2022-2023 MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Therapy Commercialization Fellowship

April 19, 2022
The deadline for this funding opportunity has passed.
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University of Minnesota

MnDRIVE Neuromodulation Therapy Commercialization Fellowship

Graduate ● Postdoctoral ● Resident ● Clinical Fellow ● MDC Innovation Fellows

2022-2023 Fellowship Program

Award duration and amount: One year, up to $70,000 (depending on applicant type - graduate student, post-doc, resident, clinical fellow, and Medical Devices Center Innovation Fellow). Award may be applied to stipend and benefits (also tuition in the case of student trainees). Fellowships to start in the summer (after July 1) or Fall of 2022.

Deadline to apply is 5:00 PM (CT) on April 19, 2022.

Recipients will be notified in late June 2022.

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION.  The University of Minnesota announces a commercialization-focused trainee fellowship program in Neuromodulation for 2022-2023. The fellowship is funded by the Brain Conditions area of the Minnesota Discovery and Research InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) initiative. Fellowships will be awarded to an outstanding individual trainee that has a translational and neuromodulation-focused research project with high commercial potential and a strong collaboration with an industry partner (e.g., a start-up company or an established company that can license/commercialize the innovation) or with a commercialization support partner (e.g., an expert product development/business team helping to commercialize the innovation that can be internal or external to the university). The application review committee will take a broad view on what is defined as an industry partner or commercialization support partner; yet, the applicant must clearly describe and justify in the proposal how this partner will significantly advance the commercialization of the project, especially to contribute to the health and quality of life of the citizens of Minnesota and/or the economic vitality of the state. The fellowship is intended to foster University-industry collaborations towards delivering neuromodulation discoveries and innovations with high commercial potential. 

Neuromodulation is a transdisciplinary field focused on treating nervous system disorders (e.g., neurological, psychiatric, autonomic or end-organ dysregulation, sensory or motor dysfunction related to the spinal cord or peripheral damage, etc.) with technological interventions at an appropriate neural interface that provides a therapeutic response and is non-destructive, reversible, and adjustable. Neuromodulation research integrates basic science, engineering, and clinical disciplines to yield new insights into nervous system function and to develop therapeutic innovations that include electrical, magnetic, optogenetic, and ultrasound technologies. Fellowship applications using purely pharmaceutical interventions will NOT be considered responsive to this call for applications. Bringing such innovations to patients leverages different researcher skill sets and partnerships that are essential to accomplish the “Bench to Bedside” goal. 

Academic-industry partnerships have been essential building blocks for the commercial medical device and drug therapies industry. Many such innovations are very historic between the University of Minnesota and what is now the surrounding Medical Alley health technology industry (https://www.medicalalley.org/). As traditional funding climates change, the ability to foster strong relations between the University and Industry partners becomes more important to the future of medical research and innovation. Trainees able to identify translational research questions and successfully partner with industry will be uniquely prepared to advance neuromodulation therapies for brain conditions and nervous system disorders/deficits. This fellowship is intended to provide trainees with a valuable opportunity to develop their career and skills, as well as strengthen industry investment in the expertise and resources the University and MnDRIVE have to offer in bringing neuromodulation therapies to patients in need. 

MnDRIVE.  MnDRIVE is a landmark partnership between the University and the state of Minnesota. Discoveries and treatments for brain conditions, a MnDRIVE core area of research and partnership, addresses complex and debilitating nervous system-related disorders by leveraging university and state investments in medicine and engineering and extending our vibrant partnerships with medical device industries in Minnesota. For more information about the MnDRIVE core area of discoveries and treatments for brain conditions and nervous system disorders/deficits, go to: https://mndrive.umn.edu/brain. For more information on MnDRIVE please visit: https://mndrive.umn.edu/.    

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION.  We seek outstanding trainees (Masters/PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, medical residents, clinical fellows, and MDC Innovation Fellows) who will work collaboratively with an industry or commercialization support partner on a neuromodulation-related project with high commercial potential. Selection will be based on the strength of the applicant’s academic records and work history, relevance of the proposed research to neuromodulation, evidence of past productivity in research or industry, alignment of the research and commercialization training experience with the goals of the MnDRIVE initiative, project quality, commercialization potential, and strength of the industry or commercialization support partnership.

Trainees must be affiliated with the University of Minnesota and mentored by a University of Minnesota faculty for the duration of the one-year award period and must follow University policies and procedures for research and innovation discovery. 

UPDATED POLICY:  Previous recipients of a MnDRIVE Neuromodulation through Industry Partnerships Fellowship are NOT eligible to apply. There will also be no fellowship renewals. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Applicants will be asked to identify faculty mentors to support their work during the award period. Applicants should give careful consideration to the diverse expertise and perspectives (e.g., technical, commercialization, clinical, etc.) needed for a successful training experience. Applications where the applicant, commercialization partner, and university faculty mentor(s) do not provide the needed complement of expertise to ensure a high-quality training experience will not be considered for funding.

The University of Minnesota is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer. 


There are three parts to the application; all must be completed and submitted no later than April 19, 2022.

Part 1.  Online fellowship application form. Applicants should complete this online fellowship application form no later than April 19, 2022. The application form will request that the applicant provide contact information for themselves and their University of Minnesota mentor and letters-of-support writers, and then upload a single PDF containing items 1-13 below (with a font no smaller than 11 pt and 0.5 in margins):  

1. A PROJECT COVER SHEET with the following:


  • APPLICATION TYPE (graduate student - Masters, graduate student - PhD, post-doc, clinical fellow, medical resident, and MDC Innovation Fellow)




  • PROJECT SUMMARY (limit = 250 words)

  • STATEMENT OF PROJECT SIGNIFICANCE (limit = 2 to 5 sentences). Applicants should provide a general statement of the project's significance. Please use language appropriate for the general public; for example: Dr. Smith's patient-centered research will lead to improved treatment for the critical motor symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.

  • STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE to MINNESOTA (limit = 3 to 4 sentences). Applicants should provide a brief statement of the potential of the fellowship training experience and deliverables to contribute to the health and quality of life of the citizens of MINNESOTA and/or the economic vitality of the state. Please use language that is appropriate for the general public. This statement should specifically emphasize the relevance of the proposed research and training to the citizens of Minnesota. 

  • Names, titles, institutions, and contact information (email and phone) of two professional references who will write letters of support for the applicant. 

2. PROJECT NARRATIVE (limit = 2 pages) that provides a description of the research project. Please provide the significance of the project and how it can address clinically meaningful outcomes if the long-term commercial objectives are achieved beyond the fellowship period, as well as contributing to the health and quality of life of the citizens of MINNESOTA and/or the economic vitality of the state. The proposed therapeutic application and targeted clinical condition(s) must be clearly defined in the PROJECT NARRATIVE, and supporting evidence must be presented for how the proposed therapeutic application will meet an unmet clinical need to advance the field of neuromodulation. The supporting evidence can consist of various sources, including interviews with clinicians, market research, published articles, reports/interviews from health care payers, etc. Please also provide clear and feasible short-term objectives/aims for the one-year fellowship period, along with several long-term translational and commercial objectives. The narrative should provide sufficient details on the proposed research and tasks to convey to the reviewers the likelihood of success to execute the project and to achieve the objectives.

3. STATEMENT of DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION (limit = 3 to 5 sentences). Applicant should provide a brief statement explaining how they or their project will advance or contribute to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

4. BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES (limit = 1 page). Please include bibliographic references to support the PROJECT NARRATIVE.

5. OPTIONAL SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for PROJECT NARRATIVE (limit = 1/2 page). The applicant may submit one image containing up to two graphs or diagrams to support the PROJECT NARRATIVE. 

6. TRAINING PLAN DETAIL (limit = 1 page). Applicant should:  

  • Describe the new research skills/techniques and commercial training that the applicant will attain through the fellowship period and relate these to the applicant’s career aspirations. Please list specific commercialization training activities (e.g., business/commercialization workshops or seminars such as provided by Tech Comm, MIN-CORPS, CTSI, IEM; internship or direct mentoring with the commercial partner; etc.) that will be pursued during the fellowship. 

  • Briefly describe the applicant’s plan for meeting with the university and commercial mentors and their specific contributions to the various training components of the project. 

7.  COMMERCIALIZATION PARTNER (limit = 1/2 page). Identify the industry or commercialization support partner and clearly describe the nature of the collaboration on the project, the partner’s role, and expected specific contributions to the project.   

8. COMMERCIALIZATION POTENTIAL and COMMERCIALIZATION PATHWAY (limit = 1.5 pages). In terms of commercial potential, applicants should describe their minimum viable product, identify their customer segments, and state their value proposition. Applicants should include a description of any specific research they have done, or evidence they have gathered that supports the assertion the project has high commercial potential (e.g., customer validation interviews with physicians and patients, market research, etc.). In terms of commercialization pathway, the applicant should describe how the project deliverables fit into a pathway to commercialization for a neuromodulation-related product/therapy and explain how the work of the fellowship period will be shepherded through the next steps. The descriptions should demonstrate that the applicant can see a reasonable path to a significant commercialization event(s) within 3 to 5 years, and that work done in the fellowship period is necessary to enable a commercialization event. A commercialization event can include forming a start-up company, licensing intellectual property to an external entity, leading to development of a new product within a commercial partner’s company, fundraising for an existing commercial partner (e.g., through investors or SBIRs), etc. The potential for and maturity level of multiple commercialization events will increase the strength of the proposal during the review process.

9. RESEARCH SUPPORT (limit = 1/2 page). Applicants should:

  • Identify the department/center that will serve as their "research home".

  • Describe the relevant research support the research home will provide, including laboratory or office space, equipment, facilities, and other physical resources the applicant will need to successfully complete their research.

10. ADDITIONAL SUPPORT DISCLOSURE: If applicable, the applicant should indicate whether they expect to receive pay or other compensation beyond the MnDRIVE support for their proposed project or other work during the reporting period (including compensation from the industry/commercialization support partner, other University of Minnesota sources, etc.). 

11. IRB or IACUC PROTOCOL STATUS: Indicate the status of IRB or IACUC of protocols (or indicate that IRB or IACUC protocols are not required for the proposed project). If protocols have been submitted and approved, indicate their titles, the PI under whom they have been submitted, and the most recent date of approval. If protocols are not yet submitted, or have been submitted but do not yet have approval, the applicant should indicate the PI under whom the protocols are to be submitted and the anticipated dates for 1) submitting an IRB or IACUC protocol and/or 2) attaining final approval.  

12. TIMELINE with KEY MILESTONES and DELIVERABLE(S) (limit = 1/2 page). Applicant should provide a TIMELINE with KEY MILESTONES in the award period. Applicant should also clearly list the TRAINING EXPERIENCE DELIVERABLE(S) throughout the award period, especially those related to the commercialization aspect of the project. If IRB or other approvals are needed, indicate the anticipated dates for obtaining those approvals.

13. APPLICANT’S CURRENT CV (limit = 2 pages). Please provide a current CV, and include GPA for each educational institution attended. CV’s longer than 2 pages will be omitted from the materials sent to reviewers.

Part 2.  LETTERS OF SUPPORT from two professional references (limit = 2 pages per letter). Applicant should arrange for a LETTER OF SUPPORT to be submitted by each of two references who can comment on the applicant’s qualifications to contribute to the project. One letter should come from the commercialization partner that confirms and details the nature of the support they are providing to the project, including any financial and/or in-kind support and commercialization training/mentoring they will provide to the applicant. This commercial partner letter should also describe how their role is critical for the commercialization pathway of the proposed project. The other letter should come from a professional reference who is NOT a mentor for this fellowship. Letter writers should submit letters by email to mnbc-fel@umn.edu no later than April 19, 2022.

Part 3.  LETTER(S) OF CONFIRMATION from U of M faculty mentor(s) (limit = 3/4 page per letter). The university faculty mentor(s) should send a LETTER OF CONFIRMATION that identifies the applicant, states the project title, confirms that he or she will mentor the applicant during the award period should the applicant receive a fellowship, and briefly indicates what mentoring support and resources will be provided. University faculty mentor(s) should submit a letter(s) by email to mnbc-fel@umn.edu no later than April 19, 2022.  


Karrie Molitor | Program Manager, MnDRIVE Brain Conditions
Department of Neuroscience | University of Minnesota
6-145 Jackson Hall
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Direct: 612.626.3378 | Email: kmolitor@umn.edu