Bold ideas to advance healthy brain aging win inaugural Knight Initiative grants


by Julia Diaz

The Phil and Penny Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience is proud to announce the recipients of its inaugural 2022 Innovation and Catalyst Grants.

These 16 groundbreaking research projects will receive a total of $15.5 million to pursue fresh ideas in the science of healthy brain aging and spearhead innovative methods of combating neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. 

“Together, these innovative proposals will pursue transformative ideas outside the mainstream that will advance our mission to extend the healthy lifespan of the human brain,” said Tony Wyss-Coray, PhD, the D.H. Chen Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences and Director of the Knight Initiative.

The projects are led by scientists from 12 departments across Stanford’s schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Humanities and Sciences, and include collaborators from an even wider range of disciplines. 

Photo of Tony Wyss-Coray

“We were looking for bold ideas that transcend the assumptions and biases of the field, and were delighted to receive nearly three dozen excellent applications from some of the best scientists at Stanford, many of whom come from disciplines outside the neurosciences and have never worked in neurodegeneration before.”
Tony Wyss-Coray
Director, Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience

Six research projects have been selected to receive $1.5 million, 3-year Innovation Grants based on their potential to lead to transformative discoveries in the areas of brain resilience and neurodegeneration.

Funded projects will pursue a wide range of approaches, including addressing the role of inflammation and the microbiome in aging and neurodegeneration, exploring how to therapeutically mimic the well-known brain benefits of exercise to promote healthy brain aging, and developing pioneering methods to fight neurodegeneration using engineered immune cells.

Learn more about the Knight Initiative Innovation Grants program

Read about the launch of the Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience

Because of the extraordinary number of promising proposals, the initiative has also elected to fund an additional 10 projects with smaller Catalyst Grants — providing  $500,000 over 2 years to kickstart exciting and previously under-explored research directions. 

These projects include initiatives to employ machine learning to identify markers of resilience in the brains of older adults; explorations of the roles of endocannabinoids, cellular stress, and sleep circuits in brain aging; and efforts to develop new clinical tools for Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and more. 

Innovation Award recipients presented their bold research proposals at the Knight Initiative’s inaugural Brain Resilience Symposium on January 12, 2023. 

Registration for this half-day in-person-only event closed on December 16.

Read on to learn more about our 2022 Innovation and Catalyst Grant recipients: