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Updated May 5, 2016

CBC Catalyst Award

NOTE: The Summer 2016 Catalyst round has been merged with the Fall round. The new deadline for proposal submission will be in early August and funding decisions will be made in November. We apologize for any inconvenience these changes have caused. Further information will be posted on the website as it becomes available.

Key Dates for 2016:

Applications to the CBC’s Catalyst Award program are invited twice a year (spring and fall submission rounds).  Please note that the online proposal submission closes at 5 pm on the day listed for each submission round.

Application Round
Online Submission Opens
Proposal Submission Deadline
Expected Decision
Anticipated Start Date
Winter 2016
January 11, 2016
January 15, 2016
April 15, 2016
June 1, 2016
Fall 2016
August (date TBD)

Request for Applications:

The CBC’s Catalyst Award program offers funding of up to $250K for one- or two-year new inter-institutional collaborative research projects in the broad area of Systems Biology.  Projects should address important areas of biological/biomedical research that are risky, innovative, and potentially transformative.  The Catalyst Award is not to support on-going research that could be funded by traditional extramural granting mechanisms. Catalysts are not intended to support incremental progress, obvious next steps, or NIH ready projects.  The spirit of this program is to catalyze new creative, innovative, and transformative research projects.  Preliminary data are not required.  Collaborations involving junior faculty members are given special consideration.  Research teams must be composed of Principal Investigators (PIs) from at least two CBC Institutions (Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago).

The research funded by the Catalyst Award program is unlike that funded by conventional funding institutions.  Catalysts applicants are encouraged to talk with past and current Catalyst Award recipients and reviewers.  A list of all Catalyst awardees and abstracts from funded application can be found on the Catalyst home page and a list of current Scientific Review Board (SRB) members can be found here (SRB).  Catalyst proposals should include a plan for obtaining future support.  Applications are reviewed for riskiness, creativity and scientific merit by the CBC SRB, which is composed of three senior scientists from each of the CBC institutions.


  • Research Applicants must be tenured or tenure-track faculty with research programs at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and/or University of Illinois at Chicago and who will jointly engage in collaborative research.
  • Research proposals must have Co-Principal Investigators from at least two of the CBC universities.
  • Proposals should show both innovation and scientific merit.
  • Research teams should demonstrate either a new collaboration or a significantly new direction in an existing collaboration.
  • Research teams should not already be funded for similar research activities.
  • Research projects described in Catalyst applications cannot be under review at federal funding institutions/agencies.
  • There may be multiple applications from each institution.  A PI may participate in only one application per round, and investigators who already have Catalyst funding are not eligible to re-apply during the term of their award.  
  • There is no expectation that Catalyst Awards will be distributed evenly among the CBC institutions.

Available Funding:

  • Grants can range up to $250,000 for use over 1-2 years. Please note that the three CBC institutions have waived all indirect costs.
  • Catalyst Awards are one-time awards, with no expectation of continuation or renewal by the CBC.

Application Process:

All proposals MUST be prepared according to the guidelines listed below.

I. The Proposal:
All pages and documents listed below should be assembled into a SINGLE PDF document in the order listed.  Please name the PDF file with last names (IN ALL CAPS) of all PIs listed on the proposal.  Proposals not conforming to the above guidelines will NOT BE ACCEPTED.

  • Page 1: Title Page
    • Download the Title Page form from here, fill out and append as page 1 of your proposal.
    • Pages 2-4:  The body of the research proposal is limited to 3 pages; append as pages 2 – 4 of your application. Include the following sections with the indicated titles and in the indicated order.  Please use at least size 11 font and 0.9 inch margins.                   
      • One-paragraph lay-language summary of project (max. 150 words)
      • A separate, one-paragraph discussion of what makes this project high risk/high reward and groundbreaking, and answering the following questions (max 200 words):
        • Why would this proposal not be funded by conventional sources?
        • How do you predict this research will change or modify current paradigms?
      • Proposal Statement with the following headings:
        • Description of proposed research
        • Nature of inter-institutional collaboration
        • Criteria for measuring success of the proposed project
        • Long-term funding plan for continuation beyond the Catalyst Award, including funding institution that will be solicited, grant category (i.e. R01, P series, U01) and tentative timeline.
    • Page 5:  Relevant Cited Scientific References (not to exceed one page; please follow the NIH format)
    • Page 6 and beyond:
      • 2-page budget from each participating PI.
        By special arrangement with the Research Administration Offices at the CBC universities, it is not necessary to obtain institutional endorsement of proposals before they are submitted to the CBC. However, the CBC may share proposals with Research Administrators during the review process, and the CBC will require institutional endorsements before any final funding decisions are made. The proposed research activities and budget requests must thus be within institutional guidelines in order for a proposal to be successful. (Note: PIs may claim up to 2% effort/salary relief. Graduate student tuition and tuition remission is not allowed on CBC awards.) All expenses from a single institution should be entered on a university-specific budget form (fillable PDF) downloadable from here: NU budget form, UChicago budget form, UIC budget form (printed and scanned pdf of the budget form is also acceptable).  Each PI can include travel expenses of $1000/application.
      • Up-to-date NIH Biosketch (NEW FORMAT; not to exceed 5 pages) for each PI, including current and pending funding. 
        Applications that are pending at national funding agencies can have no scientific overlap with this Catalyst application. Program staff will review this information to determine eligibility.
      • Special requirements.
        If a research project requires special expertise that is not substantially and readily apparent in the PIs’ biosketches (e.g. genomics, proteomics, informatics, imaging, high throughput analysis, chemical libraries), a letter confirming and describing consultation with a core director or colleague recognized in that field is recommended. Please note that the CBC is not allowed to fund researchers from non-CBC institutions, but will accept their letters of support. CBC funds can be used to pay for services provided by core facilities at non-CBC institutions.

All pages and documents listed above should be assembled into a SINGLE PDF document in the order listed.  Please name the pdf (IN ALL CAPS) with last names of all PIs listed on the proposal.  Proposals not conforming to the above guidelines will NOT BE ACCEPTED.

II. Proposal Submission:
Completed proposals MUST be submitted online.
One of the PIs will need a CBC account for online submission. To register for a CBC account, please click here. After completing the registration you will be directed to the Catalyst Submission Form.


If you have questions, please contact:

Katie Stallcup CBC Executive Director k-stallcup at northwestern dot edu
Karen Snapp CBC Senior Associate Director ksnapp at northwestern dot edu

or contact the CBC Scientific Director on your campus:

NU: Richard Morimoto r-morimoto at northwestern dot edu
UChicago: Lucy Godley slgodley at medicine dot bsd dot uchicago dot edu
UIC: Brian K. Kay bkay at uic dot edu


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