Research Grants ( Young Investigators' Grants and Program Grants)

Human Frontier Science Program

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Next anticipated deadline: Sep 12, 2020 (Full proposal)

Later anticipated deadlines: Mar 19, 2021 (Letter of inquiry), Mar 30, 2021 (Letter of inquiry)

Grant amount: Up to US $450,000

Fields of work: Cell Biology Neuroscience Developmental Biology (non-medical) Genetics & Genomics Microbiology Molecular Biology Biochemistry Show all

Applicant type: Faculty

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: Australia; Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; Canada Show all

Degree requirements: Applicants must have a completed PhD

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Note:  An explanation of deadlines is as follows: 

  • Compulsory initiation of a Letter of Intent - March 19 - you must also obtain a 2021 reference number (first 'Letter of Inquiry deadline above)

  • Submission of Letter of Intent - March 30 (second 'Letter of Inquiry' deadline above)

  • Full Proposal  deadline - Mid-September ('Full Proposal' deadline above)

Distinguishing Features of the HFSP Research Grant Program

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) is a niche program that supports innovative basic research into fundamental biological problems with emphasis placed on novel and interdisciplinary approaches that involve scientific exchanges across national and disciplinary boundaries. Successful projects often involve an element of risk. The participation of scientists from disciplines outside the traditional life sciences such as biophysics, chemistry, computational biology, computer science, engineering, mathematics, nanoscience or physics has made biological research increasingly quantitative and will continue to do so. Such collaborations have opened up new approaches for understanding the complex structures and regulatory networks that characterize living organisms, their evolution and interactions.

To stimulate novel, daring ideas and innovative approaches, preliminary results are not required in research grant applications. 

Scientific Scope

 General areas of support

Research grants are available for projects concerned with basic approaches to understanding the complex mechanisms of living organisms. Topics covered range from molecular and cellular approaches to biological functions to systems neuroscience including cognitive functions. The HFSP funds novel collaborations that bring scientists with distinct expertise together to focus on problems at the frontiers of the life sciences. The innovative aspect of the project is a major criterion in the review of HFSP research grants. 

Specific Requirements

  • Novel combinations of expertise are a major feature of HFSP-sponsored projects and those involving truly novel interdisciplinary collaborations will be given clear preference.
  • Applicants are expected to develop new lines of research through the collaboration. Projects must be distinct from applicants’ other research funded by other sources.
  • The collaboration between all team members must be absolutely necessary to achieve the aims of the project. “Concerted action” programs, in which each team member performs a self-contained project under a general theme without extensive interaction with the other team members are not considered to be collaborative.
  • The HFSP funds basic research. We aim to support teams of scientists at the forefront of research in their respective areas, whose collaborative projects open up new frontiers in fundamental biology.
  • Many applicants do not appreciate what HFSP understands by ‘risk’. It is not simply that « It's risky because it may or may not work ». A hand waving « but we hope it will », followed by a few vaguely described experiments, will not convince the reviewers. What is expected is that according to the team's calculations there is a reasonable chance that it will work (this is developed further in the FAQ sheet).
  • The scope of HFSP funding ranges from the biomolecular level to studies of whole organisms. It does not extend to the level of populations or ecosystems. However studies of the mechanisms of species-species interactions or their co-evolution are eligible.
  • Collaborative research aimed at developing novel methods or the study of analogs or models of biological activity are welcome if these methods allow new biological questions to be answered in the context of the aim of the HFSP to fund fundamental research.

Types of Grants

Program Grants

General aims: Program Grants are meant to allow teams of independent researchers to develop new lines of research through the collaboration. Priority will be given to new, innovative research projects for which preliminary results might not necessarily be available. Applications including independent investigators early in their careers are encouraged. 

Young Investigators’ Grants

Recognising the challenge of establishing an independent research group at an early stage of a career, a special consideration will take into account the overall level of interdisciplinarity in Young Investigator applications. Newly appointed investigators will be expected to propose projects with team members having distinct expertise and coming from different areas of the life sciences (if not from outside the life sciences). Projects from more established investigators will preferably involve collaboration with scientists from outside the life sciences, as in the Program Grants. The Review Committee will be instructed to assess this when reviewing applications.

General aims: It is to be expected that outstanding young scientists, in the initial period of their independent careers, are in a particularly good position to formulate innovative and fertile research projects. Typically, “Young Investigators” will have completed one or two periods of postdoctoral training and be appointed to staff positions that allow them to initiate and direct their own independent lines of research. 

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Structure of a team:
    • Scientists applying for a research grant must organize an "international research team" or "team".
    • The team is to be made up of "members", whereby one member of the team is designated as the "Principal Applicant" and the others as "Co-Applicants".
    • Only international research teams (with emphasis on intercontinental collaborations), not individual researchers, are eligible.
    • The number of team members should normally be 2 – 4 and no more than 4 unless an increase in the number of members is clearly critical for the interdisciplinary nature of the project.
      • However please note that teams of 5 members are rarely successful. 
    • The Principal Applicant representing the international team must be located in one of the member countries.
    • Co-Applicants can be located in any country. 
    • All team members are expected to direct a research group (however small), and they must have a doctoral degree (PhD, MD or equivalent).
  • Principal Applicant: 
    • The Principal Applicant must be located in an HFSPO member country. 
      • However, current or former CDA awardees can also act as the Principal Applicant in an HFSP Research Grant irrespective of the location of their laboratories as long as the team includes at least one Co-Applicant from an HFSP member country.
    • The Principal Applicant must be from a non-profit academic institution.
  • Internationality: 
    • At least one member of the international research team must have his/her laboratory in a country other than that of the Principal Applicant.
    • Teams should normally have only one member with a laboratory in any one country unless an increase in the number of members from one country is clearly critical for the interdisciplinary nature of the project.
    • When applicants have a double affiliation, both will be considered active
  • The member countries are currently:
    • Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus (EU part only), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
  • Program Grant Requirements: 
    • All members of a Program Grant team must be in a position to initiate and direct their own independent lines of research.
    • They must have responsibility for their own laboratories and show evidence of independence.
  • Young Investigator Requirements:
    • all members of a Young Investigators’ grant team must:
      • be within 5 years of obtaining an independent position (see below) AND
      • have obtained their first doctoral degree (PhD, MD or equivalent) not longer than 10 years before the deadline for submission of the letter of intent.
        • Exceptions may be made for periods of compulsory military service, parental leave or absence for medical conditions.
      •  An independent position would typically be “Assistant Professor”, “Lecturer” or equivalent.
        • In some countries, younger scientists work in departments in which the direction of research is defined by the Head of Department, and are therefore not strictly independent. In these cases, the Young Investigator should be a project leader directing a research group.  They must have full responsibility for the day to day running of their laboratories and will have full control of the HFSP funds.


  • Emphasis is placed on novel collaborations that bring together scientists preferably from different disciplines (e.g. from chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering) to focus on problems in the life sciences.

  • Clear priority will be given to intercontinental collaborations.


  • “Postdocs” are not eligible to apply. 
  • Research carried out within only one country is not eligible.
  • The team may include members from for-profit organizations if their expertise is necessary for the project. However, team members from for-profit organizations may not receive any funds and will not be considered in calculating the amount of award. 
  • No individual may be an applicant on more than one letter of intent in this review round.
  • Scientists cannot hold an HFSP Research Grant and an HFSP Long-Term Fellowship at the same time.
  • Young Investigator Grants: 
    • Scientists who have already been appointed to senior positions are not eligible to apply for the Young Investigators’ program, even if they are formally within the 5-year limit, but they may apply for a Program Grant.
  • Ineligible projects:
    • Projects of a primarily pathophysiological nature are not supported. Nor does the HFSP support projects of a purely applied nature.
      • For instance, projects aimed specifically at developing methods of treatment or diagnosis, or those directly concerned with agricultural or environmental problems such as crop yield or bioremediation will not be considered eligible.
      • Studies related to disease are only considered if they allow new insights into fundamental biological mechanisms.
    • Projects which involve only extensive genome mapping or sequencing are not eligible to receive HFSP funding.
      • However, this does not exclude functional studies based upon use of genome data.
      • Systematic screening approaches(“fishing expeditions”) geared to identifying new biological components or reagents are outside the scope of the HFSP.
    • Projects using “-omics” approaches that will generate large datasets but provide no convincing methodology for their analysis are not eligible.
  • Impermissible expenses:
    • Investigators’ salaries:
      • The Principal Investigator or Co-Investigators may not receive personal remuneration from an HFSP grant either in the form of a salary (even in part) or consultation fees.
    • Indirect costs (overheads):  
      • No more than 10% of the direct costs of the award, at each research institution, may be used for indirect costs. These must be taken from the funds awarded; no further funds will be provided by HFSPO for indirect costs (overheads).
    • Tuition Fees:  
      • While student stipends are allowed, student tuition fees are not considered a permissible expense. 
  • The most common reasons for eliminating projects are that:

    • they involved teams with very close expertise, all within the traditional life sciences

    • they were centered on drug design or screening

    • they were clinically orientated, and did not centre on the elucidation of a fundamental biological problem

    • they were applied (food sciences, animal husbandry, forestry etc…) or approached only vaguely defined problems in ecology (pollution….).

    • they were unfocused "-omics" projects (transcriptome, proteome etc…), with little grasp of either the technical problems or the difficulty of the analyses involved

    • they were clearly the continuation of ongoing collaborations, including projects with former mentors.

    • the project had minimal significance for fundamental biological research

    • they were at the level of ecosystems or populations