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Updated May 26, 2015

CBC Lever Award

This program has ended. Applications are not being accepted.

Funding Opportunity Description:

The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC), supported by the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, seeks to stimulate collaborative research among scientists at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in the broad area of Systems Biology. Additionally, a goal of the CBC is to help attract very-large-scale outside funding to establish national centers of excellence in the Chicago area.

The CBC Lever Awards are matching grants, providing additional funding for discrete activities associated with large-scale (greater than $3M total direct costs) grants from federal or other sources. Lever funds must be used to establish transformative infrastructure that can be made broadly available to the Chicago scientific community. Levers are not intended to simply provide general supplemental research support or to be a substitute for required institutional commitment(s).

Beyond offering the opportunity to greatly leverage CBC funding, the structure of the Lever Awards is specifically intended to take advantage of the peer-review process that guides federal and other national funding programs, thus guaranteeing that CBC support is ultimately awarded based on scientific merit. Making the Lever Awards contingent on approval by the independent external review process serves as a means of validating the proposed scientific research. The structure also assures that the CBC program will be driven by the merit of the science rather than by other institutional considerations.

The Lever Awards are a key component of the CBC’s strategy and portfolio, and thus it is critically important for the CBC to be involved as much as possible in the development of the Lever and the large-scale proposals. The CBC is unlikely to look favorably on Lever applications that are prepared without significant prior consultation. Potential Lever Principal Investigators must contact at least one of the CBC Scientific Directors within one week of the announcement of the large-scale grant opportunity, with the ideal outcome being that the large-scale grant and the Lever proposals fully reflect CBC priorities for excellent and robust collaborative efforts focused on systems biology.


  • Applicants must be tenured or tenure-eligible faculty with strong research programs at University of Chicago, Northwestern University, or University of Illinois at Chicago who will jointly engage in collaborative basic research addressing questions in Systems Biology with a focus on the technologies of proteomics, informatics, or imaging.
  • Applicants must be preparing a large-scale (e.g. P50, U54), multi-institutional proposal for submission to an external funding agency that can be strengthened by a commitment for exceptional additional support.
  • Lever proposals must have at least one Principal Investigator from each of the three CBC universities. It is not necessary that all the Lever P.I.s also be P.I.s on the large-scale ‘underlying’ grant proposal. However, at least two of the CBC universities must be substantially involved in the ‘underlying’ proposal.
  • Lever funding should be used for discrete, transformative, and lasting infrastructure that will benefit and be broadly available to the CBC community of investigators.
  • There may be multiple applications from each institution.
  • There is no expectation that Lever Awards will be distributed evenly among the CBC institutions.
  • CBC scientists preparing a collaborative, multi-institutional application of appropriate scope and focus must consult with the CBC Scientific Director on their campuses to confirm the eligibility of the project. Potential applicants must discuss the pending project/proposal with at least one of the CBC Scientific Directors at the beginning of the grant-seeking process (i.e. within one week of the program RFA, or several months prior to submission of a proposal to an on-going large grant program such as the NIH P-50 program).

Available Funding:

  • Lever Awards may be requested to match large-scale 'underlying' proposals that request at least $3 million in total direct costs. Applicants may request Lever funding for up to 20% of the total direct costs of the underlying grant. For example, a U54 proposal requesting $5 million from the NIH could request up to $1 million in CBC Lever funding.
  • If the large-scale underlying grant proposal requests at least $10 million in direct costs, the maximum Lever Award of $2.5 million over two years may be requested.
  • Lever Awards are paid over 2 years.
  • Payment of awards is conditional on approval of the underlying program proposal by the external funding agency and host universities.

Key Dates:

  • Investigators contemplating a Lever application must contact the CBC Scientific Director at his/her university at the beginning of the application process. The CBC strongly prefers to be involved in the development of Lever applications and reserves the right to decline to consider any application prepared with minimal involvement of the CBC.
  • A completed application form for a Lever Award must be submitted at least five weeks in advance of the submission deadline at the external agency.
  • There will be no post hoc allocation of CBC funds for Levers.

Application Process:

  • Scientists interested in applying for Lever funds should discuss their projects with the CBC Scientific Director on their campus before proceeding with an application. See below for contact information.
  • CBC review of proposals must be completed before submission to external agency. Allow a minimum of five weeks for review. There will be no post hoc allocation of Lever funds.
  • Principal Investigators of eligible projects should prepare their proposals according to the guidelines provided below and e-mail the resulting PDF to Kathryn Stallcup (k-stallcup at northwestern dot edu), Executive Director of the CBC.
  • The agency application or available portions thereof should be provided as possible or requested.

Application Guidelines:
(print application guidelines only)

  • Page 1: Title page
    • Project Title
    • For each Principal Investigator (one at each of the three CBC Universities): Name; Academic title; Mailing address; Telephone; Email address
    • Lever funding: Dollars requested of CBC; Dollars (approximate total of direct and indirect costs) requested of external agency
    • External Agency & Specific Program being approached; Date of program announcement; Date of submission to external agency; Date of expected decision by external agency; Dates of proposed project
  • Pages 2-4: Project Description
    • 3 pages maximum length, using 1 inch margins and 12-point font. Statement must include description of the award that the Lever will match; summary of the proposed research or other activity; specification of how additional Lever funds will be used to enhance the mission and efforts of the CBC as well as the proposed research; and nature of the inter-institutional collaboration. If extensive references are required, ONLY one extra page may be added at the end of the proposal (see below).
  • Pages 5-10: Project Budgets
    • 2-page budget from each of the participating institutions. All expenses from a single institution should be entered on a budget form available from here (printed and scanned pdf of the budget form is also acceptable.)
  • Page 11: Budget justification
  • Page 12 and beyond:
    • Biosketches (NIH format) of Principal Investigator for each involved institution.
  • Final pages:
    • Optional extra references, if needed.
    • Specific aims from the award that the Lever will match.
  • Draft NIH project budget may be included as an appendix.
  • Additional information:
    • By previous agreement with Sponsored Research administration offices at Northwestern, UIC, and U Chicago, it is not necessary to have sponsored research approval prior to submission of Lever applications for consideration by the CBC Scientific Review Board. However, once an application is approved for funding by the CBC Board, it is the responsibility of principal investigators to obtain and provide the CBC with all necessary institutional approvals before funding will be initiated.
    • If the CBC Scientific Review Board approves an application for a Lever Award, a letter of commitment for inclusion as part of the application to the external funding agency will be provided. Actual funding of a CBC Lever award is dependent upon receipt of a copy of an award letter from the external agency and on approval by the research administration offices of the appropriate institutions.

Selection Criteria:

  • Effectiveness of the proposed project for attaining the goals of the CBC.
  • Essential elements are:
    • Inter-institutional collaboration: The research program or project must involve Principal Investigators from each of the CBC universities. All applicants must be tenured or tenure-eligible faculty with strong research programs.
    • Scientific focus: Systems Biology, with preference for a focus on proteomics, informatics, or imaging.
    • Scientific merit.
    • Appropriateness of proposed budget.

Selection Process:

  • The CBC Scientific Review Board, composed of three scientists from each of the CBC universities, plus external reviewers as deemed necessary, will review applications and recommend awards.
  • For approved Levers, the CBC will provide a letter of commitment to be submitted as part of the application to the funding agency.
  • When the external proposal is approved through the federal (or other) agency’s peer-review process, the CBC will provide payment of the Lever Award to the research group through standard university award mechanisms.

Reporting Process:

  • Each Lever Award will require an annual written report (narrative and financial) on the use of those funds to be submitted to the Executive Director of the CBC.
  • In addition, the CBC should receive a copy of all reports submitted to the external funding agency for the full course of that project.
  • All publicity regarding a Lever Award and publications that result from the funded work must include the following exact acknowledgment: "This work was funded by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium with support from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust."

If you have questions, please contact:

Katie Stallcup CBC Executive Director k-stallcup at northwestern dot edu

or contact the CBC Scientific Director on your campus:

NU: Richard Morimoto r-morimoto at northwestern dot edu
UChicago: Shohei Koide skoide at uchicago dot edu
UIC: Brian K. Kay bkay at uic dot edu


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