(CLOSED) Allen Discovery Center for Neurobiology in Changing Environments

Sponsor Name: 
Allen Institute
Description of the Award: 

Please Note: While the Allen Institute does not limit the number of applications from any institution, this submission process has been set up to select the application that will receive the full endorsement and support from Foundation Relations and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

The nervous systems of organisms around the globe are coping with rapid and unpredictable change. Mechanistic understanding of the architecture and constraints of neurobiological components underlying key survival processes is insufficient for most species and hampers our ability to predict resilience and design high-impact mitigation and conservation investments.

This anthropogenic change in the environment provides “natural experiments” that could reveal molecular, cellular, and developmental elements underlying nervous system sensitivity and resilience and could (1) leverage existing or potentially new animal model systems particularly useful for cross-species comparative studies and (2) open opportunities for new technological approaches as probes.

Teams embracing the call will integrate the interdisciplinary expertise needed to connect neurobiological resilience capabilities with phenomenological observations. We expect competitive proposals will leverage existing field and neurobiological baseline data to reveal fundamental adaptation principles, employ innovative technology, use rigorous experimental methodology and analytical tools, and integrate expertise in fields including but not limited to control theory, engineering, and computation. Preference will be given to approaches that chart a course for others and shed light on the adaptive capacity of neural systems writ large.

Projects are encouraged to embrace complexity while strategically utilizing reductionist models. Less preference will be given to projects that focus on species in isolation, or that rely disproportionately on classical neurobiological or ecological approaches without significant integration. It is unlikely for this initiative to support projects with the primary goal of establishing a new model organism.

Program Goals

The Allen Discovery Centers are leadership-driven, compass-guided research centers, often created in partnership with major research organizations and universities. Ideally, a Center should be comprised of a highly functional, integrated, and creative team with productivity greater than the sum of its parts. A Center should seek to be a leader in the field, pioneering efforts that engage and drive the larger research community.

The Allen Discovery Center program offers a unique funding level and mechanism, allowing for a larger-scale impact on the field. The Centers embody our commitment to launching and fostering development of entire new fields in biology—with infinite potential to impact human knowledge and health. These Centers are long-term investments, typically providing $10 million for the first four years. The Centers may be evaluated for a potential second four-year funding phase based on research progress, future research plans, and attainment of $10 million in “matched” or leveraged funding (for a potential total scope of activity of $30 million over eight years). The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group have a 0% indirect cost policy.

The program seeks to have a lasting impact on the direction of research, aiming to serve as a catalyst upon which future research is founded. This program seeks to enable scientists to take risks with new ideas and approaches, and strongly believes in interdisciplinary approaches that allow scientists to look beyond their own disciplines, and to explore approaches with colleagues in other disciplines in order to bring new perspectives to challenging problems where traditional approaches within a discipline may be ‘stuck.’ The program is especially interested in approaches that are unlikely to receive funding from traditional government sources, including methodological and technological advances that are often necessary complements to scientific advance and often difficult to fund through traditional sources. This program encourages and supports researchers including novel methodological, theoretical, and technological elements in their proposals.

Eligibility Requirements

The Frontiers Group asks that the leader of an Allen Discovery Center commit 50% effort to the Center leadership and research activities. If the Center organizational structure has shared leadership, the expectation would be a commitment of 40% effort for the primary and a minimum of 25–30% effort for the other leaders given that acceptable descriptions of the shared leadership roles and an articulation of how such an organizational structure would work in practice are provided. If other organizational structures are being considered, please contact the Frontiers Group for further discussion.

Sponsor LOI Deadline: 
Sep 20, 2023
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jan 24, 2024
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

If you intend to submit complete the notification form to provide your contact information and the title and brief description of your project and team.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
Penn State OSVPR NOI Deadline: 
Wednesday, September 13, 2023 - 4:00pm
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
For help or questions: 

The Office of Foundation Relations at University Park is available to consult on proposal narrative elements and answer other foundation-related questions. Applicants should please contact Sophie Penney, Director, Foundation Relations (swp2@psu.edu) and/or Andrew Kuhn, Assistant Director, Foundation Relations (auk553@psu.edu) for additional support.

No Applicants