Innovation Grants | Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience


The Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience seeks creative and bold proposals to generate paradigm-shifting insights into the biology of brain aging, the drivers of neurodegenerative disease and opportunities to promote brain health and resilience long into what we now consider "old age".

  • Knight Initiative Innovation Grants will fund 4-6 projects this cycle.
  • Applicants may request up to $1.5M in direct costs over a 3-year duration.
  • Stanford faculty of any research or clinical background are encouraged to apply.
  • The grant program is open to all proposals relevant to brain resilience and neurodegeneration

Application is closed


Time seems to chip away relentlessly at our cognitive abilities after we pass midlife, leading to what some believe is the inevitable loss of memory function and the development of dementia. An estimated 50 million people will suffer from Alzheimer's type dementia across the globe by the end of the decade, simply because modern medicine allows us to survive other causes of death. In a similar vein, as more people benefit from advances in health care and medical breakthroughs, an ever-growing number of them succumb to Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

This is a sobering view of growing old and, unfortunately, most of us have family or close friends who are affected by one of these diseases — most often Alzheimer’s disease. The complexity of the problem is staggering as the brain, the central command of our body with billions of computing units (neurons) and trillions of connections (synapses), is essentially malfunctioning.

Yet, there is hope! About 1 in 10,000 individuals in wealthier nations reach 100 years of age cognitively intact – they seem to be resilient to the ravages of time. Not only do they not suffer from heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension but many of them have remarkably intact memories and brain functions! Many more people age into their nineties with perfectly working brains. What’s more, an increasing body of research finds individuals who have a genetic predisposition to develop dementia but who somehow escape this genetic fate against all odds.

What if we could emulate this seemingly successful dodging of the aging process or genetic risk factors? Or maybe even reverse aspects of brain aging in older individuals altogether, essentially rejuvenating their minds?

The Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience Innovation Grants seeks the most creative and bold proposals to fundamentally shift our understanding of the brain's potential for resilience against aging and neurodegeneration  — with the ultimate goal of keeping the brain healthy long into what we now consider old age.

Funded projects

Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience
Innovation Award
Manipulating inflammation in the aging brain to promote brain resilience

Inflammation is a hallmark of brain aging, yet the source of inflammation in the old brain — and how to eliminate it — is unknown. This team aims to provide insight on how inflammation affects the aging brain that could potentially lead to the generation of new therapies to promote brain resilience.

Knight Initiative for Brain Resilience
Innovation Award
Mutant microglia and resilience to Alzheimer’s disease

This project aims to identify how mutant peripheral immune cells that invade the brain might actually reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk. The research will explore how to mimic these cells’ resilience-promoting effects to design new Alzheimer’s therapies.