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David Phillips Fellowships

Copyright: iStockphoto

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 11 February 2016 – 12 May 2016


David Phillips Fellowships (DPF) provide support for researchers wishing to establish their first independent research group.

DPF invest in scientists who:

  • have shown high potential
  • can demonstrate that they are on an upward trajectory with clear evidence of strong scientific outputs and leadership qualities
  • have the aim of establishing their own fully independent programme of research

DPF represents part of our commitment to the supply of highly skilled professional research leaders to the UK.

For further information about our fellowships and who we invest in, see our Investing in leadership section.

Nature of award

Awards are for five years and include personal salary and a significant research support grant to enable fellows to establish their own independent research group.

It is expected that up to five fellowships will be awarded, each at a value of up to £1M (80% fEC). In addition to this investment, it is also expected that a substantial demonstration of support for the fellow be made by the host research organisation (e.g. in terms of access to facilities and equipment, training, research costs etc.).

We welcome applications from candidates seeking flexible working arrangements (e.g. part-time); see the fellowships handbook for further information (see downloads).

Research areas

Proposals can be submitted in any area of science within our remit. We particularly encourage applications that are aligned with our overarching strategic priorities as described in our Strategic Plan.


Aimed at researchers who want to establish their first independent research group undertaking a programme of excellent research. Applicants will be able to demonstrate great potential and have a scientific career showing a clear upward trajectory. Proposals will be assessed by our Committee E.


  • Applicants should hold a PhD, but not hold, or have held, an academic position of Lecturer level or equivalent
  • It is expected that applicants will have at least three years of active postdoctoral research experience prior to February 2016
  • Please note that DPF eligibility was previously limited to those with less than 10 years of active research experience; this limit has been removed in response to our 2015 'Review of BBSRC strategy for investing in fellowships'

Note: DPF applicants are not eligible to apply to any additional 2016 BBSRC fellowship competitions.

Value for money

Applicants and host organisations should note that value for money is an essential criterion against which fellowship applications will be assessed, alongside excellence and other key criteria. For this competition this criterion will be given significant weighting during the assessment process and reviewers and Research Committee E will also be looking for written evidence that the host organisation will contribute significant support, either financially or in-kind support if an award is made. Proposals that do not provide clear evidence that the research programme is highly competitive in terms of value for money, and in providing additional funding commitments, are unlikely to be successful.

Applicants must ensure that the Partnership Details section of the Je-S proforma contains details of all institutional support that will be made available if the applicant is successful in obtaining a BBSRC award. In addition, the justification of resources attachment must clearly show why the resources requested are good value for money and why it is in BBSRC's interests to provide investment. Also, letters of support from all parties contributing financial or other support should be uploaded to the proposal under the Letters of Support attachment giving full and accurate details of the commitments being made.

As stated above, we will ask reviewers and Research Committee E to take account of the investment that host organisations are committed to making if an award is successful. This may be through co-funding particular aspects of the proposal or a commitment to enhance the fellowship with additional funding or improved access to research facilities. We also encourage proposals that are able to use BBSRC's investment to leverage additional funding from other sources.

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

Visit our 'How to apply' page to submit your application through our Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system with the following mandatory attachments:

  • CV. You should complete the standard CV template. We do not accept stand alone CVs
  • Case for support and track record
  • Diagrammatic workplan
  • Data management plan
  • List of publications
  • Head of department statement
  • Justification of resources
  • Pathways to impact plan

Fellowships are awarded under full economic costing (fEC).

You should submit costed research support grant proposals in line with the grants guide.

Detailed guidance on how to complete proposal forms and proposal attachments can be found in the Je-S DPF help text and in the Fellowships Handbook (see downloads). Note: Please do not use the fellowship help text in the Je-S system.

We do not accept late proposals.

Important: applicants should ensure proposals are submitted to their host institution's Je-S submitter/approval pool well in advance (a minimum of five working days) of the published deadline. This enables institution checks to be carried out before final submission to BBSRC.

Application timeline

Application deadline 12 May 2016, 4pm
Reviewing stage June-September 2016
Fellowship shortlisting for interviews 13/14 October 2016
Fellowship interviews 8/9 December 2016
Fellowship award notification January 2017

Case study: Lynda Harris, David Phillips Fellow at The University of Manchester

How does BBSRC fund your work?

I'm supported by a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, which funds me to identify specific homing peptides that bind to the surface of the placenta. I did the initial work screening for the peptides, and both my PhD students are taking that work further by building different carriers and testing different drugs in animal models.

What research do you carry out under your fellowship?

Dr Harris in her lab in the US.
Dr Lynda Harris

The idea is to synthesize liposomes, which are like small bubbles that can be modified to display the placental-homing peptides on their surface. This creates a little drug carrier and when you introduce it intravenously it binds only to the placenta, and doesn't accumulate in any other organs so you don't get off-target side effects from the drugs you are administering.

It's an idea developed originally for delivering chemotherapy to tumours. Because cancer drugs are toxic and you don't want them accumulating around the body, this method of targeting reduces the side effects as well as the amount of drug you need.

Why target the placenta?

A poorly functioning placenta is the cause of many pregnancy problems, so by targeting the placenta we are treating the problem rather than treating the symptoms. You can either give drugs that increase blood flow into the uterus and placenta, to supply more nutrients and oxygen to the tissue, or you can give drugs that encourage placental growth.

We know from evidence from a lot of animal studies – mice, rats and sheep – that either increasing placental size or function or increasing blood flow improves outcomes for the baby. And this can relieve maternal symptoms too.

What inspired you to look at this field?

I started with in interest in human biology and did a degree in pathobiology, which is basically biomedical science, then did a PhD in vascular biology. And then I accepted a post-doc up in Manchester looking at how the placenta interacts with blood vessels in the uterus – that got me interested in the placenta.

Then it became evident there was no safe way of delivering drugs to pregnant women. That seemed to be a big gap. When I found out that it was possible to target delivery of drugs to tumours, I thought that this technology would work well for the placenta, because you can consider placenta as a big tumour. That's when I applied for the David Phillips Fellowship to do the screening for novel peptides that bind to the placenta.

When did you start DP Fellowship?

I started that in October 2010 and spent first year in big cancer lab in the US, working with Professor Erkki Ruoslahti at the Sanford Burnham Medical Research Institute, California. It was there that I did the screening for placental peptides and learnt their technology.

What was working in the US like?

The US was a great experience – it was a big lab with lots of funding, the average age was mid-30s so quite a mature environment with people with specialised knowledge who were really excited about science.

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