Oncology Investigator Initiated Studies Program (IISP)
To advance science and improve patient care by supporting, through the provision of drug and/or total/partial funding, high-quality research that is initiated, designed, implemented and sponsored by external investigators. Results will be generated and properly disseminated in peer-reviewed publications.
Pembrolizumab Funding Review Cycle

The following guidance is provided to facilitate preparation of competitive concept submissions:

  • Please contact your local Regional Medical Scientific Director (RMSD, US only) or country specific liaison for any guidance pertaining to your specific proposal prior to its submission, to ensure that it falls within the scope and interest of the Investigator Initiated Studies Program (IISP).
  • Carefully review the Areas of Interest (AOI) below. Proposals that are not within the scope of these AOIs may be rejected without further review. Occasionally, we receive proposals out of the AOIs that represent "out of the box" thinking and are ultimately of great interest. If you believe this may apply for your concept, please review with your RMSD or appropriate liaison prior to submission
  • The pembrolizumab Investigator Initiated Studies Program (IISP) is large with numerous approved studies, which include single agent, standard of care systemic therapies, and/or radiation combinations. Please check www.clinicaltrials.gov to ensure similar studies to your proposed proposal are not already approved or ongoing. You may also discuss what may be possibly in development with your RMSD or country specific liaison
  • Please include documentary evidence of successful and timely accrual and publication of investigators’ studies in similar indications where possible. Operational deliverability is carefully considered in our assessment process.
  • Combinations with non-MSD agents may be of interest. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the investigator to procure approval for supply of third-party agents, and matched funding, where possible, which should be demonstrated with a letter of support. Proposals lacking such documentation may be rejected.
  • The program encourages young investigators to seek guidance from a mentor in submitting IISP proposals. If working with a mentor please also provide their CV where possible, along with a detailed letter from the mentor describing the mentoring plan and how this IISP will help the investigator meet their career objectives.
  • Please note that no MSD investigational pipeline agents are presently available for use in the IIS program and proposals requesting their use will not be considered
  • In addition, please note that proposals with safety as a sole primary endpoint will not be considered.
  • Proposals for which the primary purpose is translational studies should be directed to our Oncology Translational Studies Program
  • The program requests that investigators specify how they will support diversity in enrollment to include traditionally underrepresented minorities/ethnic groups.

Please note that IISPs should not compete with or duplicate any registration trial for pembrolizumab. Additionally, since the dose and schedule for pembrolizumab has been established for multiple cancers, investigation of alternate doses and schedules is of low priority.

Beginning October 15, 2022, the Oncology Investigator Initiated Studies Program (IISP) Committee will accept proposal applications within our current areas of interest (AOI). For this review cycle all applicants must complete and submit a proposal by January 13, 2023.

For investigators outside of the US, please contact your MSD country liaison for relevant requirements and timelines. Investigators in the US, please follow the submission process detailed below.


There are three required components for the application:

  • Proposal – please enter the application directly into Visiontracker by completing all required fields as outlined in the Application Guide . The clinical proposal template and preclinical proposal template are available as a guide for completing your application, as it reflects the required fields in Visiontracker. However, you are not required to complete this document. The requirement for submission is populating the application fields in Visiontracker.
    • For Submission Type, please select Proposal
    • For Type of Support, please select Funding and Product
  • Feasibility Worksheet – please complete the form and upload as an attachment to your application in Visiontracker. Completion is required for all proposal submissions. For less experienced investigators, please complete Section 4 detailing your relevant colleagues’ experience. Please note that fixed character limits have been built into the forms and cannot be exceeded.
  • Investigator CV – please upload a current CV (within the last two years) as an attachment to your application in Visiontracker

The MSD IISP review is a competitive process. Decisions will be made on the basis of scientific/clinical merit and strategic fit, as well as operational deliverability.

Please be sure to abide by the timelines for this process as outlined below when submitting applications.

The Areas of Interest for Pembrolizumab are as follows:

2023 Areas of Interest for Pembrolizumab

Special Note: Diversity & Inclusion

We seek to foster diverse and inclusive representation within the individual Areas of Interest for each tumor type, and so encourage study concept submissions across our program which:

  • Specifically focus on the outcome disparities in underrepresented populations
  • Are led by non-academic programs/institutions
  • Are conducted in under-represented regions or countries

Critical Timelines:

  • Deadline for proposal submission to Visiontracker: January 13, 2023
  • Communication to investigator of Proposal decision: May 1, 2023
  • Protocol submission with detailed budget: within 6 weeks of notification of Proposal approval and execution of confidentiality agreement
  • Protocol comments to investigator: within 6 weeks of protocol submission
  • Final Protocol submission by investigator: within 2 weeks of receipt of comments
  • Final Protocol approved by Oncology IISP Committee: within 2 weeks of final protocol submission
Deadline Dates/Activity Spring 2023 Review Cycle
Proposal submission to Visiontracker January 13, 2023
Proposal decisions communicated to investigators May 1, 2023


MISP Oncology Contact Information
To learn more or to ask a question, please contact the appropriate MSD Business Development and Licensing contact for your region.