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BRF Seed Grant Program

General Information

Program Description

Brain Research Foundation’s Annual Seed Grant Program was initiated in 1981. The purpose of our program is to provide start-up monies for new research projects in the field of neuroscience that will likely lead to extramural funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or other outside funding sources.


Schools may submit one (1) application for Penn’s internal competition.


  • To be eligible, PI must be a full-time Assistant or Associate Professor at an invited US academic institution, working in the area of studies of brain function. This includes molecular and clinical neuroscience as well as studies of neural, sensory, motor, cognitive, behavioral and emotional functioning in health and disease. 
  • The grant proposal must detail a new research project that is not funded by other sources. This grant is not to be used as bridge funding.
  • Investigators at institutions that are affiliated with a medical school or university are eligible to apply only through the institution where they hold a full-time faculty position.
  • Scientists that have previously received a BRF Seed Grant may not receive the award for a second time unless all grant requirements from all previous awards are met. 
  • Only one PI may apply per application.
  • For any sponsored research projects, the applicant must be eligible to serve as Principal Investigator for the project, unless otherwise noted in the LSO. Please see Penn’s PI Eligibility requirements to ensure you are eligible.


  • PI is ineligible if they are not a full-time faculty member at the institution they are applying under.
  • PI is ineligible if they are a Full Professor.
  • PI is ineligible if they are a research assistant professor or research associate professor.
  • PI is ineligible to submit more than one BRF Seed Grant proposal in a funding period.
  • PI is ineligible if they have BRF funding that will overlap this grant period.
  • PI is ineligible if they have been awarded prior BRF funding but have failed to submit progress and financial reports at the end of their grant period.
  • PI is ineligible if they are a member of the BRF Scientific Review Committee.
  • PI is ineligible if they are a relative of BRF a representative, including the SRC, as defined by the Foundation.

Award Information

Each total grant is limited to $80,000 (direct costs) for a two year grant period. The first grant payment of $40,000 will be made upon completion of the Seed Grant Acceptance Form (June 2024). The final payment of $40,000 will be made contingent upon receipt of a preliminary progress and financial report (June 2025). Funds must be utilized within the grant period. 

Final financial and progress reports, including a lay summary, will be required within 60 days from the end date of the grant period.

Funding Specifics

Budget justification in Formal Proposals (if invited) should provide detailed costs of the investigator’s salaries, including all personnel involved, laboratory supplies, miscellaneous costs, etc., and will be highly scrutinized:  

  • The Foundation’s grant award is not intended to be utilized for purchasing capital equipment (“bricks and mortar”) for the lab and is intended only to support the actual investigation.   
  • Tuition expenses (remission) may not be covered for personnel (graduate students involved in the project) if considered excessive.
  • Expenses for core services (e.g. Cryo-EM, sequencing) may not be approved if considered excessive.
  • Expenses for computers, computer-generated systems/and AI data generation cannot be expensed.   
  • Funding is to be directed at pilot research projects that are both innovative and will likely lead to successful grant applications to NIH and other public and private funding entities.
  • Assistant Professor—Junior faculty with a new research project that will generate pilot data that will lead to RO1 funding, or a comparable outside grant will be first priority—
    • Must provide abstract and specific aims for current grants and indicate if there is any overlap.
  • Associate Professor—Faculty who are pursuing new research directions—
    • Must explain how the project is a new research direction.
    • Must provide abstract and specific aims for current grant(s) and indicate if there is any overlap.
  • A new technique is not considered a new direction unless it pertains to a different area of study.
  • Grants are NOT to be used for bridge funding between grants.

Review Process

Selection Criteria

The University has been invited to nominate 1 faculty member for the 2023 Brain Research Foundation Program. Letters of Intent (LOI) are required and due by the OVPR deadline for each spring and fall cycle. Nominees will be selected from an internal competition managed by the OVPR. If you are invited to submit a proposal, you will be notified via email to log into the portal and complete your application in June or December. A committee, established by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), will determine the final nominees to represent the University. 

OVPR Internal Review Process

Applications must include the following:

  1. Cover Page which includes: 
    • Project title;
    • Candidate’s name, academic rank, department, email address, phone number and campus address. 
    • Date of faculty appointment to the University including Month and Year  
  2. A Letter of Intent that must include the following (maximum 2 pages):
    • A preliminary set of aims. 
    • A discussion of previous or related work, 
    • A preliminary budget estimate should include an estimate of the major costs for compensation, supplies, etc.
  3. Project Title
  4. PI Signature
  5. Research Plan (3,500 word maximum): Figures are allowed and not counted towards the word count. You must use keystrokes to cut and past images and figures, not your mouse. Include closing paragraph that explains how this research will develop (next steps)
  6. References may be included on an additional page
  7. A CV (using NIH Format) (maximum 5 pages): which includes educational background, professional appointments, awards and honors. Due to limited space, you can supply a link to your full list of publications.
  8. All materials must be submitted in a single PDF document in the above order to
  9. Subject line of the email should be, BRAIN_applicant LAST name_applicant FIRST name.