Catalyst Award

Updated: April 17, 2017

Key Dates for 2016 – 2017:

Applications to the CBC’s Catalyst Award program are invited usually 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
Spring 2017
Feb. 27, 2017 March 3, 2017 June 21, 2017 Sept. 1, 2017
Fall 2017
Aug. 14, 2017 Aug. 18, 2017 TBD TBD


Request for Applications:

The CBC’s Catalyst Award program offers funding of up to $250,000 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 (NU, UChicago and UIC).

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 applications can be found on the funded awards webpage and a list of current Scientific Review Board (SRB) members can be found on the SRB webpage. 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 (portfolios will NOT be accepted) in the order listed. Please name the PDF file with last names 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.

II. Proposal Submission:

Completed proposals MUST be submitted online. The Catalyst application submission site will open at 8:00 AM on Monday, February 27, 2017, and will close at 5:00 PM on Friday, March 3, 2017. Please, designate one of the co-PIs as a contact person on the application. The contact person will be responsible for submitting the application.

▸ Catalyst Application Submission Form, Spring 2017

If you have questions, please contact:

Katie Stallcup CBC Executive Director
Karen Snapp CBC Senior Associate Director

or contact the CBC Scientific Director on your campus:

NU: Richard Morimoto
UChicago: Lucy Godley
UIC: Brian Kay


see also

▸ Funded Catalyst Awards