Operating Grant: Bringing Rare Disease Gene Therapies to Clinical Trial Readiness


Opportunity type:



Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Award amount and duration:

$284,375 per year for up to four years



For an application to be eligible at the LOI stage, all the requirements stated below must be met:

  1. The Nominated Principal Applicant (NPA) must be one of the following:
    1. an independent researcher affiliated with a Canadian postsecondary institution and/or its affiliated institutions (including hospitals, research institutes and other non-profit organizations with a mandate for health research and/or knowledge translation) at the time of funding.
    2. an individual affiliated with an Indigenous non-governmental organization in Canada with a research and/or knowledge translation mandate;
    3. an Indigenous non-governmental organization in Canada with a research and/or knowledge translation mandate.
  2. The NPA must have their substantive role in Canada for the duration of the requested grant term.
  3. The Institution Paid must be authorized to administer CIHR funds before the funding can be released (see Administration of Funds).
  4. The Research Team must include each of the following roles. Note that an individual can fulfill multiple roles.
    1. The research team must include an Early Career Researcher (ECR) identified as an NPA or Principal Applicant (PA).
    2. At least one project participant must be a knowledge user (including but not limited to decision makers, policy-makers, clinician scientists, health professionals) identified as Principal Knowledge User (PKU) or Knowledge User (KU).
    3. In addition to the Nominated Principal Applicant and Knowledge User, the team must include at least one patient/caregiver/family member in the role of PKU, KU or Co-Applicant as appropriate.
    4. The applicant team must have a Sex and Gender Champion and an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Champion as NPA, PA or Co-Applicant:
      1. Combined, the champions must have experience in (i) sex- and gender-based analysis (SGBA) or with gender diversity in the community; (ii) fostering EDI in research and/or applied settings (e.g., promoting equitable access to research participation or inclusion of typically underrepresented population groups in decision making), and (iii) creating Sex and Gender and EDI plans for diversity of team composition;
      2. These individuals may hold other roles within the team in addition to standing as the team's Sex and Gender and EDI champions;
      3. The Sex and Gender and EDI champion roles may be served by the same individual or different individuals.
    5. Any research involving Indigenous Peoples must include at least one applicant who self-identifies as Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) and/or provides evidence of the capacity and experience to work with Indigenous Peoples in a meaningful and culturally safe way (see How to Apply for more details).

In addition to the requirements listed above, for an application to be eligible for the full application stage:

  1. The NPA* and the Sex and Gender Champion, if different from the NPA, must have successfully completed one of the sex- and gender-based analysis training modules available online through the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health and submit a Certificate of Completion. Select and complete the training module most applicable to your project. Applicants are encouraged to review the page "How to integrate sex and gender in research" on the CIHR website.
    1. *Organizations as NPAs: For organizations applying as the NPA, a representative of the organization must complete the training module on the organization's behalf.
  2. The NPA must provide a signed Partner Letter from the NRC-HHT, confirming that the NRC-HHT collaborated with the applicant's team to prepare their application and that the NPA will have access to the NRC-HHT resources/expertise to perform the work proposed in the application (see How to Apply section).


This funding opportunity will support research to bridge the current gap between model organisms/systems and clinical trials for RD drugs in Canada, ultimately increasing the capacity to bring gene therapies to clinic. Key elements of this research will include:

  • Training and Capacity-Building: This funding opportunity will enhance training support by building capacity among knowledge users, patient(s)/caregiver(s)/family, and researchers from a diversity of population groups and across career stages to move gene therapies to clinical trials. This funding opportunity will foster interdisciplinary, inclusive, equitable and culturally safe training and mentoring environments.
  • Knowledge Mobilization: Research teams will be required to develop a knowledge mobilization plan that outlines the strategies that will be used for uptake of the implementation research undertaken by clinicians, patient groups, and policy makers, as they move toward clinical trial readiness.
  • National Research Council – Human Health Therapeutics (NRC-HHT)

This funding call represents a unique opportunity to maximize the value of various federal investments in preclinical research and biomanufacturing capacity in Canada.

The NRC-HHT is a key resource that is expected to provide in-kind support at the Full Application stage and advise on research methods and approaches, in particular as they relate to compatibility with NRC's technology solutions for gene therapy and biomanufacturing platform. The NRC-HHT is available to provide their expertise to up to two (2) projects over four (4) years that are successfully funded in this competition.

More details about the NRC-HHT available resources and capacity and potential contribution to the proposals can be found in the "NRC-HHT applicant partnership fiche". To prevent any potential conflicts of interest or privileged information sharing, the NRC-HHT will not provide any information beyond the information in the "NRC-HHT applicant partnership fiche", and applicants must refrain from contacting the NRC-HHT at the Letter of Intent stage.

Applicants successful at the Letter of Intent stage will be provided with the NRC-HHT contact information for this program. The NRC-HHT is committed to contribute in a fair and open way to all Full Applications. As such, at the Full Application stage, applicants will be required to include the NRC-HHT as an applicant partner and to work together to prepare their application. (See Review Process and EvaluationHow to Apply and Sponsor Description sections for further details).




Pre-application deadlines

RSO internal deadline

September 15, 2023 - 12:00 PM

Pre-application program deadline

September 20, 2023 - 6:00 PM

Application deadlines

RSO final internal review deadline

February 8, 2024 - 12:00 PM

Program application deadline

February 13, 2024 - 6:00 PM


NOTE: Consult your Faculty Associate Dean (Research) (ADR) regarding Faculty-specific deadlines and submission processes.

Principal Investigators: Complete a Research Management System (RMS) record, including a copy of your complete application, and submit this for approvals in RMS.

Postdocs, students, and trainees: For fellowships and externally-sponsored research training awards or opportunities, you must complete the Research Funding Application Approval (RFAA) Trainee PDF form, and submit it, along with a complete copy of the application, to Research Services at rsotrainee@ucalgary.ca. Trainees should not use RMS at this time.

Approvals: The University of Calgary requires that all funding applications be approved prior to submission. Approval requires signatures via either RMS or the RFAA Trainee form, in the following order:

  • Principal Investigator
  • Department Head
  • Faculty ADR/Dean
  • Research Services (on behalf of the Vice-President Research)

Read the Meaning of Grant Signatures policy to understand what your approval means. Please see the agency guidelines for details about which signatures are required on your application, as it may differ from internal requirements.

Late submissions: Late submissions will only be accepted in cases of medical or family emergencies, or other exceptional circumstances. If you submit your RMS record to Research Services after the internal deadline has passed, you must secure additional approvals. Please read: Late Applications Process.

Additional Information


CIHR will be hosting the following webinar to support participants with the requirements of the funding opportunity “Operating Grants: Bringing Rare Disease Gene Therapies to Clinical Trial Readiness” and to answer questions on how to apply.

When: Wednesday, August 23, 2023, at 12:00 PM MT | Join
Duration: 60 minutes


Submission Process

LOIs, plus approvals in the Research Management System (RMS), will be required by RSO by noon, September 15, 2023. Please be sure to select "Submitted for approvals" (Under Save & Progress) in RMS in good time to allow for approvals from your Department Head and/or ADR prior to the Research Services deadline. Consult your department and faculty for more information on their approval processes and timelines. A step sheet for creating an LOI record in RMS is available in the Resources section below.

Once RMS approval is obtained for your LOI, you may proceed with submitting to CIHR through ResearchNet by 6:00PM Calgary time on September 20, 2023.

Invited to Full Application

Full applications, plus approvals in the Research Management System (RMS), will be required by RSO by noon, February 8, 2024. Please be sure to select "Submitted for approvals" (Under Save & Progress) in RMS in good time to allow for approvals from your Department Head and/or ADR prior to the Research Services deadline. Consult your department and faculty for more information on their approval processes and timelines. A step sheet for creating an application record in RMS is available in the Resources section below.

Do not submit through ResearchNet until RSO's signature has been granted. 

Once institutional signature has been obtained, RSO will return a scanned copy of the CIHR signature page to NPA via email. Upload the CIHR signature page including the routing slip in the Print/Upload Signature Pages task in ResearchNet by 6:00PM Calgary time on February 13, 2024.



Support for projects involving Indigenous Research:

Support with the development of your grant application is available internally through the Indigenous Research Support Team (IRST). Applicants can reach out by email to IRST at IRST@ucalgary.ca in advance of the RSO internal deadline. For more information about IRST, please visit the IRST webpage.

Support for Knowledge Engagement:

Support for knowledge mobilization/engagement/translation is available internally through the Knowledge Engagement Team. Applicants can reach out by email to the KE team at knowledge.engagement@ucalgary.ca in advance of the RSO internal deadline. For more information, please visit the KE team webpage.

Support for Research Data Management:

For information on research data management plans, processes, or best practices for your research program, please contact research.data@libanswers.ucalgary.com and/or visit https://libguides.ucalgary.ca/researchdatamanagement.

Support for EDI in Research:

RSO can provide resources and support to research teams on the integration of equitable and inclusive practices in research design and research practice. Contact Erin.OToole@ucalgary.ca for more information.

RMS: Creating a Pre-Award LOI

RMS: Creating a Pre-Award Application

Contact Details


Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
rare diseases
gene therapies
clinical trials
Rare Disease Research Initiative
National Research Council – Human Health Therapeutics (NRC-HHT)