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Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant Competition

Applications are open for the 2024 Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant competition. This program fuels opportunities for investigators from across UCalgary to apply their expertise to research challenges related to neurodevelopment and neurodevelopmental conditions. 

Value: up to $50,000

At least six grants will be awarded, up to $50,000 each

Duration: 2 years

With possibility of extension

Deadline: March 11, 2024

Applications are open from until 5:00 pm (MST) on March 11, 2024

Azrieli Accelerator priority research themes

The 2024 Catalyst Grant competition aims to build capacity in the three thematic areas of focus of the Azrieli Accelerator: 

Illustration of brain

Brain Circuitry

The Azrieli Accelerator is expanding our understanding of how brain circuitry is influenced by neural stem cells, synaptic physiology, glial biology, and more. Furthermore, we are examining how alterations in pathways can improve outcomes for people with NDDs.

microbiome illustration

Microbiome Influences

Exactly how the microbiome influences the brain in NDDs is not yet understood. Through this theme, we are seeking to identify the mechanisms by which the microbiome modulates NDDs, and look for ways to develop targeted therapies to treat symptoms that often co-occur with NDDs to improve health and wellness.

illustration to show connection

Supports, Services and Systems

Improving the lives of people living with neurodevelopmental disabilities is at the heart of the Azrieli Accelerator. This theme seeks to make change in community, care, education and healthcare settings for neurodiverse people of all ages.

Proposal Criteria

Proposals must fall within the mandate of the Azrieli Accelerator. The project should enable a researcher (or a research team) to initiate and catalyze research projects that will increase their competitiveness for larger scale external funding opportunities. 

  • We encourage applications that engage transdisciplinary approaches. 
  • Involvement of early career researchers and senior research trainees is encouraged.
  • Funds will be held by the Nominated Principal Applicant, who must be a UCalgary faculty member. 
  • A researcher can only be listed as Nominated Principal Applicant on one Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant application. 
  • Nominated Principal Applicants who currently hold an Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant are not eligible to apply as a Nominated Principal Applicant, but can be listed as a co-applicant or collaborator on another Nominated Principal Applicant’s proposal in this competition.
  • For applications that include a team: Proposals should outline contributions of each team member, including a description of relevant expertise. 
  • Proposals should consider equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility principles in the context of research activities and the research team (if applicable). 
  • If applicable: Team members (both internal and external to UCalgary) may provide matching fund contributions (cash or in-kind) to increase the value of the award.

Use of Funds

Eligible expenses include any aspect of the project (e.g., data collection, animal costs, participant fees), including funds spent on the salary for a person dedicated to the research project (e.g., postdoc, grad student, research associate, etc.). Please note that salary cannot be provided for individuals listed as applicants on the proposal. All expenses must be justified.

Expected Outcomes

Catalyst awards are designed to ready projects for a future program proposal to grant funding opportunities through local, provincial, national, or international funding agencies and partners. Projects should identify how the results of this research project will be applied – whether through further research, knowledge mobilization and/or community engagement.


Azrieli Accelerator will coordinate the review process and conduct an initial eligibility review with leadership. Applications must fit within the mandate of the Azrieli Accelerator in order to be eligible. 

Applicants should identify which thematic area their proposal primarily aligns with: Brain Circuitry; Microbiome Influences; or Supports, Services & Systems. 

Proposals will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Scientific merit and impact (50%)
  • Feasibility and expertise (25%)
  • Long-term objectives (25%)


  • Please use Arial 11pt font or Times New Roman 12pt font and set page margins to 0.5 in/1.27cm on all sides. 
  • Address the Submission Details and Sections A – F within the page allotments outlined below. Figures, charts, tables, etc. should be included within the allowed allotments.
  • Submit a single .pdf file with the following naming system: “Last name of Nominated Principal Investigator_Short Project title.pdf”.
  • Files should be emailed to by 5pm on March 11 2024. 
  • You will receive a confirmation of receipt email within 48 hours of submission. If you do not receive a confirmation of receipt, please reach out to confirm your application was received. 

Submission Details:

  • Project Title:
  • Nominated Principal Applicant:
  • Contact info for Nominated Principal Applicant:
  • Co-applicants (if applicable):
  • Thematic area the proposal is aligned with: Brain Circuitry OR Microbiome Influences OR Supports, Services and Systems

Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grants are creating impact

Discover what previous recipients of the Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grants have been exploring and the impact they are having on the neurodevelopment research landscape. 

“The Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant is hands down the only way we can answer our scientific question."

headshot of Dr. Marie Arrieta

Dr. Marie Arrieta, PhD

Associate Professor, Cumming School of Medicine

2023 Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grant Recipients

Project title: Influence of microbiome maturation in preterm infants on brain growth and neurodevelopment  

This project collaborates with the Alberta BLOOM study, which is researching the early-life microbiome of premature and term infants. With this grant, the team will look at how gut microbiome maturation leads to differences in brain development in animal models. Using MRI and other lab-based techniques, the team will look for changes in brain volume, ventricular volume, white matter development and microglial activation.

Research team: 

  • Marie-Claire Arrieta, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology
  • Jeff Dunn, Department of Radiology
  • Van Ortega, Postdoctoral Fellow 

Project title: Gene regulation in brain development and disease

This team is studying the mechanism of a newly characterized neurodevelopmental syndrome, identified through collaborations between the clinic and the research lab. This funding will enable the team to collect critical in vivo and in vitro functional data concerning the role of a gene (PRPF4B) in neural stem/precursor cell fate decisions, as well as understand the mechanistic impact of patient derived mutations through the creation of a relevant mouse genetic model.

Research team: 

  • Guang Yang, Department of Medical Genetics
  • Micheil Innes, Department of Medical Genetics
  • Xiao-Ru Yang, Genomics and Neurogenetics Fellow

Project title: Exploration of perinatal inflammatory market profiles in moderate to late preterm infants

Infants born “moderate to late preterm” (between 32-36 weeks) have a four-fold higher risk of long-term neurodevelopmental, behavioural and mental health problems compared to full-term infants. This study will explore inflammatory profiles and their potential role in disrupting brain development. They aim to enable early prediction of disruptions that can lead to life-long neurodevelopmental challenges through the testing of perinatal biomarkers. Through this work, they seek to identify who is most at risk, and which kinds of therapies can best modify that risk.

Research team: 

  • Lara Leijser, Department of Pediatrics
  • Michael Esser, Department of Pediatrics
  • Donna Slater, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology
  • Xing-Chang Wei, Department of Radiology 
  • Tekougang Theirry Chekouo, Department of Mathematics & Statistics
  • Amy Metcalfe, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology
  • Debbie McNeil, Department of Community Health Sciences

Project title: Language, social communication and fluency in children with Tourette Syndrome

Speech and language disorders impact all areas of day-to-day functioning and respond well to interventions during early development. This research will provide needed information about the nature of speech and language disorders in young people with Tourette Syndrome and can provide a foundation for planning appropriate early interventions.

Research team: 

  • Tamara Pringsheim, Department of Clinical Neurosciences
  • Davide Martino, Department of Clinical Neurosciences
  • Angela Feehan, Speech pathologist, PhD student
  • Monique Charest, University of Alberta 

Project title: Ready Player One - Incorporating gamification into an online tutorial to support the transition to postsecondary education for students who are neurodivergent

This project will design, pilot and evaluate a self-paced online tutorial to support the transition to postsecondary education for students with learning disabilities and ADHD. The gamified tutorial will target high school students in grades 11 and 12 who are planning to attend postsecondary. The game will be evaluated with partners from Foothills Academy School, a private school in Alberta dedicated to students with learning disabilities.

Research team: 

  • Meadow Schroeder, Werklund School of Education
  • Richard Zhao, Department of Computer Science
  • Lauren Goegan, University of Manitoba
  • Tanya Keto, Foothills Academy Society

Project title: Addressing the mental health of neurodiverse youth - The role of community-based adapted physical activity programming.

Physical activity is one accessible and modifiable lifestyle factor that has been shown to improve mental health among neurodiverse youth. This project is partnered with Calgary Adapted Hub, powered by Jumpstart (2020-2025), which provides inclusive and accessible sport and recreation programming in Calgary, bridging research and community programs. This project will quantify the impact of participation in physical activity on mental health outcomes among neurodiverse youth. They’ll also look at the impact of environmental factors (family support, income, parental education) on those outcomes.

Research team: 

  • Carolyn Emery, Faculty of Kinesiology
  • Daniel Kopala-Sibley, Department of Psychiatry
  • Meredith Maroney, Werklund School of Education
  • Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos, University of Toronto
  • Laura Brunton, Western University
  • Amy Latimer-Cheung, Queen’s University
  • Jennifer Leo, University of Alberta
  • Janet McCabe, Ontario Tech University
  • Nancy Quinn, Western University 

Project title: Machine learning-based interpretable pediatric brain age prediction using multimodal neuroimaging data: A powerful tool to analyze neurodevelopment

Working with partners in the Child and Adolescent Imaging Research group at Alberta Children’s Hospital, this team will develop a pediatric brain age prediction model to serve as a valuable tool to assess and analyze brain maturation and to accurately quantify deviations from typical development. This group has already developed a novel machine learning method for brain age prediction in adults that is highly accurate (competitive age prediction error of approx. 4 years). This funding will enable new work with a pediatric population.

Research team: 

  • Matthias Wilms, Department of Radiology
  • Nils Forkert, Department of Radiology
  • SigneBray, Department of Radiology
  • Catherine Lebel, Department of Radiology
  • Ashley Ware, Department of Psychology
  • Keith Yates, Department of Psychology
Group photo of Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta and her research team

Collaborations across UCalgary’s campus explore neurodevelopment in novel ways

First recipients of Azrieli Accelerator Catalyst Grants leverage expertise and partnerships to advance important research

Read more