Innovator Award Program

Program ObjectiveInnovator Award Icon

The Innovator Award Program was created in 2017 to catalyze collaborative research for innovation and discovery within ISB. This internal program is designed to support novel research ideas that cut across disciplines and research groups. Through this program, highly motivated researchers within ISB will have an opportunity to apply for a one-year funding award that will support high-risk, high-reward projects.

Program Details

  • Projects must support interactions between research groups and cut across research disciplines within ISB.
  • The funding duration for this award is one year.
  • We will fund up to three innovative projects, with a cap of $65,000 for scientific research projects and $35,000 for education projects.
  • We are not including specific focus areas this year. Instead, we have provided you with several provocative questions to help frame your proposals.



Questions to consider for Scientific Research Proposals:
  • How does the gut microbiome modulate host responses to drugs/diet/lifestyle?
  • How do you quantify relationships between Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and the immune system?
  • How do you extract disease-specific information from data clouds?
  • How do you link electronic health records (EHR) to causal mechanistic underpinnings of disease?
  • What are the differences between men and women’s response to multi-modal AD therapy or rates of Sepsis?
  • How do you identify novel risk factors (such as exposures, phenotypes, EHR) to predict risk to inform better care decisions?
  • How do you develop systems biology tools to characterize cell state transitions in health and disease?
  • How do you integrate multi-modal imaging and molecular data with machine learning approaches for predictive clinical decision making?
  • How would you develop a program to mine drug databases (DrugBank, SIDER, Pharao, GINA, etc) for side effects that could be used for drug repurposing (example: Viagra)?
  • How is cancer progression correlated with co-morbidities?

Proposals that leverage ISB’s resources (biobanks Arivale software platforms, EHR records, etc.) are encouraged. A list of resources can be found here.

Questions to consider for Education Proposals:
  • How can we scale ISB Education’s programs?
  • How can we develop physical toys that convey in an intuitive manner emergent properties to high-school students?

Proposals with novel approaches to address the questions identified are encouraged.


Eligible Applicants

Any individual (except faculty members) currently employed by ISB with the skills, knowledge and resources to carry out the proposed work is invited to submit an application – limit one – for consideration. Applicants developing an education-focused proposal must partner with the ISB Education team (Logan Center or Systems Education Experiences).

Application and Review Process

Application Submission Guidelines

The application deadline is March 2, 2020. The application package includes:

  1. A research plan download here) that contains:
    • Overview
    • Significance
    • Innovation
    • Research Strategy
    • Anticipated Outcomes/Deliverables
  2. Detailed budget: Please work with Sponsored Projects to develop a budget using this template (provide direct costs only; no more than 10 percent effort for each employee). Proposal cannot be submitted without getting sign-off and approval from Sponsored Projects.
  3. Detailed one-year timeline

For more information, please see the “Innovator Award Proposal Guidelines” section below.

Application Review

A faculty committee will evaluate research proposals in an NIH-style review.

Review Criteria
  1. Significance:
    • Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field?
    • How will successful completion of the project be transformational (i.e., change concepts, methods, and/or technologies?)
    • Does the project cut across research groups at ISB?
    • Does the proposed work take advantage of technologies and instrumentation available at ISB?
    • Could the proposed work lead to future funding?
  2. Innovation:
    • Will the proposed work lead to advancements in the field?
    • Is the proposed work high-risk/high-reward?
    •  Examples:
      • Challenges current research paradigms
      • Generates novel theoretical concepts, insights, or technologies
  3. Approach:
    • Is the overall strategy, methodology, and analysis appropriate to accomplish the project?
    • Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented?
    • Does the budget align with the scope of the project?


Key Dates

  • January 24, 2020: Application process opens
  • January 29, 2020: Innovator Award Q&A
  • February 7, 2020: Last day to send notification of intent
  • February 25, 2020: Deadline to complete the administrative components
  • March 2, 2020: Application deadline
  • March 18, 2020: Application review complete
  • March 20, 2020: Awardees announced
  • March 27, 2020: If required, the Human Subjects Determination Form must be completed
  • April 1, 2020: Program start
  • April 17, 2020: Kick off presentations
  • July 6 2020, Q1 progress report due
  • October 5, 2020, Q2 progress report due
  • October 7, 2020, Mid Award Presentation
  • January 6, 2021, Q3 progress report due
  • May 3, 2021, Q4 progress report due
  • Date TBD, Final presentation

Innovator Award Proposal Guidelines

  • To help the administrative team allocate appropriate resources, if you intend to submit an application, please send an email to Ujwal Sheth. (The email is not binding and will only be used for planning purposes). Deadline: February 7th, 2020.
  • For administrative ease, there can be only one lead investigator (LI) per application. LI is defined as a person who is responsible for overseeing the development and execution of the project. Their responsibilities include: coordinating all activities related to proposal development and submission, holding regular update meetings, monitoring budget, attending quarterly meetings with Ujwal Sheth and Nitin Baliga, submitting project updates both written and oral, etc.
  • Your grants and contracts manager (GCM) will provide you with all the forms necessary to complete the administrative documents listed below. Completion of these forms is required in order for you to submit your final application. Deadline: February 25th, 2020.
    • Assurance forms
    • Grant and Safety Checklist
    • Conflict of Interest (COI) for the lead investigator only
    • Budget (download from the program website)
  • Please send two PDFs: Scientific proposal and the detailed budget to Ujwal Sheth. Deadline: March 2nd, 2020 by 5 pm.
  • If awarded, the LI will work with Zuraya Aziz to complete the Human Subject Determination (HSD) form (if required) and COI forms for team members. Deadline: March 27th, 2020 by 3 pm.
  • Guidelines for budget:
    • Effort allocations, budget caps, etc. will not change once the program starts unless a change occurs that is out of your control. (For example, a team member leaves ISB.) In case of such an event, please inform your GCM and Ujwal Sheth immediately.
    • Assign realistic values for personnel effort. For example: 2.5 percent equates to one hour/week, 5 percent equates to two hours/week, etc. LI should have a minimum of 5 percent effort.
    • Please keep in mind that you may not get the entire amount that you request (similar to NIH funding).
  • Guidelines for Scientific Proposal:
    • For your reference, past winning proposals have been made available on ISB’s intranet.
    • For the 2019 cycle, we have also included the reviewer feedback and scoring  to give you an insight into the scoring process.