Selection Process

SwissTransMed – a network of translational research platforms: results of the call for proposals

SwissTransMed was intended to fund a network of translational research platforms. After approval of the concept by Swiss University Conference and ETH Board on September 27, 2012, a National Steering Group was established in December 2012, which included one representative of each of the seven main institutions eligible to receive funding (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and Zurich and Universities of Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich) and a representative of the Swiss Rectors’ Conference. The call for proposals was launched in March 2013.

Platforms were eligible if they covered a translational research area in medicine, involved at least one institution from the ETH domain (ETHZ, EPFL, PSI etc.), at least one University with a Medical Faculty and/or University Hospital, and included both research groups with a focus on fundamental research and research groups with a focus on patient-oriented clinical research with access to relevant patient populations.

Each of the participating Universities/University Hospitals and each of the participating institutions of the ETH domain had to be represented by at least one applicant, with the maximum number of applicant set at 7. One of the institutions had to be designated as leading house, with an applicant affiliated with the leading house appointed as Coordinating PI.

Platform proposals were expected to have access to methodological expertise for the full range of the foreseen research activities from bench to bedside, a proven track record, and professional infrastructure for the successful performance of clinical research. Academic CTUs of one of the participating Universities or University Hospitals (or PedNet in case of pediatric platforms) were expected to be involved.

Peer review process

44 proposals were submitted and sent out for peer review performed by 2 independent experts from abroad. Individuals affiliated with Swiss institutions were ineligible as peer reviewers. For each platform, we attempted to obtain an assessment by one expert listed as potential reviewer by the applicants and by one expert independently identified.

Figure 2. Flowchart summarizing the different stages of the selection of proposals (n=44 proposals).

 

Table 1 presents the 13 items included in the peer review form. 12 items were rated with scores from 0 (low quality) to 2 (high quality), item no 9 on the use of patient-relevant outcomes was rated 0 (no) or 1 (yes). The resulting composite score ranged from 0 to 25. For each of the items, peer reviewers were asked to provide their comments, with additional major comments to the applicants provided at the end of the form.

Table 1. Items used to derive a composite score from 0 to 25 assigned by 2 independent peer reviewers.

Figure 3. Distribution of the mean composite scores assigned by independent peer reviewers (n=44 proposals)

Evaluation by an International Panel

After an initial evaluation, 14 proposals were presented to an International Evaluation Panel during a Symposium in Zurich in August 2013. The Panel reached a consensus on the priority for funding and the definite ranking of the 14 proposals. 5 proposals received a high priority for funding, 3 intermediate priority for funding (conditional on available resources) and 6 were considered unsuitable for funding. In accordance with available resources, the National Steering Group recommended funding for the 6 proposals, which were ranked highest by the International Evaluation Panel. Table 2 describe the proposals recommended for funding.

Table 2. Proposals recommended for funding. A, highest priority for funding; B, intermediate priority for funding, conditional on available resources.