In this call for applications, we seek to support hypothesis-driven, mechanistic research projects that explore the role played by inflammatory and immune processes in neural development and their effects on the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). Discoveries made possible by this RFA could lead to the development of mechanism-based interventions that address the fundamental molecular and physiological features that underlie neurodevelopmental conditions. 


Individual or team projects will be funded to a maximum of $150,000 CAD per year for a maximum of three years. We expect to fund the top five applications, as determined by an external peer-review process. 

Topic Eligibility 

Examples of relevant research include, but are not limited to: 

  • Effect of infection, immune/inflammatory pathways on embryonic/fetal brain development 
  • Anatomic, cellular and mechanistic characterization of neuro-immune interface in brain developmental processes 
  • Role of immune/inflammatory pathways related to the gut-brain axis (including microbiome) on brain development 
  • Role of microglia in brain development (ex: synaptic pruning, connectivity, oligodendrogenesis) 
  • Studies of the mechanistic impact on brain of neuro-immune interactions as they relate to high confidence risk factors associated with NDDs in humans 

Applications will be evaluated according to 1) significance and impact of the research to NDDs; 2) quality and originality of the proposal; 3) scientific and technical feasibility; and 4) research environment and people. 

Applicant Eligibility 

Applications may be submitted by individual researchers or teams. Inter-institutional collaborative proposals are strongly encouraged. Nominated Principal Applicants, and Co-applicants (who intend to share funding) must be independent researchers at accredited Canadian Universities or Research Institutes with Registered Charitable Organization designation. Team applications can also include collaborators (who do not request funding from this RFA), from any jurisdiction. 

The Neuroimmune System and Brain Development Awardees

Principal investigator: Katrina Choe, McMaster University (left)  

Co-PI: Masha Prager-Khoutorsky, McGill University (right) 

Grant title: Aberrant neuroimmune interactions during development contribute to oxytocin system hypofunction in mice lacking an autism-risk gene 

Description: The project will study how disruptions in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-risk gene increase blood-brain barrier permeability, enhancing neuroimmune activation in the developing brain and potentially amplifying ASD pathophysiology. 

Principal investigator: Deborah Kurrasch, University of Calgary 

Co-PI: Kathy McCoy, University of Calgary

Grant title: Investigating the role of the maternal microbiome in fetal neurodevelopment 

Description: The goal of this research project is to determine the effects of maternal microbiota on fetal microglia maturation and mechanistically define the impact of altered microglia on nearby neural progenitor programs. 

Principal investigator: Charlis Raineki, Brock University 

Co-PI: Tamara Bodnar, University of British Columbia 

Grant title: Gut microbiota and immune system alterations in children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): Implications for mental health 

Description: This research investigates the link between the gut microbiota and peripheral inflammation in children with FASD and whether this is associated with increased susceptibility to mental health problems. 

Principal investigator: Edward Ruthazer, Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital 

Grant title: Live imaging of microglial contributions to neurodevelopmental circuit refinement in health and disease 

Description: This project will assess and compare the contributions of microglia to neurodevelopmental circuit refinement under typical circumstances and following pathological embryonic immune activation, using live brain imaging of neuronal structure and function in the zebrafish model. 

Principal investigator: Reza Sharif Naeini, McGill University 

Co-PI: Artur Kania, Montreal Clinical Research Institute 

Grant title: Immune-mediated sensory impairments drive social and communication disorders in Christianson syndrome 

Description: This study examines how defects in spinal cord neuroimmune interactions cause touch aversion and impair the maturation of the central nervous circuits responsible for social and communication functions. 

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