Creating the Application
Program Development and Launch

After determining the mission of the organization and developing the funding initiatives, the application must be created. Applications are structured with many common components in a proposal format. These proposals can vary in presentation based on the grants management team and how they are to be presented to the review committee for selection. Here we will discuss what can be part of a proposal as well as the different types of proposals used within the biomedical community.


Applicant General Information

This section of the application is to provide general information and guidelines for the applicant to follow. This oftentimes can include timelines to provide approximate or specific dates for target dates or deadlines. Specific dates can be listed for the following:

      • Open Call for LOIs
      • LOI Deadline
      • Full Proposal Invitations
      • Full Proposal Submission Deadline
      • Awardee Notification
      • Expected Award Period

Demographics & DEI

      • This section can be optional, and what is submitted is recorded and reported when applicable.
      • HRA’s Inclusive Grantmaking Initiative
        • The goal of this initiative is to increase DEI in biomedical research while fostering equitable research to accelerate research efforts. This is an ongoing effort that HRA is actively taking on within the various learning communities.

Application Cover Page

It is best practice for sponsors to include the following information on an application cover page:

  • Sponsor RFP Title/Number (e.g. 2020 Pershing Square Sohn Prize)
  • Name of Applicant Institution
  • Name of Authorized Institutional Official
  • Contact information for Authorized Institutional Official (phone and email)
  • Name of Principal Investigator
  • Contact information for Principal Investigator
  • Applicant proposal tracking number (optional)
  • Statement: “The PI is responsible for obtaining institutional approval from their authorized institutional official before submission of this application.  Applications submitted without institutional approval will be returned without review.”

Types of Proposals

There are three main types of proposals: a letter of intent/inquiry (LOI), a full proposal, or a letter proposal. Each one varies in length and in substance.

Letter of Intent/Inquiry (LOI)

The LOI should describe the need, outline the plan to meet it, and specify how the project fits in with the funder’s priorities. Funders should establish template and submission details specific to their organization. Additionally, funders should provide formatting information as well as the page limits or section limits for the LOI.


  • Title – title of the proposal
  • Scientific Approach & Feasibility – This section will outline any hypothesis(es), their specific aims, and the approach to address each aim. Questions that should be answered include
    • Identifying the issue or the area of research that needs to be addressed and the rationale behind addressing this challenge. This can also include questions as to how the project(s) are novel and how they aim to shift the current research paradigms.
    • How each specific aim will answer the hypothesis(es), and how the scientific approach will achieve the specific aims.
  • Budget or Request for Funding – Applicants are allowed to request specific amounts of funding where the organization will provide a budget cap over a period. However, itemized budgets must be provided with milestones based off of the proposal. Salary support can be provided for personnel including the principal investigator, co-principal investigators, technical staff, supplies, animal costs, vendor or supply costs, equipment costs, conference-related travel. The organization can decide if indirect costs can be included in the proposed budget.
    • Supply Costs – All proposed supply expenses must be project specific. That is, performance of the project must necessitate the acquisition and consumption of the budgeted supplies and materials.
    • Equipment –An article of nonexpendable, tangible personal property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit and required to conduct the project (or less in accordance with intuitional policy).
    • Travel – Costs must benefit the proposed project and usually include travel associated with fieldwork and attendance at scientific meetings for the purpose of presenting project findings and/or results.
    • Other Costs – The other costs category could include expenses such as animal per diem costs (the cost of animals should be listed as a supply), human subject honoraria, publication charges, subawards, computer time, maintenance and other service agreements/charges, , space rental, alterations or renovations, equipment rental, etc.
  • Outcomes and impacts – This section can address how the success of this project will have clinical implications or the ability to be commercialized. This section can also focus on the potential for FDA approval through clinical trials and commercialization approaches.
  • Citations and references
  • LOI Supporting Documents
    •  Biosketches – Certain life events or circumstances that contribute to delays or gaps in the progress of the applicant’s career trajectory can be included to provide context for reviewers. These circumstances can include life events impacting one’s career (medical leave, parenthood, family), disabilities, being the first in the family to complete college, come from a low-income background, or being a member of an underrepresented community.
    • Letters of Support/Collaboration
    • Some organizations will ask that the applicant provide a list of all current and pending support that the applicant and/or co-investigators are receiving.

Full Proposals

Usually after an LOI- or sometimes in lieu of one- many funders request that applicants submit a full-length proposal to share more detail about their proposed research project. This can include any combination of the following elements: a cover page (with a project title and PI info), scientific abstract, lay abstract, research significance, specific aims, project description, statement of how applicant is suited for the proposed project, collaboration description, timetable and milestones, and more.

Additional materials required for a full proposal:

  • A budget and budget justification is also required.
  • Oftentimes letters of reference are requested, to be sent to the grants administrator directly
  • If collaborators are involved, letters of collaboration are also requested.
  • Some organizations ask the PI to sign the submission agreement, while others require an authorized representative (or both). In addition, some organizations require acceptance of key contract terms if applicant is awarded funding at this stage, to expedite the agreement process.

Letter Proposals

This is a letter that acts as the proposal itself. Generally, one to three pages in length, the letter should describe the project, explain the organization, and include the actual monetary request.

Nominations or individual-based awards

This type of awarding is centered around specific individuals who are nominated by their peers to apply or to receive funding instead of the projects that they propose. This promotes innovative thought for researchers to pursue high-risk, high-reward projects to further their careers. This type of proposal also enables investigators to pivot within their career to explore other avenues of research.

There are specific program awards that focus on transitions for tenure-track scientists that are transitioning from assistant to associate professor(6 – 10 years post Ph.D.).

Pros Cons
This approach can give strong investigators more freedom to pursue other areas of research. This can encourage researchers to be funded for their ideation and motivate them to take creative liberties with their concepts. This is a common issue within funding agencies where highly successful, well-funded investigators with strong track records will be awarded over others who may be early in their career or who do not otherwise have the pedigree of a successful researcher.


Example of the nomination process:

  • Nomination letter (2 pages)
  • The nominee’s biosketch
  • If the nomination is accepted, the candidate must provide:
    • CV
    • Current grants as well as a complete history of funding
    • 2 – 3 page summary of the candidates contributions to science and the important questions or issues they believe need to be addressed
    • A letter of support from the chief academic officer from the institution
    • 2 letters of support from other peers in their field

Common components of applications

  • Scientific/Research Proposals

Other ie, Outreach Programs/Community Development, etc

  • Data Management Plan (DMP) – A DMP describes data that will be acquired or produced during research; how the data will be managed, described, and stored, what standards you will use, and how data will be handled and protected during and after the completion of the project.
  • Career development awards are used to as an assessment of mentorship and institutional commitment.
  • Career development plan
    • While this is not exclusive to awards that are specifically centered around career development, some proposals will include this section to consider a PI’s efforts to foster an environment of mentorship and professional development for their trainees.
    • Example from The American Federation for Aging Research
      • The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research Postdoctoral Fellowships in Aging Research are designed to encourage the most promising scientists to enter the field of aging research. The mentor is responsible for the preparation of the career development plan. Not to exceed 2 pages.
        1. Describe a plan that:
          1. Shows a logical progression from prior research and training experiences to the research and career development experiences that will occur during the award period and then to independent investigator status;
          2. Utilizes the relevant research and educational resources of the institution, including the research environment and the availability and quality of needed research facilities and research resources (e.g., equipment, laboratory space, computer time, available research support, etc.). This should include items such as classes, seminars, and opportunities for interaction with other groups and scientists in aging research, as well as training in career skills, e.g., grant-writing, manuscript reviewing, mentoring, and making effective presentations;
          3. Describes your – the mentor’s – research qualifications, why you are well-suited for the role as mentor on the project;
          4. Includes a brief description of other faculty involved in mentorship besides the primary mentor;
          5. Addresses the value of the proposed fellowship experience and research training program for the candidate’s preparation for a career as an independent scientist in aging research.


Initial population
August 3, 2022