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2023 Testing Molecular Hypotheses in Human Subjects

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The mission of Sarafan ChEM-H is to understand human biology at a molecular level and to engineer molecules, materials and tools that will impact human health. A key limiting factor for testing molecular hypotheses or evaluating promising new tools in humans is the establishment of productive connections between molecular scientists/engineers who have access to innovative tools and practicing clinicians with access to sick or healthy cohorts of human subjects. To facilitate such collaborations, Sarafan ChEM-H is soliciting brief proposals from small teams of clinicians and scientists/engineers who seek to undertake exploratory studies involving human subjects.

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Through this funding mechanism, Sarafan ChEM-H seeks to support collaborative projects that will test a molecular hypothesis in human subjects or validate the utility of a new tool in the diagnosis or management of a disease.

Proposals in any disease area will be considered, but research that leverages the Project BIG biorepository, focuses on EGFR-driven lung cancer, or relates to stem cell biology is especially welcome.


All application materials must be received by 11:59 pm, Friday, September 29, 2023. Seed grant recipients will be notified by November 15, 2023.


Each application must identify at least one clinical and at least one laboratory- based co-investigator. Stanford faculty with UTL, UML, NTLR and CE faculty appointments are eligible. CEs should provide a note from their Chair or Division Chief with their application stating that the Department/Division will cover salary support for time devoted to the project. Each team must consist of at least one junior faculty member (e.g. assistant professor, associate professor). Investigators who received funding in the previous cycle of the Sarafan ChEM-H Testing Molecular Hypotheses in Human Subjects seed grants, are ineligible for the current award.

Support Provided:

Support will be provided in the form of up to $50,000 in direct costs for study-related expenses. Applications should clearly justify supplies, consumables, biobanking costs, etc. Faculty and clinician time cannot be supported on this award. Support requested beyond $50,000 must be extensively justified and cannot be used to support personnel expenses.

About Project BIG:

Project BIG is a translational research initiative that provides annotated human tissue to scientists across the bench-to-bedside divide, to catalyze discovery of the immunopathology and causal mechanisms of immune-mediated neurologic disease, including Multiple Sclerosis and related neuroimmune diseases. Project BIG physicians collect tissue samples from consenting patients seen in the clinics and hospital, such as whole blood, cerebrospinal fluid, and stool samples. Samples are then curated according to disease state: such as during disease exacerbation paired with a subsequent sample from the same individual later in remission, or within a given patient longitudinally over time. Available samples are paired with clinical findings, advanced imaging metrics, and patient reported outcomes. The requisite efforts of clinical research coordination is off-loaded from your budget and funded by Project BIG. Our BIG team works with your lab, Fellow, post-doc or designated contact to help with identification, accession and delivery. Based on the theory of PI Jeffrey Dunn, MD that neuroimmune diseases are unique to humans, best assessed during the unpredictable and often narrow window of immunopathological flare, and that the confounding effect of disease heterogeneity is best limited by assessing a subject's status according to disease state or over time, Project BIG offers a uniquely valuable human tissue bank specifically built and designed for scientific collaboration; and a promising path forward toward the discovery of disease mechanism, biomarker identification, or elucidation of therapeutic targets that can advance personalized medicine and human health.

More information can be found at: 

Application Instructions:

Submit one PDF file containing the following in the order indicated below. All documents should be single-spaced, Arial 11 point font with 0.5” margins.

  • Title page (1 page)
    • “Testing Molecular Hypotheses in Human Subjects – 2022 Request for Proposals”
    • Project Title
    • For each clinician and basic science co-investigator:
      • Name, department, address, phone number, email address
  • Proposal (5 pages max total including references)
    • Project narrative and figures that explain the background and aims of the clinical research project. Aims must be achievable within 6-12 months. Describe the significance and innovation of the hypothesis and aims as well as pitfalls and alternative strategies (4 pages max)
    • A statement on the roles and expertise of each co-applicant and how they combine to further the project goal (1 page max)
    • References
  • Budget 
    • Requested funding amount (up to $50,000) 
  • Budget Justification
    • Describe how the proposed research justifies the requested budget. Include consumables. 
  • NIH Format Biosketch for each investigator

You will also be asked to include a lay audience summary (200 words) with a description of proposed research, aimed at a general audience. If your proposal is successful, this summary will appear in print and digital communications, including on the Sarafan ChEM-H website. Please ensure that no confidential information is included.

Applications should be submitted directly to Sarafan ChEM-H. You do not need to submit your applications to your Research Process Manager (RPM) in RMG or through your Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) Contract and Grant officer (CGO) for their approval at this time. Selected projects will be required to submit PDRFs via the SERA system to set up University Research Awards.

All application materials must be submitted to Sarafan ChEM-H through the SlideRoom portal.

Apply Here

Selection Process & Review Criteria:

Proposals will be reviewed by a faculty panel knowledgeable in clinical research. Review criteria:

  • Proposal’s potential to advance the molecular understanding, diagnosis, or management of a disease in human subjects
  • Use of human subjects or samples
  • Achievable aims within 6-12 months 
  • Clear description of anticipated pitfalls and alternative approaches


For questions related to this RFP, please contact:
Rebecca McClellan, PhD
Scientific Program Manager, Research Development and Communications
Sarafan ChEM-H