Got an Edgy Brain Research Project? Check Out BRF's Scientific Innovations Awards

The Brain Research Foundation, a funder of basic and clinical neuroscience, has invited nominations for its more adventurous awards program, the SIAs. Eligible institutions can nominate a researcher until July 1. Here’s what they’re looking for.

The foundation has two main grant programs—the Fay/Frank Seed Grants and the Scientific Innovations Awards. While the former goes to programs more likely to receive government funding at some point, the SIAs are going for the edgier stuff that is likely too high-risk for the NIH. Grants for the program run $150,000 over two years. The foundation has opened up the nomination period for 2015 awards and is accepting letters of intent through June. 

Launched in 2012, the SIAs are a relatively new program for the foundation, which has been around for about 60 years. The funder covers a wide spread of neuroscience research, including disorders like schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, but also basic research on how the brain functions. And it runs special programs throughout the year, zeoring in on specific issues like concussions, stroke or autism spectrum disorders. The foundation is donor-based, and has made between $1 million and $1.25 million in grants in recent years.

The SIAs are a bit different than the rest of the foundation’s grants. For one, most of the support from the BRF is in the form of seed funding, for work that they find likely to continue. These awards are meant as bursts of support for edgy or creative projects that would be too speculative for government funding, but could still be likely to produce important findings in a short period of time. In other words, they’re sort of backing "Hail Marys" of brain research.  

That said, the awards are reserved for well-established investigators with strong records, so they’re not meant as complete gambles—they're for offbeat projects from solid researchers. The most recent awardees were:

  • Christopher I. Moore, Ph.D., at Brown University for research on how “bursts” of neural activity might contribute to some diseases.
  • W. Mark Saltzman, Ph.D., Yale University for work on Hurler syndrome, a genetic disease, and attempts to “edit” individual genes in utero using nanotechnology.
  • Anthony Zador, M.D., Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, to test a new way to model brain wiring using a DNA sequencing technique.

One important note on nomination: Only eligible and invited U.S. institutions are permitted to submit one letter of intent each, nominating one senior faculty member. But institutions not yet invited can humbly request an invite by email. 

Learn more about SIA guidelines here.

Learn about other foundation opportunities here.

Brain Research Foundation: Grants for Brain Research