Foundation for a Smoke-free World: Research Grants at Nexus of COVID-19 and Smoking

The Foundation for a Smoke-free World seeks to conduct research at the nexus of COVID-19, smoking, and nicotine that requires significant collaboration and research involving outside experts and organizations.

Selected organization(s) will be expected to implement a range of projects relevant to the global pandemic, including well-designed and comprehensive pre-clinical, clinical, and epidemiological studies, to better understand the associations between smoking and/or nicotine use, and COVID-19 infection and outcomes.

The spread of COVID-19 has demanded that governments around the world take unprecedented steps to protect their citizens. This has meant restricting the movement of hundreds of millions of people around the world in an effort to limit the transmission of the disease. The situation has created unique challenges for people who are dependent on nicotine, including smokers, nicotine replacement therapy users, and users of alternative nicotine delivery products. There is emerging evidence that both nicotine use and smoking status may have an impact on COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations, as well as disease severity and mortality.

The underrepresentation of smokers in the available COVID-19 patient data and potential selection and measurement biases within existing research outputs requires well-designed epidemiological studies in order to obtain clarity about the true nature and impact of the relationship(s) between COVID-19 and smoking and/or nicotine use. To address current knowledge gaps, this RFP seeks to accelerate research in the following areas: the impacts of tobacco and nicotine products on COVID-19 outcomes; opportunities for interventions aimed at preventing or reducing COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and disease progression; and/or interventions aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles (including but not restricted to nicotine use) in the wake of the pandemic.

To maximize the chances of getting results fast, the foundation seeks to undertake work in settings with sufficient COVID-19 cases and where smoking/nicotine use rates are in excess of 25 percent of the population for men or women. (The foundation will consider regions in which there are existing cohorts of smokers under observation for other reasons and where adding the above research plans are possible.)

Grants of up to $150,000 for scoping/pre-clinical studies, up to $250,000 for epidemiological studies, and up to $500,000 for clinical studies will be awarded. Recommended duration of the grant funding is up to three months for scoping/pre-clinical studies, three to six months for epidemiological studies, and up to twelve months for clinical studies.

The foundation encourages participation by groups whose work aligns with the foundation’s mission to eliminate smoking within a generation. These groups include institutions of higher education, nonprofits, commercial enterprises, governmental agencies, or other research-based organizations. Applicants should have a proven track record suitable for the area of research proposed. Previous research of tobacco and/or nicotine is appreciated but is not a requirement for funding. Successful applicants will likely have an interdisciplinary group of key personnel who can approach this project from their individual fields of expertise (e.g. epidemiologists, clinicians, behavioral economists, basic scientists, and public health specialists). The foundation expects successful applicants to conduct research and publish findings according to Open Science principles, including: declaring hypotheses and proposed analyses up front; making raw data available for analysis; publishing all results, whether positive or negative; and publishing in journals that offer open access.

Applicants should be aware that the foundation’s Initial funding came from Phillip Morris International (PMI). The foundation has nonprofit status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and by law and policy must operate independently from PMI.

All interested parties should submit a detailed proposal for work to the foundation using its online application system. There is no page requirement for submissions, however the application form has links to three templates that must be fully completed for an application to be considered. Applicants will also have the option to upload additional relevant documentation.

The application portal will close at 6:00 p.m. EST on December 15, 2020. In order to capture studies that address various timeframes during the COVID-19 pandemic cycle, the foundation will review and evaluate submitted proposals monthly until closing.

For additional, and FAQ, and a link to the online portal, see the Foundation for a Smoke-free World website.