Frankel Innovation Initiative

The Frankel Innovation Initiative is a $20 million fund supporting the research and development of life-saving therapies at Michigan Medicine. The fund targets projects led by U-M faculty that have the potential for rapid clinical application and groundbreaking impact. FFMI is administering the fund.

The Frankel Innovation Initiative encourages faculty to collaborate with experts at U-M and outside institutions in order to help quickly move early-stage research to results that positively affect human health and save lives. COVID-19 research is very much within the scope of the Initiative’s guidelines.

The $20 million gift will be used to fund four to seven projects annually, with each project receiving between $250,000 – $1 million. Applications are due in June and funding begins in October. Funded projects will be selected by a Scientific Advisory Committee of internationally renowned scientists and venture capitalists external to U-M.

The initiative is designed to build on best practices of the standout programs developed at U-M and other top institutions, and capitalizes on U-M’s extensive biomedical research enterprise as the top public university in research spending in the United States.

2020 Frankel Innovation Initiative Winners

Investigator Co-Applicant(s) Vertical Proposal Title
Paul Cederna, M.D.
U-M – Surgery
Cynthia Chestek, Ph.D.
U-M – Biomedical Engineering
Device Bringing Regenerative Peripheral Nerve Interfaces for Prosthetic Hand Control Home
David Humes, M.D.
U-M – Nephrology
Stuart Goldstein, M.D., FAAP, FNKF
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – Nephrology
Device Immunomodulatory Device to Treat Pediatric Patients with Severe Sepsis and/or Multiorgan Failure
Alvaro Rojas-Pena, M.D.
U-M – Surgery
Robert Bartlett, M.D.
U-M – Surgery
Device The Frankel Organ Bank
Molly Stout, M.D., MSCI
U-M – Obstetrics & Gynecology
Methodius Tuuli, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
Indiana University – Obstetrics & Gynecology
Peinan Zhao, Ph.D.
Washington University in St. Louis – Obstetrics & Gynecology
Device Fully Quantitative Elastography to Predict Preterm Birth

Frequently Asked Questions

Frankel Innovation Initiative awards are made once a year, with proposals due in June.

Proposal submission and review will be conducted using the University of Michigan Medical School’s Competition Space. Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of scientific merit and potential health care impact. It is highly recommended to contact Sara Risch, Biomedical Innovation Specialist at ( or 734-764-5598) to discuss your proposal before submission.

The Frankel Innovation Initiative provides resources to support high-risk , high-reward projects that aim to solve some of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Projects that have the potential to substantially impact life-years are encouraged.

Proposals will be accepted from investigators at the University of Michigan. U-M PIs collaborating with national key opinion leaders within U-M or at other institutions are especially encouraged to apply. A U-M PI must be the primary PI and projects must have originated at U-M.

Projects are not required to have secured intellectual property (IP) or the potential of defendable IP.

Project budgets depend on the scope of work and technology. Funds dispersed depend on achievement of prospectively agreed upon milestones, which are project specific. Funding will range from $250k-1M per year, with the potential for multiple years of funding.

Please note that no indirect costs are associated with this award.

Contact Sara Risch, Biomedical Innovation Specialist ( or 734-764-5598) for details related to budgets.

Allowable budget expenditures include: salary and fringe benefits for project personnel, materials and supplies, contracted research (if required), travel and other relevant costs directly related to advancing the project (to be discussed with Frankel Innovation Initiative staff on a case-by-case basis). Budgets should be primarily allocated to the conduct of research and achievement of milestones. Proposals will be partially evaluated on the appropriateness of project budget.

The Frankel Innovation Initiative Scientific Advisory Committee comprises global biotech business experts as well as internationally prominent scientists who have deep expert knowledge.

The review process consists of multiple steps. A review team performs an initial review of proposals, selecting those that have significant clinical potential for an in-person presentation. Projects which are not selected for further review are provided with feedback.

The selected Frankel Innovation Initiative proposal teams then present their project directly to the Scientific Advisory Committee at the committee’s annual meeting in Ann Arbor in May, and awards are granted shortly thereafter.

In addition to reviewing and selecting proposal awards, members of the Scientific Advisory Committee and their colleague networks serve in an informal mentorship role to research teams as their projects progress.


Have questions about the Frankel Innovation Initiative? Contact Sara Risch, Ph.D., Biomedical Innovation Specialist, at or 734-764-5598.