Notice of upcoming funding opportunity: CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research (previously called the Canadian Network of Networks for SARS-CoV-2 Variant Research)

The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research funding opportunity is now available on ResearchNet (Application deadline: March 08, 2021)

The Government of Canada would like to provide further information on an upcoming launch of a rapid research response to continue to mobilize science to fight COVID-19. We are providing preliminary information at this time to allow the research community to prepare and respond to an expedited process.

The funding will support the creation of a single interdisciplinary CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research with the following objectives:

  • To enable a comprehensive and timely understanding of the biological, clinical, social, and population health implications of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) and their relevance for public health, health systems and policy through the establishment of an interdisciplinary CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research;
  • To provide an integrated platform within Canada to coordinate across different research areas that focus on emerging VOCs research through coordination across different disciplines and pillars of research and integrating surveillance efforts through a sustained collaboration/partnership with the Variants of Concern Network (VOCN) and other relevant local, national, and international partners; and
  • To swiftly provide high-quality and real-time data on urgent and emerging research priorities in support of Canada rapid response to emerging SARS-COV2 variants, through building and activating as needed, a rapid response capacity in Canada which can coordinate and conduct all aspects of VOC related research.

The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research funded through this call must expand existing national networks, infrastructures and relationships with local and international partners in order to leverage efforts and increase timeliness, efficiency, and impact of research on the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 VOCs. The areas listed below are key design components for the network:

  • Governance: A plan for enhancing coordination and engagement among and with the existing networks and organizations to maximize research impact. This should include but not be limited to the VOCN, the emerging and existing variants related research networks, and other relevant local, national, and international partners. The governance plan should ensure a mechanism for establishing an ongoing research priority-setting process, including to timely inform how and when the rapid response capacity will be activated to swiftly respond to emerging research priorities, while engaging key stakeholders across sectors. The governance plan should include concrete strategy for integration of external advice, including from the Leadership Committee that is being formed by CIHR and other federal partners on the overall Canadian Strategy for Variant Response, and to ensure the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research governance and research upholds principles of equity, diversity and inclusion.

    Interdisciplinary approach: The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research will build upon interactions with existing national and provincial networks and initiatives, and through the inclusion of the new networks emerging from other arms of CIHR’s SARS-CoV-2 variant research response (CIHR Supplement Stream 2) to address the issue of emerging VOC through an integrated interdisciplinary approach. The individual teams and networks that get integrated into the national network may span a broad range of research areas and pillars and may include, but not limited to, in silico modelling, functional genomics, in vitro and in vivo characterization, immunological and vaccine protection assessment, and health systems, public health and social policy impacts.

  • Resource and Data Sharing: A plan for active collaboration and coordination across member networks to ensure resources are in place within member networks to support objectives of the funding. This plan should include strategies to enable and accelerate data and samples sharing, and increase efficiencies in research related processes, including but not limited to ethics review; contracts; sharing agreements; common protocols. This should also include a plan for applying the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) to the data management strategy. The Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA) CARE principles (Collective benefit, Authority to control, Responsibility and Ethics) should be integrated to aspects pertaining to Indigenous data governance

  • International Linkages: A plan for liaison activities with like-minded international networks (e.g., those supported through GISAID) and consortiums (COG-UK, SPHERE) focused on SARS-CoV2 variants research and their biological , health system and public health implications to maximize the impact and international visibility of the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants, and reduce duplication of efforts internationally.

  • Patient and Citizen Engagement: The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research must include meaningful mechanisms for patients/citizens/informal care providers' engagement in core activities and governance.

  • Indigenous Network: The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research must show a plan on how it will work collaboratively with the Indigenous Variants Network.

  • Capacity Building at a Pan-Canadian Level: The CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research will play a facilitation and coordination role, adding a multidisciplinary, inter-professional, and cross-jurisdictional element to research training and mentorship activities in SARS-CoV2 variants research.

  • Knowledge Mobilization: In collaboration with network partners and existing Canadian networks, the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research will provide a plan to mobilize knowledge being generated within and across the members to maximize the impacts of research.

Availability of Funds

The total amount available through this funding opportunity is up to $9,000,000, enough to fund one (1) CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research.

  • Of this $9,000,000, there is up to $6,000,000 for the establishment of the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research core components and up to $3,000,000 to enable the rapid support of research activities required to swiftly characterize and assess individual and population health threat of emerging VOCs.
  • Funding will be provided for up to 1 year, with the possibility for renewal based on the evolution of the pandemic; there maybe also be potential for the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research to expand its scope and connect with other relevant initiatives and partners.

Please note that there will be funding available to an Indigenous led Network that is expected to be included in the activities of the CIHR Network for Emerging Variants Research. Detail on this funding opportunity will be announced at a later date, however, applicants are expected to outline how it will work with the Indigenous led Network.

Preliminary application details

  • The Nominated Principal Applicant must be:
    • 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);
  • The Nominated Principal Applicant must be appointed at a CIHR eligible institution at the time of application.
  • The application process for this funding opportunity will be comprised of two steps: Expression of Interest (EOI) and Full Application.
  • Applicants will be required to submit an EOI by email to be eligible to submit a full application.
  • There will be no review process or screening out at the EOI stage; CIHR will schedule a call to explore collaborations across teams that have submitted EOIs for the competition.
  • The EOI email must include a 250-word summary, in a PDF format, that describes the network leadership, including relevant and recent experience in managing networks and planned approach to engage member networks across diverse areas to collaborate on the evaluation of interventions related to SARS-CoV-2 variants. The summary will be used to assess the collaborations across teams and may be shared with other applicants.
  • Application requirements for the Full Application will be outlined in the Funding Opportunity details. Full applications include a 12-page proposal (14 pages for French applications) and are expected to address all objectives and key design components; additional information will be required to address plans in a number of specific areas, including equity, diversity and inclusion and data management and sharing.

Expected key dates

  • Launch: week of February 8, 2021
  • EOI deadline: week of February 15, 2021
  • Application deadline: week of March 8, 2021
  • Anticipated Notice of decision: week of March 29, 2021
  • Funding start date: March 1, 2021

Please also note

Data produced as a result of this funding must be shared in line with the Joint statement on sharing research data and findings relevant to the novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak. We also require applicants to ensure that all COVID-19 related publications are open access, in alignment with the call from the Chief Science Advisors.

Given the urgency of this funding competition, recruitment for peer reviewers will begin immediately. If you are interested and available to volunteer as a peer reviewer, please reach out to CIHR immediately at We thank applicants and peer reviewers in advance for their flexibility and understanding with respect to the need for this expedited process.


The information contained herein is anticipatory only and does not represent an official funding commitment by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Accordingly, the information, contained herein may differ from the official funding opportunity that will be published on ResearchNet.

Date modified: