Frankel Innovation Initiative

The Frankel Innovation Initiative is a $20 million fund supporting the research and development of life-saving therapies at Michigan Medicine. Made possible by a generous donation from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation, the program is established to advance innovative research by U-M faculty, and their collaborators inside and outside U-M, that has the potential for rapid clinical application and groundbreaking impact. FFMI is administering the fund.

The $20 million gift will be used to fund four to seven projects annually, with each project receiving between $250,000 – $500,000. Collaborative projects that engage nationally renowned Co-PIs at other institutions are especially encouraged. Letters of Intent are due in May, and will be evaluated on the basis of eligibility and fund appropriateness. After Letters of Intent are reviewed by a triage committee, a select group of faculty will be invited to submit a full application for funding consideration.

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.

DEADLINE: MAY 3, 2021, AT 5:00PM

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 Letters of Intent due in May. Application submission and review will be conducted using the University of Michigan Medical School’s Competition Space. Letters of Intent will be evaluated on the basis of eligibility and fund appropriateness. It is highly recommended to contact Sara Risch, Biomedical Innovation Specialist, at ( or 734-764-5598) to discuss your project before submission.

The Frankel Innovation Initiative provides resources to support aggressive projects that aim to solve some of the biggest challenges in healthcare. Projects that have the potential to substantially impact life-years are encouraged. The program is open to primary investigators (PIs) at the U-M Medical School, and other investigators outside of U-M on a collaborative basis. Collaborative projects that engage nationally renowned Co-PIs at other institutions are especially encouraged to apply.

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-$500k 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, including representatives from the FII Scientific Advisory Committee, performs an initial review of Letters of Intent, selecting projects to submit a full proposal. Full proposals are then reviewed by the full FII Scientific Advisory Committee, who select 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 project teams then present their project directly to the FII Scientific Advisory Committee at the committee’s annual meeting in Ann Arbor in September, and awards are granted shortly thereafter.

In addition to reviewing and selecting proposal awards, members of the FII 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.