The Funding Opportunity is now available on ResearchNet (Application Deadline: April 20, 2021)

Now Live! CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Excellence in Vaccine Research for Infectious Diseases of Epidemic Potential

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Infection and Immunity (III) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are pleased to announce the upcoming CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Excellence in Vaccine Research for Infectious Diseases of Epidemic Potential Funding Opportunity.

CEPI is a world leader in identifying and supporting preparedness activities that enable a rapid research response in vaccine development. This is highlighted by their advanced COVID-19 vaccine portfolio and leading role in numerous novel COVID-19 initiatives. This funding opportunity recognizes the research achievements of mid-career investigators who are on track for, or have already achieved, international leadership in vaccine research for infectious diseases. With this funding opportunity, up to six (6) Canadian independent mid-career researchers will receive grant funding from CIHR and CEPI to pursue a mutually beneficial research project that is co-developed with CEPI. The co-developed project will align with CEPI’s mission and priority diseases, and fall within one or more research area(s) of this funding opportunity. This initiative will leverage Canadian expertise to advance research on CEPI’s priority diseases and provide researchers with mentorship by CEPI, along with access to biological samples, innovative technologies, and new collaborative relationships with CEPI and their partners.


The objectives of this funding opportunity are to:

  • Promote the career development of mid-career investigators from Canadian academic institutions in vaccine research for infectious diseases;
  • Create new knowledge in vaccine research for emerging threats through a mutually beneficial exchange of expertise between Canadian mid-career investigators and CEPI, and support the mobilization of the knowledge created to relevant knowledge users and other stakeholders; and
  • Position mid-career Canadian investigators as international leaders in vaccine research for infectious diseases.


This funding opportunity focuses on:

  • The first part of CEPI’s mission: to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases. The second part of the mission, enabling equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks, is equally important but may be beyond the scope of a 2-year co-developed research project; and
  • CEPI’s priority diseases: caused by Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, Lassa virus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever virus, Chikungunya virus, Disease X (which involves the development of platform technologies for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens), and SARS-CoV-2. Note, Ebola is listed as a priority disease on CEPI’s website but is not part of this funding opportunity.

Research Areas

This funding opportunity will support projects relevant to the following research areas:

  • Preclinical development and animal models – preclinical vaccine research and development, and development and evaluation of animal models.
    • Requires specific experience in pre-clinical development, particularly with animal model development and toxicology; a broad understanding of vaccine development and how non-clinical data can support clinical development, regulatory approval and licensure; and ability to work within the principles of NC3Rs. An understanding of the constraints of studies conducted in high-containment is desirable.
  • Clinical immunology – development, qualification, and validation of immunological assays and interpretation of related results.
    • Requires specific experience in qualification of serum-based ELISA, antigen-specific assay development, and/or cytokine profiling. Experience in compiling scientific reports for regulatory agencies is desirable.
  • Epidemiology – design, implementation, and analysis of epidemiological studies for infectious diseases as it relates to outbreak-prone diseases, specifically in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
    • Requires specific experience in a variety of designs, such as incidence and seroprevalence studies, vaccine evaluation, cross-sectional studies, infectious disease surveillance, and outbreak response. Experience in the following epidemiology-related areas is desirable: vaccine development and evaluation, clinical trials, laboratory methodology specifically for WHO priority pathogens, national infectious disease surveillance, and outbreak response in LMIC.
  • Diagnostics for use in LMIC – diagnostic testing for CEPI’s priority diseases (this includes COVID-19 and excludes Ebola) in their respective affected geographic areas.
    • Requires specific experience in contributing to technical specifications, technology development and target disease adaptation, laboratory and field validation, and/or guiding product development to approval for clinical use. Experts are expected to support CEPI in addressing the diagnostic needs that are critical for development of its vaccine portfolio in the setting of creating an impactful partnership with other organizations specializing in diagnostics development.
  • Systems immunology and bioinformatics – build novel bioinformatic tools which can help to define the safety and efficacy of CEPI’s vaccine programs and identify correlates of protection; and refine exploratory research objectives to maximize insight into mechanisms of immunological protection for target diseases, and reactogenicity for vaccine candidates.
    • Requires specific experience in defining exploratory research objectives, study designs, methodological approaches for exploring innate, humoral or cellular responses, and bioinformatics approaches to identify and validate molecular, immunological, and/or clinical signatures of vaccine efficacy.


CIHR-III champions equity, diversity, and inclusion as a means to support excellence in research, training, and knowledge mobilization. Therefore, we encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in science such as women and racial and ethnic minorities, to apply.

Each grant will require a Canadian Nominated Principal Applicant who must be an independent mid-career researcher (i.e., at the time of application, has assumed their independent research position 5-15 years ago). The applicant must have successfully completed one of the sex- and gender-based analysis online training modules through the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health that is most applicable to their research concept.

Co-Development Process

To support the strategic objectives of this funding opportunity, talented applicants with the greatest potential to thrive in the CEPI collaboration will be identified by peer reviewers. Along with high-level details for a research concept within one or more of the research areas, applicants must provide evidence of their experience, expertise and collaboration that align with CEPI’s mission and priority diseases. After the Notice of Decision has been received, successful applicants will collaborate with CEPI through a co-development process to finalize a detailed project plan that will be mutually beneficial for both parties. Applicants will conduct the experimental work in their host institution and will be integrated into the CEPI Project Team for hands-on experience and insight into CEPI’s vaccine development and manufacturing efforts, active portfolio management, collaborative approach, and ongoing evaluation of lessons learned.

Funds Available

  • The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $2,400,000, enough to fund up to six (6) grants.
  • The minimum amount available for each CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Vaccine Research grant is $200,000 per year for up to two (2) years, for a minimum available total of $400,000.
    • The maximum amount per grant from CIHR is $100,000 and the minimum amount from CEPI is $100,000 per year for up to two (2) years. CEPI will assess the financial needs of the project with the successful applicants during the project co-development stage and may provide more funds if deemed necessary, on a case-by-case basis.
    • Of note, combined totals may vary, depending on the amount requested by the applicant and/or if CEPI provides more than $100,000 per year for the grant.

Anticipated Timelines

Launch February 16, 2021
Webinar March 4, 2021 (1 pm ET)
Application Deadline April 20, 2021
Funding Start Date November 1, 2021

Contact Information

For questions about this strategic initiative and research objectives, please contact:

CIHR Contact Centre
Telephone: 613-954-1968
Toll Free: 1-888-603-4178

For further information about CEPI, please contact:

Mike Whelan
Project Leader, CEPI

Disclaimer: The information contained in this pre-announcement of the CIHR-CEPI Leadership Award for Excellence in Vaccine Research for Infectious Diseases of Epidemic Potential funding opportunity is subject to change and does not commit CIHR or partners to the requirements outlined in this version. The final funding opportunity is anticipated to be published by CIHR in the Funding Opportunity Database in ResearchNet in February 2021.

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