Catalyst Grant: Sex as a Variable in Biomedical Research

Since the early 2000s, there has been a growing recognition by the research community that the sex of cells, tissues, animals, and humans matter in biomedical science. Every cell has a sex, with sex differences beginning at conception and varying along the lifecycle. When sex is taken into account, it promotes reproducibility of research findings and increases scientific rigor by allowing results to be generalizable to both males and females. When sex is not taken into account, important effects may be missed. Failure to consider sex in biomedical research can come at the cost of human lives, as illustrated in the case of health advisories that make post-market sex-specific dosage recommendations or post-market adverse reactions reporting that show differences between men and women.

Much of our understanding of human disease and physiology stems from research on cells, tissues and animals, prior to trials conducted in humans. Sex considerations in biomedical research provide a foundational understanding of human biology, which can inform research and development of therapeutic interventions. Differences in the epidemiology of disease and the effect of sex chromosomes or sex hormones suggest that pathophysiologic mechanisms may vary according to sex.

Despite the importance of sex considerations in biomedical research, many researchers have not fully explored the potential for discovery accounting for sex as a biological variable in their studies.

This funding opportunity aims to encourage biomedical scientists to include sex as a variable in their research questions and experimental designs. In support of this aim, the Institute of Gender and Health (IGH) has developed a free online course that examines how sex can be integrated into biomedical research at every stage of the research project.

Relevant Research Areas

The Institutes of Gender and Health, Aging, Cancer Research, Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Infection and Immunity, and Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis will provide funding for applications that are determined to be relevant to the following research area:

Applications must propose to introduce a new research question that incorporates sex as a biological variable into a new or established research project.

Depending on the nature of the research question, the applicant may choose to address one or more of the below relevant research areas:

  • Identify sex differences in the mechanism/disease/treatment under study (reporting null findings is also encouraged)
  • Explain sex differences (i.e. what is the mechanism underlying observed differences?)
  • Explain underlying pathways leading to a common phenotype
  • Consider experimental conditions related to sex that need to be taken into account that might affect the study results (confounders or interactions)
  • Promote the development and validation of new experimental methods to study sex differences in biomedical research
Agency Name: 
Contact Name: 
Penny D'Agnone
Grant Amount: 
The total amount available for this funding opportunity is $3,450,000, enough to fund approximately 23 grants. The maximum amount per grant is $75,000 per year for up to 2 years. This funding is non-renewable. Of this $3,450,000, $300,000 is available to fund applications relevant to the mandate of the Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis. (Updated: 2017-09-21)
Grant Location: 
External Deadline: 
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Grant Type: 
Grant Area: 
Grant Eligibility: