created by other research laboratories. Please note that model exchanges between research laboratories are not guaranteed and, in most cases, would require an MTA between institutions and potentially an approved model use research request.

How to Apply:

Additional information is available in the program RFA—including details about eligibility, funding priorities, and other details. Proposals should be submitted via the proposalCENTRAL online application tool: proposals are due by 11:59 pm Eastern Time.

Advancing Drug Discovery to Identify New Therapies - Next Steps Program RFA

MRA accepts proposals from researchers worldwide and encourages applications from a diverse pool of investigators with respect to race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, country of residence, and disability. MRA recognizes that diversity in the biomedical research workforce is critical for ensuring that the most creative minds have the opportunity to contribute to realizing our research goals and to ensuring more equitable health outcomes for all.

If there are any questions about eligibility, please contact Joan Levy PhD, Chief Science Officer, at before applying. Applications from PIs who do not meet the eligibility criteria will not be reviewed.