Supported by Harvard Medical School and the Dr. M. Lee Pearce Foundation, Inc.

Key Dates 

Release date: Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Proposal due: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 (11:59 pm ET)

Award Announcements: June 2019 (updated on 5/29/19)

PDF of this RFA - Version 3.25.19 with eligibility clarification
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PDF of Eligibility Clarification 

Background and Purpose 

The overarching strategy of these pilot grants is to start us on a pathway to transform the process of global aging and to promote healthy longevity through research, innovation, collaboration, and enlightened policy. The goal of this initiative is to inspire and engage members of the Harvard community to address issues in global aging and healthy longevity and to build capacity for scholars, researchers, innovators, program builders, and policymakers to address the most pressing challenges in aging and healthy longevity worldwide.

Dean George Daley, with support from the Dr. M. Lee Pearce Foundation, Inc., has committed to funding up to $1 million in pilot grants to catalyze collaborations and to generate preliminary work that can lead to future larger initiatives (including the National Academy of Medicine Grand Challenge prizes, the MacArthur Foundation $100M award, NIH or foundation grants), or other sustained follow-up activity. 

This RFA will be overseen by the Healthy Aging Pilot Grant Review Group and Executive Committee.The program will be managed by the Office of the Dean for Basic Science and Graduate Education and administered by the Office of Research Administration at HMS.

I. Application Timeline

Tuesday, February 19, 2019   RFP release
Tuesday, April 2, 201 Deadline for submission of proposals (11:59 pm ET)
May 2019   Announcement of awards
July 201 Anticipated funding start

II. Program Eligibility

Applicants Eligible for Funding: Full-time faculty members in the Harvard/MIT community with an appointment level at or above Assistant Professor (or equivalent appointment) are eligible to apply. The primary PI on the submission must hold a Harvard appointment. Preference will be given to applications that involve an interdisciplinary team of at least four faculty members from across departments, Schools, and institutions.

Note that a clarification regarding eligibility requirements for this RFA was made on March 25, 2019. The clarification addresses faculty appointment levels for Harvard/MIT applicants and also inclusion of collaborators outside of the Harvard/MIT Community. It is available in a separate .pdf file, uploadable via this link . You can also request a copy of the clarification statement via email to

Activities Eligible for Funding: Any activity relevant to the stated goals of this initiative that can directly lead to an application for future funding or other sustained relevant activity will be considered. Example topic areas include, but are not limited to:          

  • Social and environmental determinants of health
  • Fundamental mechanisms of aging and targeted drug development
  • Disability, multiple chronic conditions, and advanced illness
  • Prevention of cognitive decline with aging
  • Housing, social engagement, and the built environment
  • Technology innovations to enhance independence
  • Healthcare delivery systems and financing of health and pension systems

III. Award Types and Funding Levels

The maximum award level per project will be $100,000–$200,000. The exact level of funding will be determined by the number of highly-reviewed proposals received. It is anticipated that the total funding awarded will be up to $1 million.

IV. Proposal Submission, Review, and Selection Process

Proposals (submission deadline: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 11:59 pm ET)

The format for proposals is shown in Appendix A. Proposals will undergo a confidential review process by the Healthy Aging Pilot Grant Review Group with input, as needed, from expert reviewers selected from the Harvard community or external sources. The final funding recommendations will be made by the Healthy Aging Pilot Grant Executive Committee, which will include cross-School representation and will not include any PIs of the pilot grant applications.

Evaluation criteria

The intention of these pilot grants is to support preliminary work that will lay the groundwork for future applications or other sustained activity. Review criteria will include: (1) innovation, (2) significance, (3) potential to lead to future funding and/or relevant sustained activity, and (4) potential for impact on healthy aging. Applications that involve four or more Harvard/MIT faculty members and involve cross-School and interdisciplinary collaborations will be preferred.

Applicants should send questions about the proposal submission, eligibility, review, and selection process to

V.  Budget and Funding Period

The funding level will be capped at $200,000 per award, and will generally be for a one-year period.    A no-cost extension for up to one additional year may be granted, subject to demonstrated progress and approval by the Healthy Aging Pilot Grant Executive Committee and Dean’s Initiatives staff. A project may be terminated if progress reports do not demonstrate that appropriate progress is being made.

Funding may be used only for research directly related to and budgeted under the project, and may not be used for any other purpose. Budget items may include personnel expenses, capital equipment (but not computers), and other appropriate non-personnel research expenses.  Only local travel expenses (e.g., parking) for purposes of collaboration will be allowable.

Indirect costs required by other Harvard Schools, HMS-affiliated institutions, and/or MIT must be budgeted within the award amount and are capped at a maximum rate of 15% of total direct costs allocated to such School or institution. No additional funds to cover indirect costs will be provided.

Funds may be re-budgeted without prior approval as long as no single direct cost category in the budget changes by an amount that exceeds 25 percent of the total costs awarded. Changes to the budget that lead to an increase or decrease in a single direct cost budget category of more than 25 percent of the total costs awarded require prior approval from Dean’s Initiatives staff.

The responsibility for management of the award is held by the awardee. The HMS Offices of the Dean for Basic Science and Graduate Education, of Finance, and of Research Administration will regularly monitor the use of the funds.

VI. Other Requirements: Terms and Conditions of the Award

Time and Effort: All personnel on funded projects must commit time and effort appropriate to their roles on the project. Faculty who are not permitted to budget salary on applications of this type (e.g., HHMI Investigators) should budget effort but not salary. Any reduction in Lead PI and/or Co-PI effort of 25% or more requires prior approval from Dean’s Initiatives staff.

Inventions and Intellectual Property:

It is anticipated that intellectual property may be developed through work on projects funded by the grant program. Regardless of the location at which the work is performed (whether in facilities of Harvard, of an HMS-affiliated Institution, or of MIT):

If any PI, co-investigator, or other employee of an HMS-affiliated institution or MIT creates intellectual property through work on a project funded by the grant program, the guidelines of the employing institution will dictate his or her interest in that intellectual property; and

If any PI, co-investigator, or other individual employed by or enrolled as a student at Harvard creates intellectual property through work on a project funded by the grant program, Harvard will own his or her interest in that intellectual property.

External Funding:

If a project is awarded Dean’s Initiative pilot funding, and funding support for the same project is secured from another source during the funding period, then the Dean’s Initiatives staff must be informed immediately. Subject to compliance with the terms of any such funding support, any overlapping funds provided may be reallocated to other activities provided that those activities are directly related to the funded project and are approved in writing by the Dean’s Initiatives staff.

Research Compliance:

Dean’s Innovation Pilot Awards in Healthy Aging are an internal funding mechanism for Harvard-based Lead PIs and collaborating Co-PIs and will therefore not be set up in GMAS or require OSP/SPA approval at the proposal stage. Dean’s Initiatives staff strongly recommend that Co-PIs based at Harvard-affiliated institutions or MIT obtain institutional approval at the proposal stage. The PI, Department or non-HMS institution are responsible for meeting all compliance requirements associated with the award, including any human or animal subject research approvals. Documentation of such approvals must be provided to Dean’s Initiatives staff prior to release of the awards.

Publications: The Deans Innovation Grants Program and/or any donors, as reflected in the formal award letter/agreement, must be cited in all presentations and publications that describe work supported by this initiative. Reprints of all publications containing this acknowledgment should be provided to the Dean’s Initiatives staff.

Reporting Requirements: Details about the format of required reports will be provided in the formal award letter/agreement. It is anticipated that a progress report will be due once a year. Periodic financial reports will be requested by Dean’s Initiatives staff to verify the appropriateness of project expenses.

Appendix A: Proposal

Proposal submission deadline: Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at 11:59 pm ET

Dean’s Initiatives staff will be available to work with PI’s in the development of proposals, particularly with respect to describing the potential to lead to future funding and/or relevant sustained activity, and potential for impact on healthy aging. Section 2 should not exceed 3 pages. The cover page and Sections 1, 3, and 4 are not counted toward the page limit.

Cover Page (not included in page limit)

  1. Lead PI name and department, organization/school
  2. Name of all collaborators with department, organization, school
  3. Project title
  4. Project topic area: Social and environmental determinants of health; Fundamental mechanisms of aging and targeted drug development; Disability, multiple chronic conditions, and advanced illness; Prevention of cognitive decline with aging; Housing, social engagement, and the built environment; Technology innovations to enhance independence; Healthcare delivery systems and financing of health and pension systems; or Other.
  5. Total budget request (not to exceed $200,000 total costs)

Section 1: Executive Summary (250 word maximum)

  1. Describe the innovation, need/opportunity, and significance of the proposal.
  2. State the potential impact of the ultimate work on healthy aging globally; how will this pilot work lead to or enhance that impact. 

Section 2: Background, Significance, and Research Plan

  1. Background and significance. Frame the importance of the area. Describe the unmet need or gap that this proposal will address. Describe previous work that this application will build upon. 
  2. Specific aims
  3. Research design and methods
    1. If human study, please include: 
      1. Study design
      2. Sample inclusion and exclusion criteria
      3. Statistical analyses (including sample size and power considerations)
    2. If basic science study, please include description of model system or experimental approach to be used. 
    3. Other approaches: Please include detailed description of methods with justification.
  4. Study strengths and potential pitfalls/limitations and how these will be mitigated
  5. Describe how this study will lead to future funding or other relevant sustained activity (please be specific)
  6. Describe the potential for this work to have ultimate impact on healthy aging globally (please connect the dots to impact)
  7. Reference list (not included in page limit).

Section 3: Detailed budget (not included in page limit)

A detailed budget and budget justification should be provided for the entire proposed funding period, using PHS 398 forms. One PHS 398 Face Page per faculty member requesting funds is required. Note that each PI or Co-PI requesting funds will receive a separate award agreement to provide the funding; pass-through subawards are not allowed. Face pages from HMS Quad-based faculty require a Department authorized signature only. Face pages from PIs or Co-PIs from other Harvard Schools, HMS-affiliated institutions, or non-HMS institutions require a signature from an institutional authorized official.

Section 4: Supporting Information (not included in page limit)

  1. References: Please list references cited in Sections 1 and 2 on a separate page and keep the length of the reference list to a maximum of one page.
  2. NIH biosketch for the principal investigator, collaborators, and any other key project participants
  3. Identify all prior, current, and pending sources of support to the PIs lab related to the proposed research project.
  4. Support letters: a support letter must be included if any research objective will require substantial involvement of collaborators (e.g., use of any core facility, collaboration with investigators who are not directly funded for the proposed work).

Proposal submission: Proposals must be received by 11:59 pm ET on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 as a single PDF file. Applications should be submitted via Harvard Catalyst Apply Hub system at Hub requires login via Harvard Medical School eCommons username and password, or via Harvard Key ( If you have not used Apply Hub before, you will be asked to register on a My Accountpage with your name and your email address.