Submit a HITS Proposal

Fall 2022 HITS Call for Proposals

Open call: September 9th

Submission closes: November 1st

Award start date: February 1st *

The Huck Institutes seek to support truly innovative and transformational research within the life sciences arena at Penn State. Through this project, we hope to foster projects that are bold, have high impact, and would transform our understanding or provide a solution to a pressing issue. We expect high risk, but if the project works, a very high return.

We don’t require preliminary data or evidence of previous collaboration, and we definitely do not want to see proposals that are transitional, incremental, built on current research programs, or seek to bridge potential funding shortfalls in existing programs.

We are looking for ideas too innovative or risky to attract conventional NIH, NSF, or USDA funding now, but with the expectation that conventional grant agencies will scramble to catch up if your idea pans out. High impact entrepreneurial projects too rudimentary to attract industry or venture support are also welcomed. Projects that have been rejected by conventional grant agencies for being too novel and/or risky are also welcome. Please share your rejection letters as part of your application. 

There is no upper limit to what you may request in funding but requested funds should be justified to be cost-efficient and commensurate with potential for high impact or return. We strongly encourage requests for milestone-based staged funding, for example with pilot funding followed by proof-of-concept funding. Previous support has ranged from $25k-$250K total over 1-3 years.

Proposals can be in any area of life sciences — including genomics, infectious disease, plant sciences, neuroscience, metabolomics, food and health, and biomedical research — or at the intersection of life sciences and other strengths at the University, notably materials science, computational and data science, social science, and environmental science.

A panel of reviewers, co-chaired by Steve Benkovic and Andrew Read, will rank the most exciting ideas and decide what level of funding would be appropriate with what milestones. Successful projects may be funded in full or in part, and project modifications may be requested based on review, oral presentations, and feedback. Funding will be contingent on progress towards the milestones and Huck can withdraw its support at any point if no progress towards the milestones is being observed. 

This call originally opened in 2012; outcomes of that first call can be seen here. Projects we are currently supporting can be seen here. Subject to funding availability, awards will be made twice a year. We will consider applications received by November 1, 2022. Pre-submission inquiries welcome.

We expect all the projects to start on February 1st and have a one-year timeframe to achieve the first milestone(s). If you cannot start your project within this timeframe (e.g., IRB, sample transfer, etc.) please consider applying for the next (Spring) round of HITS.


Proposals should be no more than three (3) pages of jargon-free text written for a broad academic/industry audience. Interested applicants should upload to InfoReady the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (Last name_HITS2022) no later than 11:59 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. 100-word executive summary

2. Background. If you are successful, what difference will it make? Who cares?

3. Your idea and approach. How is this new? Why do you think it will work?

4. Risks. Why does your idea defy conventional funding mechanisms?

5. The project team, role of investigators and evidence of prior innovation by team members. Why you?

6. A brief budget with timeline (do not include faculty salaries, F&A, or excessive support of students).

Additional to the three pages, an appendix for any references cited and any additional supporting evidence. 



  • There is no description of what success would look like.
  • Projects are insufficiently impactful.
  • Projects are simple or logical extensions of existing research and so fundable elsewhere.
  • Projects are shovel ready for conventional funders. Reviewer comments explicitly rejecting a proposal because of risk is strong evidence that you’re ahead of conventional funders. In biomedicine, the NIH R21 mechanism explicitly exists to help PIs generate pilot data and does not itself require pilot data. HITS is not intended to be a local substitute for an R21.

The applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Impact - If it works, will it have very substantial impact?
  • Risk - Is it too risky for traditional funders (NIH, NSF, VC, etc.) now?
  • Huck support - Will our resources de-risk it sufficiently to attract external support?


If awarded, HITS recipients will be expected to:

  • Provide one progress report at the end of year 1 and one final report via InfoReady, outlining successes and challenges in reaching expected milestones;
  • Provide Huck with updates on their project progress beyond the life of the seed grant for potential featuring of their story on the HITS website. Questions concerning the submissions process and all other inquiries may be submitted to Huck’s Associate Director for Strategic Initiatives, Camelia Kantor:

Camelia Kantor

Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives; Associate Research Professor