McKnight Brain Research Foundation Innovator Awards in Cognitive Aging and Memory Loss

Funding Agency:
American Federation for Aging Research

The McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) and the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) will provide up to two 3-year awards of $750,000 (USD) each to advanced Assistant Professors and recently appointed Associate Professors (MDs and PhDs.) One award will be made to support studies focusing on clinical translational research and another award toward understanding basic biological mechanisms underlying cognitive aging and age-related memory loss.

The major goal of the program is to identify emerging scientific leaders by building a cadre of outstanding research scientists across the United States to lead transformative research in the field of cognitive aging.

The program targets full-time independent investigators at the rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor (or equivalent) with established independent research programs who have already demonstrated a firm commitment to cognitive aging research. It will add substantial start-up support for a period of three years to help these investigators develop and/or expand an outstanding research program in cognitive aging and memory loss.

One award will be made to support innovative studies focusing on clinical translational research and another will support innovative studies of basic biological mechanisms underlying cognitive aging and age-related memory loss. It is expected that the proposed research will yield transformative discoveries and thus proposals are invited that are high risk/high gain in nature and that would be less suitable for conventional sources of funding. For example, this support could be deployed towards conducting a pilot clinical trial, developing proof-of concept interventions to ameliorate age associated cognitive impairment, gather preclinical data to accelerate testing of potential interventions, and further study the mechanistic basis of age-associated cognitive impairment in relevant experimental models with a view to identifying novel treatment targets. Scientists proposing to pursue basic research should clearly articulate the potential of their findings to be translated into clinically relevant strategies, and/or treatments. Research studies at the intersection of age-associated cognitive changes and disease-related cognitive impairment may be considered if a strong case can be made for their relevance to cognitive aging and age-related memory loss. However, research that is primarily focused on neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) will not be supported.

The application deadline is July 31, 2023.

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible, the applicant must:

  • Have completed research training prior to the beginning of this award (October 1, 2023):
    o PhD candidates: no more than 7 years from the completion of formal post-doctoral research training post-PhD,
    o MD or combined degree candidates: no more than 12 years from the date when finished residency.
  • Be an independent investigator at the rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor (appointed no earlier than October 1, 2020), who has received R01 funding (or equivalent funding such as an NIH DP5, R35 or NSF Research awards.)
  • Be tenure-track faculty or equivalent in an academic or non-profit institution with evidence of long-term institutional support as indicated by commitment of resources including independent laboratory space, start-up research funds and personnel. Candidates not in a tenure-track position are also eligible and should demonstrate similar evidence of long-term institutional support and not be in a time-limited appointment.
  • Have a proven track record of research accomplishments in cognitive aging as indicated by their publications in high-impact journals, awards, and other metrics of peer recognition.
  • Be in full time employment at an academic or non-profit research institution in the United States.



Amount Description

Two 3-year awards of $750,000 (USD) each will be made in 2023, of which a maximum of 10% may be used for indirect expenses or institutional overhead. To demonstrate a commitment to the investigator, the institution is asked to support the investigator’s project through matching funds. The investigator needs to identify 50% in matching funds, which can only be from non-federal funds, and cannot be used by more than one project. This could be cash and/or in-kind matching, and can include faculty effort, and goods and services paid from departmental funds. For an in-kind match, the selection committee will determine whether this is equivalent to a monetary match.

Funding Type



Junior Faculty


Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational

External Deadline

July 31, 2023