The LifeArc Philanthropic Fund provides grants and funding to academic researchers working to advance new treatments and diagnostics for rare diseases.

About the Fund

As an independent, self-funded charity, we have been bridging the gaps in biomedical innovation for 25 years. We want to accelerate scientific breakthroughs that could deliver new interventions for patients with rare diseases. That is why we formed the LifeArc Philanthropic Fund in 2017.

Hear from lead investigators as they discuss the impact of LifeArc’s Philanthropic fund on their research projects:

Accelerating scientific breakthroughs in rare disease research

Around 7,000 rare diseases affect about one in 20 people worldwide. That includes 3.5 million people in the UK. These conditions are often chronic, life-threatening and isolating for the sufferers and their families.

Only around 400 of these indications have licensed treatments and that number is only increasing slowly, as industry is reluctant to invest without a likely financial return on investment. In addition, some ultra-rare diseases however may never yield any commercial return, as patient numbers are too small.

Funds for research on rare diseases are scarce, particularly for therapeutic development, as industry is reluctant to invest without a likely financial return on investment.

Translating promising science into benefits for human health and society

LifeArc’s Philanthropic Fund awards grants to academics who have promising projects focused on research into therapeutics, devices or diagnostics that could support people who are living with a rare disease. We have a history of supporting the delivery of transformational therapeutics and are always looking for new ways to progress promising science into therapeutics and diagnostics. The research we fund must also have a credible path to patients.

Where possible, we welcome the opportunity to partner with a charity, patient-group or industry partner who shares our aim of addressing the need for solutions to rare disease.

Our funding allows research projects to remain longer in academia and move further along a development pathway – by which point they may be more attractive to follow-on investors.

“The work of LifeArc is vital in developing therapies for rare and ultra-rare disease, where it’s very difficult to raise funding.”

Professor Robin Ali, Director, KCL Centre for Cell and Gene Therapy

The story so far

As of August 2021, the LifeArc Philanthropic Fund has awarded £9.3 million to 30 research projects since 2017. Nine of those grants have been to projects co-supported by our charity partners and three of the projects are at the clinical trial stage of development. The awarded grants comprise research that addresses 33 rare disease indications – with neurology (32%) and cancer (14%) accounting for nearly half.

Of these projects, 18 of 30 projects (61%) involve rare diseases that affect children. Our broad, intervention-based approach covers modalities including gene therapy, small molecule, antibody, diagnostics, cell therapy and drug repurposing.

Breakdown on therapeutics, modalities and pipeline status of funded projects

Distribution of funded research projects by modality

Data correct as of September 2021


Distribution of funded research projects by therapeutic

Data correct as of September 2021


Fund research portfolio development pipeline


Funding to progress promising science

We are always looking for new ways to progress promising science.

We evaluate promising approaches that are made by academics and researchers in the United Kingdom. Projects should be underpinned with a strong, scientific rationale in addressing a rare disease medical need and must be target driven, with a credible delivery plan and led by an academic.

LifeArc does not require a share of intellectual property (IP) or revenue return. But we need to know that, if the work is successful, you or your partners have the IP rights to commercialise the product so it can reach the patient.

We will help advance your innovation, supporting you and your research team as you strive to turn science into new therapeutics and diagnostics.

The funding application process

If you have a project focused on research into therapeutics, diagnostics or devices that could support people living with a rare disease, please get in touch by completing this form.

We review all submissions of non-confidential information and, if there is a good fit with our criteria, we will arrange a meeting with the project lead to learn more about the work.

Stage 1: If we agree to move forward, we will ask you to complete a more detailed application. Our Philanthropic Fund team will support applicants going through this phase of the process, to ensure the proposal is complete and presented effectively.

Stage 2: Once submitted, we will conduct due diligence on the information provided, and gain external peer review, sharing comments back with you to address if you wish.

Stage 3: An application package consisting of your application and all related peer review information is considered by the funding panel. Funding decisions are made by the panel twice a year, usually in December and June.

Stage 4: If the panel agrees to fund your project, we will formalise the funding agreement and project milestones.

Stage 5: We will continue to work with you to support and manage your project so you achieve your agreed milestones on which the funding depends.

Stage 6: We will review the final results of your project and discuss if, and how, this research could be taken forward.

If you would like to submit your translational science research project proposal for funding, please get in touch.

Funding review panel

Our funding panel is made up of external partners from academia, charities and industry. Read about our funding panel members here.

Get inspired by some of the research already funded

Read more about the work already funded with grants from the Philanthropic Fund

Tell us about your rare-disease research

If you have a research project that fits our funding criteria for rare disease research, we would like to hear from you. Please get in touch and a member of the team will get back to you.