Funding FAQs

How are grants given?

The Weston Brain Institute provides grants through open call Requests for Applications (RFAs). Potential applicants should read the individual Program Details for each RFA before applying. Current and upcoming funding opportunities for Canadian researchers may be found here, and for European researchers here.

How does the Institute define neurodegenerative diseases of aging?

As the Institute defines them, neurodegenerative diseases of aging are diseases that primarily affect the structure and/or function of brain neurons where the average age of onset is 50 or older. The Institute considers the following as neurodegenerative diseases of aging: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, multiple system atrophy, Parkinson’s disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, vascular contributions to the listed diseases (not stroke-mediated vascular disease), and prodromes to the listed diseases (e.g., mild cognitive impairment as prodromal to Alzheimer’s disease; REM sleep behavior disorder as prodromal to Parkinson’s disease).

How does the Institute define translational research?

Applied research towards developing therapeutics for the prevention and/or treatment of human disease. For example, for small molecule drug development, this includes target validation to Phase II clinical trials. Basic/discovery research, including but not limited to understanding disease mechanisms and discovering genes implicated in disease, is not in scope.

How does the Institute define therapeutics?

New for 2018 programs
A pharmacological approach (including small molecules, biologics, cell therapies and vaccines, including drug repositioning and repurposing), medical device, surgical intervention, or magnetic or electrical brain stimulation. Therapeutics can be for symptomatic relief, disease modification, or prevention. Complementary approaches such as exercise, acupuncture, music, dietary and nutritional supplements are not considered therapeutics. Identification of novel therapeutics is in scope (e.g., high throughput compound screens); however, identification of novel targets is out of scope. Identification of therapeutic targets is not in scope, including genes implicated in disease.


Previous scope definition, still in use for 2017 programs underway
A pharmacological approach (including small molecules, biologics, cell therapies and vaccines, including drug repositioning and repurposing), medical device, surgical intervention, magnetic or electrical brain stimulation, but not complementary approaches such as exercise, acupuncture, foods, or dietary or nutritional supplements. Therapeutics can be for symptomatic relief, disease modification, or prevention. Identification of novel therapeutics is in scope; however, identification of novel targets is out of scope.

How does the Institute define tools?

New for 2018 programs

Tool: An item that accelerates development of therapeutics, e.g., imaging techniques or reagents, biomarkers, and diagnostics.

  • Tools must have direct impact on the translational development of therapeutics (as defined by the Institute, i.e., target validation to phase IIa clinical trials) for neurodegenerative diseases of aging and will be valued only on their ability to do this.
    • Any value the tools contribute to basic research will not be taken into consideration. For example, tools will not be valued for their ability to identify new targets or understand disease mechanisms.
  • Projects covering only the discovery/identification of a tool are out of scope.

Notes about biomarkers

  • Biomarkers must be being developed for human disease diagnosis, prognosis, for patient stratification to clinical trials or to predict response to therapies (surrogate for a clinical endpoint).
    • Biomarkers should measure pathology of the disease (e.g., fluid, imaging or tissue biopsy derived biomarkers) and not be based on behavioural phenotypes (e.g., gait or grip strength).
    • Genetic biomarkers including somatic mutations, SNPs, epigenetics and gene products are in scope if they meet the other eligibility criteria.
  • If the project includes biomarker identification:
    • The project must also include experiments to validate the biomarker.
    • All the samples/data necessary for identification and validation must already be available/collected unless there is sufficient justification to collect new samples/data (e.g., samples cannot be stored).
    • Validation of biomarkers must occur in a well-characterized human subjects/samples/data. This validation must be in samples/data from different subjects than those used to identify the biomarker.
    • Post mortem tissue can only be used for validation of biomarkers previously identified in living subjects.

An identified biomarker is defined by the Institute as one that meets the following 4 conditions:

1. Specific item(s) or signature to be measured can be defined;

  • For e.g.,
    • Presence of a particular bacterium
    • Disease-specific EEG signature
    • Specific brain structure with reduced volume
    • Single protein increased
    • Precisely defined fingerprint
      • If the biomarker is a fingerprint of a family of proteins or a signature of brain volume changes, the precise fingerprint or signature to be replicated must be previously determined. For e.g., omics studies for the purpose of identifying biomarker patterns or signatures are out of scope.
    • Exact identities of multiple individual factors that may be useful individually or as a specific composite
  • It is not in scope to know that a family of proteins is affected or that brain volume is changed overall, if the specific item or signature that is the biomarker cannot yet be specified. For example, a single protein is not considered an identified biomarker if only the family of proteins were previously identified to be affected

2. In what it will be detected (e.g., which tissue/fluid), using what assay, and for what disease, can be clearly stated;

3. Specific item(s) (or signature) to be measured has been shown to be detectable in humans or human-derived samples/data in the tissue/fluid to be tested;

4. Compelling data exists to justify moving to validation (as defined by the Institute).

  • The most compelling data is likely in humans or human-derived samples/data with a relevant disease
  • The most compelling data will likely allow for a power calculation
  • Data from pathophysiologically relevant animal models could be considered if those animal data are compelling

Biomarker validation is defined by the Institute as:

  • Testing a previously identified biomarker in a sufficient number of appropriate, comparable, well-characterized human subjects/samples/data to determine whether it is a sensitive and/or accurate biomarker.
    • If the proposed assay is different than the one used for initial biomarker identification, or if the assay will be used in a different type of specimen (e.g., different tissue/fluid or different species) then preliminary data must be provided to demonstrate that the assay works appropriately. For example, if a biomarker was identified using an assay in CSF and you are proposing to use the same assay to validate a biomarker in blood, there must be preliminary data demonstrating the assay works in blood.
    • Replication studies are not considered to be validation, e.g., using subjects with a different disease stage, or subjects on different drug regime if that regime could affect the biomarker.

 For cognitive assessment tools and clinical assessment instruments

  • If developing a cognitive assessment tool or a clinical assessment instrument, the tool must be being tested in patients with a relevant disease.
  • Requires discussion of why the new assessment would be better than existing ones.

Previous scope definition, still in use for 2017 programs underway

Tool: An item that accelerates development of therapeutics, e.g., imaging techniques or reagents, biomarkers, and diagnostics.

  • Tools must have direct impact on the translational development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Any value the tools contribute to basic research will not be taken into consideration. For example, tools will not be valued for their ability to help identify new targets.
  • A strong rationale and hypothesis must be provided for the development of a tool, including how the tool will have a direct impact on translational research as defined by the Institute (i.e., target validation to phase IIa clinical trials).
  • Projects covering only the discovery/identification of a tool are out of scope.

About specific tools:

For biomarkers – note that the Novel Biomarkers 2017 program has additional restrictions on which biomarkers are in scope, e.g. it does not support biomarker identification as listed here. Please refer to specific program details before you apply.

  • Post mortem tissue can only be used for validation (not identification) of biomarkers. For example, “omics” studies on post mortem tissue are generally out of scope.
  • If project covers biomarker identification, biomarker identification alone is not in scope:
    • The identification must be a finite process that is directly linked to a validation process, and the project must also cover at least a portion of the validation of the identified biomarkers.
    • All the data necessary for identification must already be available/collected.
    • All the data necessary for validation must also be available/collected unless there is sufficient justification to collect new samples (e.g., samples cannot be stored).
    • Validation of markers must occur in a well-defined clinical cohort.

For cognitive assessment tools

Post mortem tissue can only be used for validation (not identification) of biomarkers. For example, “omics” studies on post mortem tissue are generally out of scope.

  • Must have a strong hypothesis and already have available a dataset to validate the assessment.
  • Requires discussion of why the new assessment would be better than existing ones.

The identification of genes implicated in disease is not in scope.

How does the Institute define patient-oriented translational research?

Projects must meet two conditions to be considered patient-oriented translational research:

  1. Be translational research that helps accelerate the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.
  2. Be the development of a therapeutic and/or tool, as tested in humans; human-derived cells, tissues or fluids; or in silico.

How does the Institute define complementary approaches?

Approaches to treating disease or maintaining health that are not therapeutics as defined by the Institute. Examples include exercise, diet, acupuncture, behavioral interventions (yoga, social enrichment, music or dance), foods, dietary or nutritional supplements, and enriched environments.

Will funding from the Institute be like funding from other agencies?

The Institute funds high-risk, high-reward research to help accelerate the development of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Several things may be different about this focus or approach from those of other funding bodies:

  • The Institute specifically aims at breakthrough, high-risk, high-reward translational research. This type of research is critical for developing safe and effective treatments.
  • Our cross-disease focus brings together researchers from different silos to spark breakthroughs, to take advantage of the recent understanding that these disease share many similarities.
  • The Institute uses an innovative, streamlined granting process to speed up research and improve decision making.
    • Our application process is interactive. Applicants usually receive feedback on applications and may be asked to make modifications.
    • Many projects are declined at the Letter of Intent (LOI) stage. Only ~15% of LOIs are invited to submit a Proposal, so that applicants and reviewers spend their time on Proposals that have an excellent chance of being funded. Proposal funding rates have ranged from 30 to 100%.
  • Our grantees may also benefit from things like the expert advice of our scientific advisors, industry exposure, networking, and international collaboration opportunities.

Who is eligible for funding?

Applicants should refer to the individual Program Details for specifics about eligibility.

Principal Applicant eligibility: In general, researchers in positions at or above Assistant Professor or equivalent can apply as the Principal Applicant. Some programs allow postdoctoral researchers to apply as the Principal Applicant; this requires the support of an Administrative Supervisor.

Institution eligibility: Country specific, see below.

Canada: Currently, funds can only be given to Canada Revenue Agency qualified donees located in Canada.

Netherlands: Currently, funds can only be given to Public Benefit Organisations in the Netherlands.

United Kingdom: Currently, funds can only be given to institutions that are a UK-registered charity. We may also be able to accept applications from qualified institutions in the UK meeting the public benefit requirement towards research in neurodegenerative diseases of aging; please contact the Institute before applying.

Ireland: Currently, funds can only be given to institutions that registered with the Charities Regulatory Authority. We may also be able to accept applications from qualified institutions in Ireland meeting the public benefit requirement towards research in neurodegenerative diseases of aging; please contact the Institute before applying.

What kinds of projects are eligible for funding?

Funded projects are typically high-risk, high-reward translational research projects that will accelerate the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.

Other criteria apply but are specific to each program; please see the RFA and Program Details documents for details. These can be found on this site, on the page for each program (under Funding Opportunities > Open and Upcoming Programs – Canada or Europe).

What can a project budget include?

  • Up to 35% of the funds can be used to bring unique international resources into the work.
  • Publication costs and travel expenses to scientific conferences/meetings to present work funded by the Weston Brain Institute can be included in the budget.
  • Funds will be granted only for direct costs that are appropriate and justifiable for the work proposed.
  • Funds cannot be used for equipment purchases, computer purchases, administrative costs or indirect costs, unless prior written approval from the Institute has been obtained.
  • Funds cannot be requested for personnel who have their salary paid for by their Institution.
  • The grant amount may not be for the full amount requested.