Minnesota Office of Higher Education

Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program

The Office of Higher Education administers the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program which provides funding for research into new and innovative treatments and rehabilitative efforts for the functional improvement of people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Research topics may include, but are not limited to, pharmaceutical, medical device, brain stimulus, and rehabilitative approaches and techniques.

Funding Sources

The State of Minnesota established the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Grant Program effective July 1, 2015 with a $500,000 per year appropriation. Research funding from the Legislature is split 50/50 between spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. In 2017, the legislature added an additional $5 million for the biennium to support spinal cord and traumatic brain injury research, for a total of $6,000,000 for the biennium split between the two research areas. These grant awards were also supplemented by a $15,000 program donation from the Get Up to Cure Paralysis Foundation.

Fiscal Year 2022 Request for Proposals

In consultation with the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education is currently accepting proposals for the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Annual Research Grant. The overall objective of this program is to foster and encourage innovative research for treatment and rehabilitative techniques for spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

Three funding options are available:

Tier 1: Pilot Project Grant

  • Max Request: $125,000.
  • Project Time: 2 years + 1–year no cost extension.
  • Project Details: Reflects early investment as the researcher prepares to seek a larger grant award from a federal program or nonprofit organization. Preliminary data is not required.

Tier 2: Standard Research Grant

  • Max Request: $250,000.
  • Project Time: 2 years + 1–year no cost extension.
  • Project Details: Primarily for research with supporting/preliminary data. If the budget is justifiable, the Standard Research Grant may also fund pilot projects. Applicants are encouraged to attach papers; in–press and accepted papers and cited or submitted separately as an appendix.

Tier 3: Clinical/Translational Research Grant

  • Max request: $500,000.
  • Project Time: 3 years + 2 year no–cost extension.
  • Project Details: Projects must have concurrent application or funding from federal or industry sources. Preliminary data must be published or in press in a scientific journal and cited or submitted separately as an appendix.
Intent to Submit forms are due on March 4, 2022. Proposals are due by 4:30pm on April 15, 2022. Live presentations will be held May 11, 2022.

For more information, see our Request for Proposals.

Frequently Asked Questions:

A: Yes, you may apply for parts of your project that were cut in prior years due to a lack of funding. In your proposal, please explain how this aspect of your project connects with its larger aims/goals, and how it improves the overall quality of the project. Also keep in mind any feedback that you may have received on this portion of your project during the initial review.

A: The Letter of Intent is not required for submitting a proposal. If you missed the deadline, you may still submit a proposal. However, we ask that you notify the program manager at some point prior to proposal submission so we know what to expect.

A: No, once the RFP is released, we cannot give feedback on project ideas. However, we can help you determine if you project is eligible for funding based on the guiding statute language.

A: Yes, we encourage collaboration between institutions both inside and outside the state of Minnesota. We strongly suggest that applicants establish formal partnerships in advance of proposal submission.

A: Yes, subcontracts are permitted. You may include subcontracts in the “Consultant Cost” line. Please include the name of the institution that you are subcontracting with on that line as well.

A: The total allowable indirect cost is 8% of the total request, including indirect costs for consultants/subcontracts.

A: You are only required to submit documents on behalf of the primary institution, or the institution that is acting as the fiscal agent for the project.

If you would like a copy of the RFP in an alternative format, contact lain.desalvo@state.mn.us and specify the format needed.

Researchers are permitted to apply even if they are not considered faculty, residents, or post-docs. This is has been consistent throughout the grant program’s brief history. While not required, it may strengthen a proposal if they were to submit as a co-PI with faculty oversight.

There is no proposal scoring criteria that corresponds to needing/requesting a contract extension for current projects. The reviewers evaluate proposals based on the actual proposed project submitted with the background/context provided in the by the applicant.

Questions? Contact Lain DeSalvo (lain.desalvo@state.mn.us)

Grant Recipients – Fiscal Year 2021

In May 2020, the Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council convened to review proposals for fiscal year 2020. As a result, sixteen projects were funded. The 2020 Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury grantees are:

Spinal Cord Injury Research

  • University of Minnesota: Cell Reprogramming for Spinal Cord Regeneration
  • Stim Sherpa Inc.: Spinal Cord Stimulation Optimization Platform for Restoring Function
  • HealthPartners Institute: The Effect of an Adaptive Exercise Program on Chronic Inflammation in Spinal Cord Injury
  • University of Minnesota: 3D Printed Neural Organoids for Spinal Cord Tissue Regeneration in Chronic Spinal Cord Injury
  • University of Minnesota: Additive Effects of Spinal Cord Stimulation Plus Gait Training to Improve Functional Outcomes after SCI
  • Mayo Clinic: Development of an Individualized Computational Model for Real-time Visualization of Spinal Stimulation Electrical Fields and Downstream Functional Outputs

Traumatic Brain Injury Research

  • University of Minnesota: Targeted gene therapy for treatment of traumatic brain injury in mice through neural protection, enhanced neurogenesis, and cellular reprogramming
  • University of Minnesota: Brain Organoid-Derived Exosomes for Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury
  • University of Minnesota: Wild-field calcium imaging of cortical dysfunction using a distributed head injury model of mild TBI in mice expressing full-length human MAPT
  • Gillette Children~!s Specialty Healthcare: Ketogenic Diet Following Moderate to Severe Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury:  A Pilot Study
  • HealthPartners Institute/Regions Hospital: Impact of Repeated Transient Neck Compression in Combat Sports on Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and Markers of Chronic Brain Injury
  • Center for Veteran~!s Research and Education/Minneapolis VA Healthcare System: Predicting the consequences of chronic effects of neurotrauma in the VA population using machine learning and image processing
  • Courage Kenny Research Center/Allina Health: Clinical implementation of wearable sensors to measure dual-task motor function in individuals with mild traumatic brain injury
  • Center for Veterans Research and Education/Minneapolis VA Healthcare System: Improving Sleep Disturbance in Veterans with mTBI Using tDCS
  • Children~!s Minnesota Neuroscience Institute: Yoga-based intervention following concussion in youth:  A pilot randomized controlled trial
  • University of Minnesota: Utilizing Companion Canine TBI to Maximize Human TBI Therapy


Download reports to the Minnesota Legislature on the institutions receiving grants and their purpose.