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Application Guidelines

Our funding application guidelines cover our review process and criteria, confidentiality, conflicts of interest and special requirements. We hope this information will answer questions about our grants and ease your application process.

Choosing the Right Program

The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) invites investigators to carefully consider the stage of your project and choose the funding program that best fits the critical next step objectives of your research. Applicants should NOT submit the same idea to multiple programs. Submissions that are deemed by MJFF staff to be more appropriate for a different program may be moved into another program for funding consideration.

Review our Funded Studies for projects already supported by MJFF. Proposals with significant overlap to already funded work will likely not be considered.

Funding Information

Budgets must be appropriate and justifiable for the work described. MJFF defines direct costs as expenses required to execute a grant that are directly attributable to and can reasonably be allocated to the project. Direct costs are comprised of the sum of the Personnel, Consultants, and Other Direct Costs sections of the MJFF budget template. In contrast, MJFF defines indirect costs as general overhead and administrative expenses that support the entire operation of the grantee and may be shared across projects (for example, utilities, IT systems, and general administrative staff such as a grants office). These expenses would be incurred regardless of whether the grant is funded. Recouping indirect costs on a grant is optional. However, MJFF allows grantees and subawardees to apply an indirect cost rate to their budget's total direct costs (the sum of personnel, consultants, and other direct costs), subject to the following limitations: Non-profit and academic institutions may apply up to a 15% indirect cost rate to their direct costs, and for-profit institutions may apply up to a 10% indirect cost rate to their direct costs.

If multiple institutions are collaborating on a grant and both receiving funding directly through MJFF, each institution may apply an indirect cost rate to its institution's total direct costs in accordance with MJFF policy. If one institution is a non-profit and the other is a for-profit, the first may apply a rate of up to 15% to that institution's direct costs and the second may apply a rate of up to 10% to that institution's direct costs.

If one collaborating institution's budget includes subawards (paid directly by the collaborating institution and reported in the Subawards section of the MJFF budget template), then the subawardee(s) may recoup indirect expenses through the application of an indirect rate to their direct costs. If the subawardee is a non-profit or academic institution, up to 15% may be applied. If the subawardee is a for-profit institution, up to 10% may be applied. Although subawards are reported to MJFF as lump sums on the MJFF budget template, MJFF expects collaborating institutions to request detailed budgets from their subawardees and ensure compliance with MJFF policy.

It is MJFF's policy that an institution may not apply its own indirect cost rate to its subawards. For example, if an institution has $100,000 in personnel costs, $50,000 in consultant costs, $300,000 in other direct costs, and a $60,000 subaward, it may only apply its indirect cost rate to the sum of the personnel costs, consultant costs, and other direct costs. However, the $60,000 subaward may include indirect costs accruing to the subawardee institution.

Review Process and Criteria

Programs can involve a one- or two-stage submission process. In a two-stage process, applicants are required to submit a pre-proposal and, if invited to the next stage, a full application. As requirements for each program may differ, applicants should carefully review submission instructions and use proposal templates if required.

All submissions undergo an administrative and scientific review, which also considers our funding priorities. Submitting companies also undergo a general evaluation to assess financials and overall company health.

Applications that are complete and responsive to the RFA will be evaluated by MJFF scientific staff and a grant review committee comprising scientists who are familiar with the methods of proposed projects and the goals of the funding program.

For one-stage application programs, no written critiques will be provided. For two-stage application programs, written feedback will be provided to applicants who are invited to submit a full application. Due to administrative limitations, all review decisions are final; no appeals process is available at this time. Investigators are encouraged to use reviewer comments to improve applications for a subsequent round of funding through MJFF or another source.

General Review Criteria

MJFF employs an expedited granting mechanism. Each submission is reviewed by a minimum of two reviewers. Applicants should ensure that submitted proposals fit the goals of the funding program and are written clearly and logically, with sufficient details to ensure that reviewers understand all critical aspects of the proposed project methods and plan.

Additionally, a number of common criteria are used when evaluating a proposed project at each review stage:

  • Scientific rationale for the proposed study and its impact for patients: Proposed projects should address an area of critical unmet need for people with Parkinson’s. Applicants should provide all essential pre-clinical and/or clinical rationale and indicate clearly how a particular project fits within the critical pathway for moving an idea or therapy closer toward new treatment options for patients.
  • Innovation: Applicants should justify how proposed efforts will lead ultimately to novel therapeutic strategies or significant improvements on existing therapies. Use of novel methods that can increase chances for successful completion of a project or provide more direct and definitive data are particularly encouraged.
  • Overall experimental design and objectives: Applicants should carefully describe each proposed study keeping the following issues in mind:
    • Each study hypothesis and/or objective should be clearly articulated, and proposed methods should be appropriate and sufficient to achieve these goals.
    • Details of key measures, statistical analysis plans (including use of appropriate power analyses) and 'success criteria' for making decisions regarding next experimental steps should be described.
    • Use of particular research tools (e.g., animal models) should be clearly justified.
    • For studies involving living human subjects, evidence for adequate protection and safety monitoring should be included.
    • Studies proposed as ancillary efforts to a larger project should be clearly justified, and results clearly relevant for making decisions about the parent project. Sufficient details of the parent project should be included to allow an evaluation of the ancillary study's rationale.
    • Potential problem areas and alternative strategies should be outlined.
  • Investigator/environment: The investigative team should be appropriately trained and well suited to carrying out the proposed work. The environment within which the work will be performed should have sufficient access to resources to ensure successful completion of the project. Provisions for adequate data management, monitoring and analysis (e.g., biostatistical support) should be clearly indicated.
  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: The Foundation strongly encourages applications from a wide and diverse range of investigators, including those who represent groups historically underrepresented in the research enterprise. And because research shows that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones, we urge applicants to share information about the composition of the team that will carry out the funded work. Diversity may refer to characteristics including, but not limited to, race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic circumstance, nationality, geographic background, ability and disability, political ideology and age.
  • Sharing plan: Applicants should provide details on how data and/or research tools (e.g., clinical datasets, research reagents and models) will be made available to the public for future research purposes.
  • Budget: The proposed budget should be reasonable and justified for the research proposed. Details of personnel (including non-paid collaborators), study reagents and supplies, and all other costs should be clearly indicated and justified. Costs should be allocated to coincide with key project milestones and NOT simply averaged over the entire project period. The MJFF salary cap is consistent with the National Institutes of Health salary cap.
  • Project timeline: Timelines for completing each study should be clearly defined and include relevant milestones. Project goals must be achievable within the award period.
  • MJFF portfolio: Overlap with other MJFF investments are considered before a final funding decision is made.

Clinical Research Projects Criteria

Additional details related to clinical study design will be reviewed:

  • Are the patient populations studied well-defined and appropriate to address the study's aims? Are the primary and secondary outcome measures appropriate for the proposed study? What steps will be taken to carry out the investigation in a diverse clinical population? (Diversity may refer to characteristics including, but not limited to, race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic circumstance, nationality, geographic background, ability and disability, political ideology and age.)
  • Are the procedures appropriate for research participant recruitment, case-definition or inclusion/exclusion criteria, and enrollment? Are there adequate controls in the study? Are the milestones for recruitment reasonable and attainable? If appropriate, does the proposed study contain a plan for retention of research participants?
  • Are doses appropriately selected? Is there sufficient rationale for the dose selected?

Inclusion of Pharmacokinetic Data and Dosing Rationale

Projects seeking to perform in vivo studies in models or within human subjects of pharmacological agents should provide necessary data on the ability of pharmacological agents to engage the biological target of interest. This requires an understanding of the agent's bioavailability in the tissue region of interest (e.g., brain) with respect to dose and the proposed route of administration. It also requires additional parameters related to the agent's in vivo half-life to help refine the timing and duration of treatment. If such information already exists, applicants should present the data in their proposal as a rationale for the specific dose(s) planned for PD model or human testing. If such data is not yet available, applicants should seek the data before submitting or should propose collection of such information as part of the application. Proposals that do not include this information or that do not propose studies to obtain such information may not be considered for funding. Furthermore, if proposed within the application, obtaining the data will be a required initial milestone, and continued funding will be contingent on successfully achieving this milestone.

Collaborations

As one laboratory group may not possess expertise in all steps of a particular project, collaborations are strongly encouraged for all proposals. This is especially important for applicants seeking to use specific reagents or tools — including PD models — for which the applicant has limited previous experience. Inability to develop or use tools proposed for a particular awarded project can lead to funding delay and/or possible award termination.

After the Award

Milestones

Once awarded, release of the total MJFF grant is conditional on the successful applicant meeting certain scientific and administrative milestones and deliverables on time. Failure to meet milestones; furnish scheduled deliverables, including any reports; or comply with the terms of the grant may serve as basis for termination of funding by MJFF.

MJFF may ask grantees to provide progress reports, participate in progress update calls or attend assessment meetings throughout the grant timeline and at the completion of the project. Progress report forms will be provided by MJFF.

Multi-year support is not automatic and is contingent upon the grantee's progress reports being favorably reviewed by an appointed MJFF scientific assessment committee. This assessment is predicated on MJFF's review of progress to date, the quality of the scientific research performed, and the project’s continued relevance to PD and MJFF priorities.

Financial Accountability

Grantees are expected to account for the money expended under any MJFF grant. Any money spent either not in accordance with the approved research project or prior to preapproval of any material change in your project are recoverable by, and subject to restitution by you, to MJFF. This also may be cause for immediate termination of funding by MJFF.

Supplemental Funding

While we encourage awardees to seek additional funds to further their work once the term of the initial award has expired, MJFF has no guaranteed policy for continuation of grants. MJFF may, at its discretion, seek to further support clearly successful projects. Awardees are also eligible to apply for funding under another MJFF RFA.

Special Requirements and Terms

Confidentiality

MJFF treats all pre-proposals, applications, research projects and associated research information (collectively, the "Confidential Information") in confidence using no less than reasonable care in protecting such Confidential Information from disclosure to third parties that do not participate in the grant review process and MJFF assessments. All Confidential Information will be used by MJFF and its grant reviewers only internally for the purposes of reviews and assessments, and will be shared only in accordance with its sharing policy stated herein. Notwithstanding MJFF's and its reviewers' obligations regarding such Confidential Information, such obligations cover any information retained in their unaided memories and may not be used without the permission of the disclosing party. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the obligations governing the disclosure and use of Confidential Information do not apply with respect to Confidential Information where it can be demonstrated:

  • was generally known to the public prior to the effective date of this RFA; or
  • becomes generally known to the public through no unlawful or unauthorized act of omission by any recipient of Confidential Information, or in violation of this RFA; or
  • was independently developed by any recipient prior to the effective date of this RFA; or
  • was disclosed to a recipient by a third party that has the right to make such disclosure.

If any recipient of Confidential Information is requested to produce any of the Confidential Information pursuant to a legal or governmental proceeding, such recipient shall give the applicant or other owner of such Confidential Information (the "Discloser") as much prior notice of such requirement as is reasonably practicable under the circumstances and shall use its reasonable efforts to assist the Discloser of such Confidential Information in objecting to such request. If a recipient is compelled to disclose any of the Confidential Information pursuant to such legal or governmental proceeding, such recipient shall use its reasonable efforts to assist Discloser in obtaining confidential treatment for such Confidential Information, will disclose only that portion of the Confidential Information that is responsive to the order, and will provide the Discloser with any copies of Confidential Information so disclosed; provided that such Confidential Information shall remain confidential until it falls into one of the categories specified in this Section entitled "CONFIDENTIALITY."

Conflict of Interest

Principal investigators and their paid collaborators submitting applications to a funding program will be excluded from serving on the grant review committee (“GRC”) that reviews their grant. However, non-applicants who are invited to serve on the GRC may still have a conflict of interest that arises during the grant review process. A GRC member is judged to have a conflict of interest if (1) he or she is a collaborator, subcontractor and/or consultant with an investigator that has a grant application before the GRC; (2) the application is from the reviewer's own institution regardless of whether or not reviewer has had any involvement in preparing the application; (3) the member, his/her immediate family or close professional associate(s) has a financial or vested interest in the outcome of the proposed research (even if no significant involvement is apparent in the proposal being considered); or (4) the GRC member has been involved in discussions regarding the application, is a provider of services, cell lines, reagents or other materials, or is a writer of a letter of reference for the applicant.

When a conflict of interest is deemed to be present, the GRC member will recuse him or herself from discussion of the proposal and will not be made aware of the results until after the entire review process is complete.

Liability

MJFF's role in grants awarded through MJFF funding opportunities is that of a funder; MJFF cannot be considered the sponsor of funded projects. As such, MJFF will not assume any liability associated with funded projects. Applicants who are ultimately awarded in these programs will be required to sign an award agreement that releases MJFF from liability.

Sharing Policy

As MJFF is a public charity, research conducted with funds from MJFF (the "Research") must be conducted in the public interest. MJFF acknowledges that any discoveries and related regulatory approvals made by researchers through the Research are the property of those conducting and responsible for the Research and that unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, such researchers have the first opportunity to exploit the Research commercially or otherwise. Notwithstanding, each applicant acknowledges that MJFF has the right, after reasonable consultation, which will not be unreasonably denied, conditioned or delayed, to release a summary of findings and to share data within three months from the date of the grant program expiration.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, MJFF requires that all tools or reagents (i) funded by and (ii) that result from awarded projects (collectively, the "Results") be made readily available to the community, including MJFF, for research purposes. You will be required to cooperate and collaborate with MJFF and other researchers and share access to Results on fair and reasonable terms and conditions within three months of grant expiration. By submitting your application, you and your institution are confirming that you are not aware of any requirements that would prohibit, delay or restrict your ability to share your Results from this initiative, including requirements of third-party collaborators or companies with which you are affiliated.

Intellectual Property Agreements

Although MJFF does not specify when intellectual property (IP) negotiations must take place among researchers funded under this program, MJFF does require that collaborators agree on any material IP issues prior to submission of final applications.

Clinical Trial Registration

MJFF requires that any clinical trial awarded under any of its funding programs be registered with FoxTrialFinder.org, Clinicaltrials.gov, PDTrials.org or other appropriate public registry.

Publication

Results of the research will be published upon the project’s completion on a preprint server then in an open access forum with free, immediate readership rights and include acknowledgment of the funding provided by The Michael J. Fox Foundation. MJFF will cover the costs of open access articles.

Grantees who do not comply with this new open access policy will not be eligible for future MJFF funding.

Inquiries

MJFF welcomes the opportunity to clarify any issues or questions from potential applicants regarding any MJFF funding program. To avoid submission complications, MJFF encourages questions well in advance of the submission deadlines. The Foundation holds an informational webinar during each open RFA period.

Please direct additional inquiries regarding programmatic, fiscal and administrative issues to grants@michaeljfox.org.

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