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Merck Investigator Studies Program offers funding opportunities

The Merck Investigator Studies Program supports hypothesis-generating clinical and pre-clinical research that is initiated, designed and implemented by external investigators.

The program accepts three project types across several therapeutic areas: funding only, product (drug or vaccine) only, and both funding and product.

Each year, Merck releases its Areas of Interest for the program on its program website. Early-stage investigators and new investigators are encouraged to apply.

Research Development and Corporate and Foundation Relations at Penn State College of Medicine have developed this guide to help investigators at the College of Medicine navigate the Merck Investigator Studies Program.

Investigators considering a submission to the program are strongly encouraged to work with Corporate and Foundation Relations as early in the process as possible. As stewards of Penn State’s relationship with Merck, Corporate and Foundation Relations will facilitate connecting each principal investigator with Merck’s Regional Medical Scientific Director for their respective therapeutic area.

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Learn More About the Merck Investigator Studies Program

Program Highlights Expand answer
  • Projects are generally 12 to 24 months in duration
  • Project budgets vary by therapeutic area
  • Projects must demonstrate a clear endpoint and strong potential for scholarly output
  • Review committees carefully consider the feasibility of study recruitment (if applicable)
  • Projects submitted by new investigators and early-stage investigators are closely evaluated for mentor involvement
Concept Paper Submission Expand answer

Investigators with an idea for the Merck Investigator Studies Program should email Corporate and Foundation Relations at COM_CFR@pennstatehealth.psu.edu with “MISP” in the subject line. Attach a one-page concept paper for the research idea using the following format:

  • Working title: Limit to 200 characters, including space and punctuation
  • Brief project description: Write one to two paragraphs that address the following:
    • Problem and significance – Provide a brief overview of the project including why, based on a review of the literature, the research question needs to be addressed and why it is important to the field.
    • Approach/methodology – Specify what hypothesis will be tested; note primary and secondary objectives. Include number of patients, target populations, preliminary data, etc., that are available to the project.
    • Impacts and outcomes – Describe the project’s expected outcomes, which may include impacts on the scientific field, societal benefits, health impacts, economic impacts, etc.
  • Timeline: Indicate how long the project will take to complete.
  • Budget estimate: Indicate the anticipated project cost.
  • Project team: Provide the name, contact information and home department(s) for the principal investigator. List all co-investigators and their institutional affiliation.
Merck Application Process Expand answer

Depending on the therapeutic area of interest, a Merck Regional Medical Scientific Director may direct the investigator to submit a formal concept paper or recommend submission of a full proposal. The assigned RMSD, available from Corporate and Foundation Relations, will provide specific guidance.

All proposals must be submitted using Merck’s VisionTracker portal. This portal does not accept institutional accounts. Rather, the corresponding PI must establish an individual account and assume responsibility for all document uploads. Investigators should select “Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine” as the institutional affiliation when setting up a VisionTracker account.

Merck Review Process Expand answer

Merck Investigator Studies Program proposals are reviewed by committees that comprise medical and scientific staff from different therapeutic areas. Review committees generally meet four to six weeks after the submission deadline. Proposals are evaluated for scientific merit as well as for strategic fit. If questions or clarifications arise, a PI may be given the option of resubmitting a revised version of their proposal.

Merck considers the following scientific points as part of its evaluation:

  • How well is the study aligned with Merck’s stated Areas of Interest? If not, is the study of extraordinary interest otherwise?
  • Does the study answer a specific scientific/medical question with a protocol that is designed to answer the scientific question/aim?
  • Is there sufficient justification for the sample size?
  • Is a data analysis plan included with the protocol?
  • Is there a strong commitment by the PI to publish/disclose the findings?
Institutional Requirements Expand answer

All investigators at the College of Medicine must notify their respective department grants administrator of their intent to submit to this program. These administrators have the expertise to identify the appropriate forms needed for the project, have the knowledge base to prepare budget documents (if required) and have the working relationships with the Office of Research Affairs to coordinate any internal reviews that are required prior to submission.

Investigators working on clinical projects are strongly advised to interact with the Clinical Trials Office early in the proposal development process to assess budget feasibility.

Quick Reference Guide to Review Cycles and Deadlines by Area of Interest Expand answer

This quick-reference guide was developed by Research Development at Penn State College of Medicine. See the Merck Investigator Studies Program website for updated information and deadlines.

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