Call for Proposals for Multinational and Translational Research Projects on Cerebrovascular Diseases including Small Vessels and Brain Barriers Dysfunction

Submission deadline for pre-proposals: 08 March 2022, 14:00 CET

For further information please call NEURON Joint Call Secretariat:
Dr Waed Khalek (Agence Nationale de La Recherche, FRANCE), Phone: + 33 1 72 73 06 73, E-Mail: NeuronCalls@agencerecherche.fr


1. Purpose

Maintenance, improvement, and restoration of human health are of fundamental importance and a worldwide priority. Neurological disorders are major causes of death, morbidity, and long-term disability. Among the neurological disorders, cerebrovascular diseases contribute more than half of the burden in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS) and 85% of deaths associated to neurological conditions, globally. Stroke represents by itself the second leading cause of death and accounts for 143 million DALYS worldwide in 2019; with increasing figures towards 2030. The relative contribution to health burden of these neurological disorders is near twice as important in Europe as compared to other regions in the world representing 45 billion euros of expenditure including care and a heavy societal burden.

Although the pathophysiological mechanisms leading to specific cerebrovascular diseases are not completely understood, changes of cerebral small vessels and the malfunction of brain barriers as well as other changes such as immune responses have been identified as conditions frequently associated to the development of stroke and vascular cognitive dysfunction. Focussed translational research in these areas is thus a priority in order to promote healthy living in Europe and worldwide.

The 'Network of European Funding for Neuroscience Research' (NEURON) has been established under the ERA-NET scheme of the European Commission (www.neuron-eranet.eu). The aim of the ERA-NET NEURON is to coordinate and optimize research efforts and funding programmes of its partner countries in the field of mental, neurological, and sensory disorders. Under the umbrella of NEURON, a joint transnational call (JTC 2022) in the field of cerebrovascular diseases is now launched. The following funding organisations have agreed to fund the joint call for multinational research projects in this scientific area. The call will be conducted simultaneously by the funding organisations in their respective countries and co-ordinated centrally by the Joint Call Secretariat.

  • Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique-FNRS (F.R.S.-FNRS) - Belgium*
  • Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO) - Belgium
  • Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS) - Canada
  • Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia (MZO) - Croatia
  • Estonian Research Council (ETAg) - Estonia
  • French National Research Agency (ANR) - France
  • Federal ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) - Germany
  • German Research Foundation (DFG) - Germany
  • National Research, Development and Innovation Office - Hungary
  • Chief Scientist Office, Ministry of Health (CSO-MOH) - Israel*
  • Ministry of Health (MOH) - Italy
  • State Education Development Agency (VIAA) - Latvia
  • Latvian Council of Science (LCS) - Latvia
  • The Research Council of Norway (RCN) - Norway
  • National Centre for Research and Development (NCBR) - Poland
  • Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development & Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI) - Romania
  • Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) - Slovakia
  • National Institute of Health Carlos III (ISCIII) - Spain
  • Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) - Spain
  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) - Switzerland*
  • Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) - Taiwan
  • The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) - Turkey*

* Countries with parallel national application procedures or extra requirements for submission. We strongly recommend contacting the respective funding organisation for further information (contacts, see Annex I).

2. Aim and scope of the call

The aim of the call is to facilitate multinational, collaborative research projects that will address important translational questions in the areas of stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases including small vessels disease (CSVD) and the dysfunction of brain barriers.
CSVD is a chronic, progressive disorder of cerebral micro vessels. The pathophysiological mechanisms of CSVD are largely unknown and diagnosis intervenes frequently at late stages of the disease.
Brain barriers (blood brain barrier but also arachnoid, leptomeningeal, lymphatics, glymphatics, choroid Plexus, endothelial and cerebrospinal fluid barriers) are dynamic morphological and physiological structures separating the brain parenchyma from the surrounding blood circuit. Their main function is to protect the nervous system from direct exposure to the continuous changing milieu in the bloodstream as well as toxic or infectious agents. Changes in the permeability or integrity of the brain barriers have been increasingly recognized as important contributors to cerebrovascular diseases, including stroke. The function and interactions of the different components of the brain barriers are largely unknown. In consequence, the pathophysiological mechanisms leading to their dysfunction in the context of cerebrovascular diseases are poorly described, to this day.
The present call aims to fund preclinical and clinical research addressing the pathophysiology and therapeutic developments for stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases. Proposals relating CSVD and the dysfunction of brain barriers to cerebrovascular disease are encouraged. Research areas may cover a broad range of aspects associated with cerebrovascular disease such as genetic, epigenetic, molecular mechanism of disease. Neuroinflammatory processes often play an important role in cerebrovascular diseases and are included in the call. The development of preventive, diagnostic or therapeutic approaches including pharmacological studies (e.g. on drug target identification) and technological developments based on pathophysiological mechanisms are within the scope of the call.
The call will accept research proposals ranging from understanding basic mechanisms of cerebrovascular disease and brain barriers dysfunctions through proof-of-concept clinical studies in humans¹.
The NEURON funding organisations particularly wish to promote multidisciplinary work and translational research proposals that combine basic, clinical and/or technological approaches. The consortia should submit novel, ambitious ideas that can only be achieved by the complementary collaboration between partners.
Research proposals should cover at least one of the following areas:

a) Fundamental research addressing the pathogenesis, aetiology, progression, treatment, and prevention of cerebrovascular diseases including CSVD as well as basic research to elucidate the role of brain barriers on cerebrovascular diseases. This may include the development of innovative or shared resources and technologies including computational and statistical tools, as considered of relevance in the context of this call.

b) Clinical research to develop novel strategies for prevention (including secondary prevention), diagnosis, patient stratification, therapy and/or rehabilitation for cerebrovascular diseases

Applicants should demonstrate that they have the expertise and range of skills required to conduct the study including already established collaborations.
The translational value for human disease must be clearly addressed in the proposals. If used, the choice of the animal model must be justified in the context of the human pathology. The development of new animal or cell models is only allowed if an appropriate model is not available and must be justified.
Clinical studies are eligible up to the point of proof of concept. Multimodal and multicentre clinical studies are highly encouraged. The establishment of large patient cohorts will not be funded by NEURON, but the use of existing cohorts, brain banks and exploitation of existing data sets are eligible. Appropriate access to relevant, well-characterized patient populations or suitable biomaterial collections must be demonstrated. The proposal should describe plans to make data available for the research and clinical communities. If relevant, it is recommended that the appropriate European infrastructures are contacted early in the planning of the projects, the following are potentially of interest for the applicants to this call: EATRIS-ERIC (focused on translational medicine), BBMRI-ERIC (focused on biobanking), EBRAINS (focussed on data and tools for brain-related research) and ELIXIR (focused on data sharing).
The following research areas are excluded from this call:

  • Neurodegenerative disorders that are addressed by the EU Joint Programme – Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND)².
  • Proposals focussed primarily on cardiological or metabolic causes or comorbidities (i.e. diabetes, obesity, Covid-19/long Covid) to cerebrovascular diseases.

The ERA-NET NEURON seeks to strengthen patient engagement in research. All applications should include a description of expected outcomes with potential relevance for patients. Applicants are expected to engage patients, their parents or carers and or associations as appropriate in the research process. Meaningful patient engagement can occur at the level of research planning, conducting research or the dissemination of research results. Patient representatives will assess patient engagement aspects of the selected full proposals.

¹ Eligibility and funding requirements for clinical trials vary between the partner countries. Clarification may be obtained from the individual funding organisations
² Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative dementias, Parkinson’s disease (PD) and PD-related disorders, Prion disease, Motor neuron diseases, Huntington’s disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Spinal muscular atrophy

3. Application

3.1 Eligibility

Joint transnational research proposals may be submitted by research teams working in universities (or other higher education institutions), non-university public or private research organisations, hospitals or foundations, as well as in commercial companies, particularly small and medium-size enterprises. The eligibility of the afore-mentioned institutions, together with details of eligible costs (e.g. personnel, material, consumables, travel money, investments), are subject to the administrative requirements of individual funding organisations and will therefore differ. Please note that, for some funding organisations, commercial companies are not eligible or are only eligible under certain conditions (e.g. only in partnership with academic institutions in the consortium). Clarification should be obtained from the individual funding organisations (see contact details below). It is strongly recommended to read carefully the country specific information regarding eligibility and funding and to contact the respective funding organisations, since additional national/regional procedures might be mandatory.
Only transnational projects will be funded. Each consortium submitting a proposal must be comprised of a minimum of three research partners eligible for funding by organisations listed in this call text (see above). Involvement of early career researchers (ECRs)³ as consortium partners is highly encouraged and will be part of the evaluation criteria (see section 4). The eligible research partners must be from at least three different participating countries. The total number of research partners in a consortium is limited to five, including partners participating with their own expenses. No more than two consortium partners can be from the same country.

The ERA-NET NEURON strives to strengthen a global Brain Research Area by including as many partner countries as possible in its funding scheme. Therefore, consortia including at least one partner from countries that are to date underrepresented in this funding scheme (Latvia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Turkey) may increase the total number of partners to six.
Applicant partners who are not eligible for funding from their national funding organisations or from countries that are not involved in this call, may participate in consortia only if a) their participation clearly provides an added value to the consortium, and b) they have secured budget for their part in the project. Such potential partners are not considered in the minimum number of three research partners mentioned above. In any case, the total number of research partners in one consortium must not exceed five, or six, if partners from the underrepresented countries (listed above) are included.

Each consortium should have the critical mass to achieve ambitious scientific goals and should clearly demonstrate added value from working together. Each consortium must nominate a coordinator who represents the consortium externally and is responsible for its internal management (e.g. the application procedure, coordination of consortium agreement drafting, Data Management Plan, reporting). The consortium coordinator must be eligible for funding by one of the organisations listed in this call text.
A single proposal must be submitted by the consortium coordinator to the NEURON Joint Call Secretariat. The individual research partners in a consortium will be funded by the NEURON funding organisation(s) of their respective countries. Eligibility criteria are the matter of individual partner funding organisations and additional national/regional regulations and requirements may apply.

Inclusion of a research partner that is not eligible for funding according to the specific regulations of its respective funding organisation may result in the rejection of the entire proposal without further review. Therefore, applicants are strongly advised to follow the instructions contained in the country-specific eligibility tables, which are published on the NEURON website and to contact their national/regional funding organisation to confirm eligibility rules before submitting a proposal.

Only projects that fulfil the legal and ethical international/EU regulations (including ethical standards and guidelines in Horizon EUROPE) as well as national and institutional standards will be funded. All proposed activities including those undertaken in countries outside the EU must comply with EU regulations (see Annex I of the full proposal). Ethical approval and/or a positive vote must be obtained from the relevant national or local ethics committee(s) prior to the start of respective studies. The obtainment of ethical clearance will be queried by ERA-NET NEURON. All procedures involving human beings must conform to the Helsinki Declaration.

³ 4-7 years of experience since completion of PhD or medical specialization diploma at the date of the launch of this call and a scientific track record showing great promise. Allowed extensions 18 months maternity leave, duration of paternity leave, duration of long-term illness or national service, duration of clinical training with a maximum of 4 years). Please check the 4-7 years of experience since completion of PhD or medical specialization diploma at the date of the launch of this call and a scientific track record showing great promise. Allowed extensions 18 months maternity leave, duration of paternity leave, duration of long-term illness or national service, duration of clinical training with a maximum of 4 years). Please check the country specific regulations for the national eligibility criteria that apply.

3.2 Submission of joint transnational proposals

There will be a two-stage procedure for joint applications: pre-proposals and full proposals. In both cases, one joint proposal document (in English) shall be prepared by the partners of a joint transnational proposal, and must be submitted to the Joint Call Secretariat by one spokesperson, the coordinator.

Pre-proposals must be submitted in electronic format no later than 08 March, 2022 (14:00 CET) via the electronic submission system. All fields must be completed using DIN-A4; font: Arial, 10pt; single-spaced, page limits. Pre-proposals that do not meet the formal criteria will be rejected from the call process without any further review.

NOTE: Full proposals submissions will be accepted only from those applicants explicitly invited by the Joint Call Secretariat.

The information given in the pre-proposal is binding. Thus, any fundamental changes between the pre- and full proposals stages concerning the composition of the consortia, objectives of the project or requested budget must be communicated to the Joint Call Secretariat and approved by the respective funding organisations with detailed justifications and will only be allowed in exceptional cases by the Call Steering Committee, before passing to the evaluation stage.

3.3 Further information

For further details, please refer to the respective submission forms available through the NEURON website. If you need additional information, please contact the Joint Call Secretariat. Finally, national organisations may set special requirements for their applicants. Applicants are, therefore, strongly advised to review the instructions contained in the country-specific information (PDF) that are published on the NEURON website and to contact their national/regional funding organisation for further information (see Annex I for contact details).

4. Evaluation and decision

The review process will be in two stages.

4.1 Formal check of pre- and full proposals

The Joint Call Secretariat will check the proposals to ensure that they meet the call’s formal criteria (e.g. date of submission; number of participating partners and countries; inclusion of all necessary information according to the respective templates in English). The Joint Call Secretariat will also forward the proposals to the national/regional funding organisations, which will perform a formal and eligibility check of compliance with their respective regulations.

The Joint Call Secretariat and national/regional funding organisations will perform cross-checks in parallel submissions to other joint transnational calls (e.g. EJP RD, JPND, EuroNanoMed, ERAPerMed and others) and national calls. Applicants shall avoid applying for the same research activities to different calls. Double funding is not allowed.

Proposals not meeting the formal criteria described above will be rejected at this stage. Proposals passing this step will be forwarded to the Peer Review Panel for evaluation.

4.2 Peer-review of pre- and full proposals

The reviewers will assess if the projects are within the scope of the call and evaluate them using the following criteria:

  1. Excellence
    • Scientific quality of the approach and methodology
    • Quality of the experimental design and data analysis
    • Novelty of the scientific concept/hypotheses
    • Competence and experience of participating research partners in the field(s) of the proposal (previous work in the field, specific technical expertise)
  2. Impact
    • Potential impact of the expected results on clinical and other health related applications
    • Added-value of transnational collaboration
    • Inclusion of early career researchers (ECRs)
    • Potential impact for patients; ethical aspects.
  3. Quality and efficiency of the implementation
    • Feasibility of the project
    • Coherence and effectiveness of the work plan, including appropriateness of the allocation of tasks, resources, time-frame and related risk analysis
    • Quality and added-value of collaborative and multi-disciplinary interactions within the consortium
    • Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures

4.3 Decision

4.3.1 Pre-proposals

Eligible pre-proposals will be reviewed using the above-mentioned evaluation criteria via a written (remote) peer review process. Preferably, each pre-proposal will be reviewed by at least three reviewers. Based on the scores in the written reviews a ranking list will be established. By mid-May 2022, the coordinators of the selected proposals will be invited by the Joint Call Secretariat to submit a full proposal before 28th June 2022 (14:00 CEST).

4.3.2 Full proposals

The international Peer Review Panel will evaluate the full proposals based on the above-mentioned evaluation criteria and establish a ranking list based on scientific assessment at the panel meeting. Additionally, expert patient reviewers will assess the patient relevant aspects of the full proposals and an Ethics board will give recommendations on the ethical aspects of the full proposals. A short list of proposals will be identified as recommended for funding based on the ranking list. The Call Steering Committee will determine the projects to be funded, taking into account the national budgets’ availability.

5. Funding procedure / Responsibilities / Reporting requirements

5.1 Funding procedure

Successful research groups will be funded directly by the respective funding organisations.

Funding is expected to start by early to mid 2023. Projects should be designed to be achievable during a maximum funding period of three years.

Funding will be administered according to the terms and conditions of the responsible funding organisations, taking into account all other applicable regulations and legal requirements.

5.2 Responsibilities

Within a joint proposal, each research partner will be the contact person for the respective national/regional funding organisation. The coordinators of funded projects together with the relevant funding organisations shall make every effort to seek a common start date for all research groups in the consortium.

After the evaluation and selection procedures are completed, each funded consortium is required to draft a Consortium Agreement (CA) and a data management plan (DMP). The CA will determine a common project start date, manage the delivery of project activities, finances and intellectual property rights (IPR), and avoid disputes that might be detrimental to the completion of the project. With the first annual report the coordinator must provide the DMP and the CA signed by all parties to the Joint Call Secretariat. Please note that additional national rules might require the documents before the start of the project to release funds, please refer to the country specific information section.

5.3 Reporting Requirements

On behalf of the research consortium, the consortium coordinator will be required to submit to the Joint Call Secretariat annual scientific progress reports, as well as a final report at the end of the project. Additionally, the individual partners may be required to submit reports separately to their national funding organisation. In that case, reporting guidance will be forwarded by the relevant funding organisation, as applicable.

Annual reports must be submitted by April, 30, starting in 2024. Final reports must be submitted at the latest six months after the end of the project. Annual reports do not need to be submitted if the project ends between January and March on the last year. In the latter case, the submission of a final report three months after the end of the project will suffice.

Partners may be granted runtimes of different start and/or duration according to national funders’ decision. It is the task of the coordinators to determine, in agreement with the consortia, a formal end date for project completion; usually the latest end date of individual national contracts. Coordinators will be informed about this procedure by the Joint Call Secretariat and will receive the report templates in due course.

The coordinators will be asked to present a progress report during a Midterm symposium. The attendance is mandatory for all coordinators and project partners. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in administrative and/or financial sanctions according to the rules of each funding organisation. Early-career researchers working on the projects are welcome to join the midterm symposium. Accordingly, travel expenses to attend the symposium should be considered in the proposal budget plans.

Funding recipients must ensure that all outcomes (publications, etc.) of transnational NEURON projects include a proper acknowledgement of ERA-NET NEURON and the respective funding partner organisations. All the publications resulting from funded projects must be published in adherence to the EC Open Science Policy.

5.4 General data protection regulation

Applicants are informed that their personal data submitted in their application to the call are processed in accordance with article 6.1 (e) and (c) of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2016/679) , and for the purposes of

  • processing and evaluating the application where processing shall be lawful only if and to the extent that processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller;
  • administering any subsequent funding award;
  • managing the funding organisations relationship with them;
  • analysing and evaluating the call;
  • providing aggregate data to national and European surveys and analyses on the funded projects; and

The Call Steering Committee may share applicant’s data with third parties (some of which may be based outside the European Economic Area ) in relation to the above activities including evaluators, auditors and the European Commission (or its agencies).

Call Timetable

Pre-proposal stage (I)

  • December 14, 2021: Preliminary Announcement of the Joint Transnational Call
  • January 07, 2022: Launch of the Joint Transnational Call
  • March 08, 2022: Deadline (submission of pre-proposals) 14:00 CET
  • May 20, 2022: Formal invitation to submit a full proposal

Full proposal stage (II)

  • June 28, 2022: Deadline (submission of full proposals) 14:00 CEST
  • September, 2022: Peer Review Panel meeting to assess the full proposals
  • October-November, 2022: Final funding decision by the CSC and start of national administrative procedures
  • Early- Mid 2023: Start of funding