Pratiksha Trust EMSTAR

Pratiksha Trust Extra-Mural Support for Transformational Aging Brain Research (EMSTAR)

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EMSTAR (Pratiksha Trust Extra-Mural Support for Transformational Aging Brain Research)  

The Pratiksha Trust, a charitable organization, founded by Dr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, Axilor Ventures; Co-Founder, Infosys; and Mrs. Sudha Gopalakrishnan

Up to INR 5 Crores over 5 years (per grant), with an average outlay of INR 1 Crore per year; the number of grants awarded per year will depend purely on scientific merit and competition within the cohort of applications received.

The Centre for Brain Research (CBR) will play a facilitatory role to coordinate this program with the help of an external screening committee for the initial screening of preliminary applications and an external selection committee for the final selection of awards.

EMSTAR aims to promote cutting-edge research to advance the understanding of normal and pathological aging of the brain. The program will support basic research on brain aging as well as cohort studies and projects with translational value for early diagnosis, prevention, postponement, evidence-based interventions, and effective management of neurodegenerative disorders of the elderly population.  

High-risk, high-reward projects with tangible impact and that necessitate multi-disciplinary approaches and innovations will be particularly encouraged. The program is also expected to serve as an opportunity for experts in other disciplines such as immunology, epidemiology, data science, AIML, and engineering to adapt their skill sets and participate in visionary collaborations to delve into research on brain aging and neurodegeneration.

To be eligible to compete for funding, the proposal must be in one or more of the following focus areas of research:

1. Understanding dementia from molecular, cellular, and systems standpoints

2. Longitudinal cohort studies in rural and urban India to study the aging brain

3. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science approaches to decipher normal and pathological brain aging

4. The role of hitherto less explored systems, such as the gut microbiome, in neurodegeneration, with a focus on dementia

5. Immunity-nervous system crosstalk in the context of neurodegeneration, particularly dementia.

(i) Investigators

Motivated and outstanding researchers, who have expertise and a keen interest in cutting-edge research and innovation on brain aging and meet the criteria listed below, are eligible to apply.

Each grant must have a Principal Investigator (PI) and at least one Co-Investigator (Co-I).

The Principal Investigator (PI)

  • must hold a PhD/MD/MBBS-MS/MPH/equivalent degree
  • must have demonstrated experience in leading a research group
  • must hold a record of achievements commensurate with their career stage
  • must have a salaried academic or research position (or the guarantee of a salaried position) at an eligible host institution in India for the entire duration of the grant.

Each Co-Investigator (Co-I)

  • must hold a PhD/MD/MBBS-MS/MPH/equivalent degree
  • must have demonstrated experience in leading research projects
  • must hold a record of achievements commensurate with their career stage
  • may be based in India or abroad

The Principal and Co-Investigators would be expected to have salaried positions at their host institutions.

There are no age, gender, or nationality-based restrictions for any of the investigators. An individual may not participate (as PI or Co-I) in more than one application in a given round of competition.

(ii) Institutions

The proposal may involve a single institution or multiple institutions. The Principal Investigator and Co-Investigators must be based at not-for-profit institutions (academic research institutes, universities, public health research institutes, medical research institutions including primary, secondary, and tertiary health centres, etc.) that are financially eligible and equipped to administer extramural grants. The primary host institution (i.e., of the PI) must be in India. In case any Co-I is based at an overseas institution, regulatory approvals that may be needed for the collaboration and material transfer (if applicable) must be highlighted.

At the full application stage, the heads/competent authorities of the host institutions must guarantee that the investigators will be provided with all support (including but not limited to access to space and resources, administrative help, and logistic support) required to carry out the proposed research if awarded. Such endorsement certificates must be furnished by all participating institutions.

Any number of applications from an institution may be submitted provided they are from different investigators.

The budgetary cap for each grant is INR 5 Crores for its entire duration (5 years); proposals for projects of shorter duration will be deemed ineligible. The grant will be disbursed in annual installments with each tranche normally not exceeding INR 1 Crore.

The budget is expected to be in line with the research project’s requirements; it may include recurring costs (personnel costs, materials, consumables, access charges, animal costs, clinical costs, participant allowances, publication charges, etc.), non-recurring costs (equipment not exceeding a total value of INR 1 Crore, software, etc.), travel allowances to attend scientific meetings, contingency, and indirect costs (up to 10% of the budget as institutional overheads) to cover all expenditure related to the execution of the sanctioned research project. Research management costs, if needed, have to be accounted for in the budget. However, funds may not be requested for the purpose of creating physical spaces such as laboratories, facilities, or offices.

The grant allows flexibility in fund utilization as long as the requested costs and expenditure plans are commensurate with the proposed research project and supported by strong scientific justification.

Important: The grant will be provided only to the primary host institution (i.e., the PI’s institution). The primary host institution is expected to devise an appropriate mechanism for fund distribution, if required, to the other participating institutions.

Based on strong justification, grantees may be allowed the flexibility to carry forward unutilized funds (at the end of the financial year) to the subsequent financial year. Unspent funds, if any, at the end of the grant (including the interest component) must be returned to the funding organization.

Applications will be sought through an annual call and evaluated for competitiveness within the cohort.

In response to a time-bound request for applications that will be announced on https://www.cbr.iisc.ac.in/emstar, applicants may submit preliminary applications in the prescribed format by email to emstar.cbr@iisc.ac.in. The preliminary application would include an abstract (~1000 words) outlining the proposed research, details of the team composition, and information on the host institutions. Evidence of successful collaboration on other projects (completed or ongoing) may be provided. Only competitive preliminary applications that fit the remit and scope of the program will be invited to the full application stage. The decisions on preliminary applications will be taken by an external Screening Committee.

The full application would consist of a detailed research proposal (~5000 words) together with clearly articulated deliverables and milestones, a comprehensive budget with justification, undertakings, support letters, and auxiliary information such as plans for data management, communication, and public engagement. The full applications will be subjected to international peer review and presented to an external Selection Committee. The Selection Committee, comprising distinguished international experts, will shortlist the most competitive applications for an online interview. Shortlisted applicant teams that defend their proposals to the Committee’s satisfaction will be recommended for award. The Selection Committee’s decision will be final and binding.

Applications that are late, incomplete, or do not adhere to the guidelines will not be accepted. All documentation and other correspondence related to the proposal (during and after the application cycle) must be sent only to emstar.cbr@iisc.ac.in; applications or materials sent through other channels will not be processed. Hard copies are not required.

The preliminary application format is available here.

Applications will be subjected to rigorous evaluation to identify those deserving of funding. Preliminary applications will be assessed for eligibility and suitability in view of the program’s remit and scope.

Following is a list of some of the criteria based on which the full applications would be scrutinized by the Selection Committee.

  • Competence of the team as evidenced by relevant credentials
  • Alignment of the proposal with the mandate and vision of the Pratiksha Trust EMSTAR program
  • Value of the expected outcomes and tangible impact in the context of the program’s mandate
  • Novelty and technical innovation of the proposed research
  • Feasibility of the project, given the collective expertise and experience of the team
  • Scientific rigor of the proposed methods
  • Peer review feedback on the application
  • Performance at interview, if shortlisted

Applicants are strongly encouraged to include public engagement and awareness-raising initiatives among the project’s key deliverables. The project is also expected to offer well-defined training opportunities for students, postdocs, and other personnel supported by the grant.

The scientific progress of the funded projects will be reviewed on an annual basis by the Selection Committee. Towards this, each funded team will be required to submit a progress report in a prescribed format and may be requested to engage in discussion with the Committee in order to elucidate their accomplishments and future plans. From the end of year 2 onwards, continued funding will be contingent on a satisfactory review of the annual progress. Timely submission of spend reports and associated financial statements in prescribed formats on an annual basis at the end of the financial year will be prerequisite for continued funding.

Renewal or extension of the grant beyond the 5-year term may not be possible.

The 2022-23 competition cycle involves the following tentative timeline/deadlines.

Preliminary application submission21 November 2022, 11:59 PM IST
Decisions on preliminary applicationsDecember 2022
Full application submission (on invitation only)January 2023
Shortlisting decisions on full applicationsMarch 2023
Interviews of shortlisted applications and funding decisionsMarch 2023
Award activationApril 2023

Pratiksha Trust EMSTAR processes and policies are subject to revision; please visit this page regularly for updates. Queries may be addressed to emstar.cbr@iisc.ac.in.

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