Upcoming CEPI-CIHR grant funding opportunity for Canadian researchers

Jodie Rogers
Young chemist in the laboratory

CEPI and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Infection and Immunity (III) will soon launch a new grant funding opportunity for researchers in Canada to pursue projects advancing CEPI's work to expedite the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Anticipated to be published by CIHR-III in February 2021, the upcoming CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Excellence in Vaccine Research for Infectious Diseases of Epidemic Potential Funding Opportunity (available in English and in French) will support up to six Canadian independent mid-career researchers to undertake 2-year R&D projects conducting research on CEPI's priority diseases. This includes: COVID-19, Lassa fever, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Nipah, Rift Valley fever, as well as Disease X which involves the development of platform technologies to rapidly respond to future novel or as-of-yet unidentified pathogens. While Ebola is listed as a priority disease on CEPI's website, it is not included in this funding opportunity.

Interested applicants will be invited to submit a research concept that aligns with CEPI's mission and target pathogens. Proposals for research projects can cover one or more research areas from across the vaccine R&D spectrum: preclinical development and animal models, clinical immunology, epidemiology, diagnostics for use in low- and middle-income countries, and systems immunology and bioinformatics.

Through this opportunity, CEPI and CIHR-III aim to leverage Canadian expertise to support part of CEPI's mission to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases. It also seeks to promote the career development of researchers from Canadian academic institutions through CEPI mentorship and insight into CEPI's vaccine development and manufacturing efforts, active portfolio management, collaborative approach, and ongoing evaluation of lessons learned. CEPI's work to enable equitable access to vaccines for people during outbreaks, is equally important but may be beyond the scope of the 2-year research project timeline.

A total of CAD 2.4 million (approx USD 1.89 million) joint funding will be made available for the research grants by CEPI and CIHR-III.

Find out more

Further information and details on eligibility and application criteria on the CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Excellence in Vaccine Research for Infectious Diseases of Epidemic Potential Funding Opportunity are available on the CIHR-III website in English and in French.

CIHR-III and CEPI champion equity, diversity, and inclusion in their work. Individuals from diverse backgrounds are therefore particularly encouraged to apply when the grant funding opportunity opens.

Applicants with the greatest potential to thrive through this CIHR-III-CEPI collaboration will be identified by peer reviewers. Along with high-level details for a research concept within one of more of the research areas, applicants must provide evidence of their experience, expertise and collaboration that align with CEPI's mission and priority diseases. If successful, applicants will collaborate with CEPI to finalise a detailed research project plan beneficial for both parties.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is Canada's federal funding agency for health research. One of the 13 virtual institutes of CIHR, the CIHR-III supports research and helps to build research capacity in the areas of infectious disease and the body's immune system. Through the Institute's programs, researchers address a wide range of health concerns related to infection and immunity including disease mechanisms, disease prevention and treatment, and health promotion through public policy.

Canada is a long-term supporter and sixth-largest investor in CEPI, having made significant financial commitments to CEPI shortly after the coalition's formation in 2017 and a follow-up donation in 2018. The Government of Canada also provided two financial contributions to support CEPI's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the European Commission's Coronavirus Response Global Pledging Conference and last month provided a further donation to CEPI's COVID-19 efforts as part of a wider investment in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

In response to COVID-19, CEPI moved quickly and in collaboration with partners, advancing the development of 11 diverse vaccine candidates to date. The goal is to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in COVAX, a global collaboration between CEPI, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched to develop, manufacture and enable global equitable access to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021 to end the acute phase of the pandemic. As part of this work, CEPI has made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, established a centralised labs network to harmonise collection of data on COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials, and is also investing in the ‘next generation' of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.