SHIC/FFAR Webinar Informs JEV Research Program Applicants

The Swine Health Information Center and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) partnered to fund a $1 million research program to enhance US prevention, preparedness, and response capabilities for Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), a transboundary disease risk for US introduction. SHIC and FFAR co-hosted an informational webinar on February 22, 2024, regarding the request for proposals for the program. The webinar recording can be viewed on-demand. Deadline for proposal submission is 5:00 pm CDT on April 15, 2024. Awards for this program are anticipated in late spring 2024.

FFAR staff participating in the webinar included Lauren Hershey, director of strategic partnerships, Dr. Jasmine Bruno, scientific program director and leader of the animal systems research portfolio, and Michelle Olgers, communications officer. They were joined by SHIC Executive Director Dr. Megan Niederwerder and SHIC Associate Director Dr. Lisa Becton. The goal of the joint research program is to develop novel tools and technologies enabling the US to prevent introduction of JEV. Additionally, preparation for a potential JEV incursion will include development of a response strategy and identifying ways to mitigate production losses should JEV be introduced in the US.

With significant solicitation of ideas and stakeholder feedback, SHIC and other partners developed 13 research priorities for the JEV program. Priorities include transmission and epidemiology of the virus, developing mosquito control strategies for US hog farms, development and evaluation of diagnostic tests including  genome-based and antibody-based options, developing effective communication strategies for producers and consumers, surveillance plans and identifying surveillance targets, evaluating compatible cases that would be submitted to veterinary diagnostic labs in the US, developing challenge models to investigate interventions and their impacts on disease, identifying novel vaccine strategies, and understanding the potential for cross protection from other US flaviviruses. Other priorities include identification of competent vectors in the US, understanding the potential role of wildlife in JEV transmission and spread, defining novel hosts that could support viral replication, and evaluating viral sequencing to understand the molecular pathogenesis of JEV.

The mechanics and content requirements for proposal submission were also covered during the webinar. Dr. Becton noted the SHIC proposal template is different from the FFAR template and contains unique requirements for submission under this program. Specifically, proposals should address one or more of the listed research priorities. Project duration should be 12 to 18 months. However, if there is a compelling need for additional project duration, justification for the extended time should be included within the body of the proposal. 

The maximum award per submitted proposal is $250,000. SHIC and FFAR encourage matching funds from other entities, but it is not required. Matching funds can be noted in a separate column on the budget template. SHIC and FFAR encourage proposal submissions that include collaborations across industries, including international organizations, allied pork industry partners, academic institutions, and other private and public partnerships. All proposals must provide research outcomes that benefit US pork producers and the US swine industry.

The proposal template requires the proposal body to be five total pages, typed in single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font. Proposal introductions should include project rationale, the specific priority being addressed, and a brief listing of project objectives. As the second part of the proposal, the research design should clearly and comprehensively state the details of the experimental methodology to accomplish each objective. Details should include reference assays or tests being utilized, sample types including frequency of collection, and statistical tests that will be employed for data analysis. This section is critical for reviewers to understand the research plan and evaluate scientific merit. Objectives should provide a clear format for data generation and be able to answer the key hypotheses within the proposal.

A description of the quality assurance and quality control plans should be incorporated into the proposal, including the steps investigators will take to ensure the project is completed in a standardized, consistent, repeatable, and accurate format. This may include a description of how testing is standardized, how staff or personnel will be trained, and other related steps. Investigators should detail the operating timeline lined out by key activities and milestones. For example, some investigators utilize a Gantt chart to signify key milestones by month. All proposals should include contact information for key persons managing research contracts on the cover page. This information is critical to connect SHIC/FFAR with the appropriate contacts for contract processes once awards have been granted.

On the budget template, specific sections are provided to detail individual costs that may occur for the project, including travel and publication. Overhead or indirect costs are typically not covered by SHIC research funds. SHIC funding can include graduate student support, student hourly labor, and other post-doctoral support. Regarding principal investigators, if appointments are less than 12 months, funding requests must commiserate with the time being spent on the project. SHIC typically does not cover equipment unless it’s approved in advance. In these cases, justification should be included within the budget section for equipment expenses.

Letters of cooperation from stakeholders, co-investigators, and/or institutions who have agreed to work on the project can be added within the proposal but are not counted as part of the five-page limit. The cover page and budget page are in addition to the five-page proposal body. Investigators are also welcome to include a two-to-three-page biosketch and/or references at the end of the proposal. All proposals should be submitted as a single word document.

SHIC highlighted some considerations for proposal review, including the value of research to the US pork industry, addressing one or more of the 13 research priorities, and project relevance and impact to US pork production. Experimental design review can include an evaluation for clearly outlined aims and objectives, inclusion of appropriate, trackable, timely, and feasible methodology, and the presence of a qualified research team. Reviewers will evaluate if the objectives are achievable and if the budget requests are justified. Multiple proposals from the same principal investigator/co-principal investigator, and consortium applications are welcomed. US-based collaborator(s) are encouraged but not required. If projects have international lead investigators, the proposal should clearly demonstrate that the research provides value back to US pork producers and the US swine industry. For additional questions or to review the template and RFP, please refer to for the SHIC/FFAR JEV RFP.

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

The Swine Health Information Center, launched in 2015 with Pork Checkoff funding, protects and enhances the health of the US swine herd by minimizing the impact of emerging disease threats through preparedness, coordinated communications, global disease monitoring, analysis of swine health data, and targeted research investments. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages sharing of its publications and research. Forward, reprint, and quote SHIC material freely. For more information, visit or contact Dr. Megan Niederwerder at [email protected] or Dr. Lisa Becton at [email protected].