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.
How are the Transformational Research and the Rapid Response Canadian programs different?
The Rapid Response: Canada program provides seed funding (up to $200,000 over up to 18 months) for novel, high-risk, high-reward translational research projects on neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Preliminary data is not required.
The Transformational Research: Canada program provides funding (up to $1,500,000 over up to 3 years) to fund transformative, novel, high-risk, high-reward translational research projects on neurodegenerative diseases of aging, with excellent preliminary data.
There are 3 main differences between the TR and RR program:
- Project length
- Transformational Research projects are for up to 3 years
- Rapid Response projects are for up to 18 months
- Transformational Research budgets are up to $1,500,000
- Rapid Response budgets are up to $200,000
- Preliminary data
- For the Transformational Research: Canada program strong preliminary data is required
- For the Rapid Response: Canada program preliminary data is not required
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?
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 therapeutic targets, including genes implicated in disease, is not in scope.
How does the Institute define tools and what tools are in scope?
Updated for 2018
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.
Individual funding programs may have additional scope criteria which can be found in the program details documents in the Open and Upcoming Programs section of this website.
How does the Institute define a clinical trial and a clinical trial sub-study?
- Clinical trial: Research in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.
- Clinical trial sub-study: A study investigating a question not addressed by the main trial and which may involve obtaining additional measurements and data collection from a sub-group of all participants from the main trial.
What is the Adjacent Fields: Canada Initiative?
A new initiative to encourage the application of expertise, technologies, or approaches in areas such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, medicinal chemistry, and engineering to advance the development of therapeutics and tools for neurodegenerative diseases of aging. As part of this initiative, the Institute has issued a special invitation to projects in these adjacent fields to apply to our existing funding programs (Rapid Response, Transformational Research, Early Phase Clinical Trials). For more information, please see the RFA, or contact Cristina Tang (email@example.com or 416-967-7823).
Do you have any advice regarding applying to the Early Phase Clinical Trials program?
Recruiting can be challenging. Here are some considerations for both applicants and grantees that have been very helpful in making recruiting faster and easier for others.
How does the Institute define patient-oriented translational research?
Projects must meet two conditions to be considered patient-oriented translational research:
- Be translational research that helps accelerate the development of therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases of aging.
- 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.
Are complementary approaches in scope?
As stated in our therapeutics definition “Complementary approaches such as, acupuncture, music, social interaction and brain games are not considered therapeutics.” so they are out of scope. However, as a pilot in 2018, certain complementary approaches (i.e., diet, physical activity, sleep and nutritional supplements) will be eligible for funding through the Rapid Response, Transformational Research and Early Phase Clinical Trials programs.
Applications on diet, physical activity, sleep and nutritional supplements are eligible for this program if they meet our disease and project scope criteria above and the following criteria:
- Similar experimental design is used to test the approach as would be implemented to test therapeutics.
- Measures outcomes relevant to neurodegenerative diseases of aging (as defined by the Institute).
- Interventions are being investigated in relevant human cohorts and/or appropriate disease models (e.g., cell culture, in silico, or animals).
- Has direct impact on accelerating the development of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases of aging. Treatments can be for disease modification, symptomatic relief, or prevention.
Examples of projects that are considered out of scope:
- An exercise intervention aimed at reducing obesity, blood pressure and resting heart rate in subjects with subjective cognitive impairment.
- Testing whether a 6-month paleo diet intervention improves cognition as measured by a MoCA test in healthy older subjects.
Examples of projects that are considered in scope:
- In silico screen of a library of nutritional supplements to select those that reduce amyloid plaques.
- Testing whether a 6-month paleo diet intervention improves MoCA scores or amyloid deposition in subjects with mild to moderate AD.
If you are interested in applying with a project that incorporates diet, physical activity, sleep or nutritional supplements, please contact Matthew Sacheli (+1-416-967-7828, firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss whether your project is in scope.
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.
- Please note that we provide our reviewers an opportunity to ask questions or request additional information about the LOIs and Proposals before the adjudication if they feel it would be helpful. Applicants may receive an email from the Institute listing questions asked by reviewers. We typically ask that applicants provide a response to these questions within two business days. Note that responses to these questions are optional, however, responses may have an impact on the quality of discussion on your application.
- 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 application process is interactive. Applicants usually receive feedback on applications and may be asked to make modifications.
- Our grantees may also benefit from things like the expert advice of our scientific advisors, industry exposure, networking, and international collaboration opportunities.
What if I disagree with the decision on my application?
If you would like to raise a question in regards to the decision of your application based on reviewer bias, factual error, and/or reviewer oversight and you would like to file an inquiry please contact us at email@example.com.
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, research associates or equivalent to apply as the Principal Applicant; this requires the support of an Administrative Supervisor.
Institution eligibility: Currently, funds can only be given to Canada Revenue Agency qualified donees located in Canada.
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, listed on the Open and Upcoming Programs webpage.
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.