NSERC Discovery Frontiers: Antimicrobial resistance in the environment


Discovery Frontiers grants support a limited number of large international activities, opportunities or projects that are of high priority in the context of advanced research in Canada. These are led by world-class Canadian researchers and comprise multi-institutional team that generate substantial impact, for the benefit of Canada. Approaches used will emphasize new ideas, perspectives and solutions and interdisciplinary thinking with potential for long-term impacts. International linkages are required.

This fifth call for proposals will bring together groups of researchers in new ways to address a major research challenge in Antimicrobial Resistance in the environment. Discovery Frontiers will support a program that will be paradigm-shifting, trans-disciplinary in nature, open new fields or integrate existing fields in new ways, involve international collaboration, and accelerate the establishment of expertise and capacity.


Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or fungi, change in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of the antimicrobials used to treat infections. The microorganisms that resist the treatment survive and multiply. The broad use of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine and in the agriculture and agri-food industries has resulted in the rise of resistant populations which develop and spread. Poor infection control practices, inadequate sanitation and inappropriate food handling also encourage the spread of AMR.

The central objective of the research will be to transform our understanding of the environmental dimensions of antimicrobial resistance and our knowledge of antibiotic resistance evolution in complex environments, including agricultural and urban settings, and their risks to wildlife and ecosystem function. The anticipated outcomes of this globally unique, interdisciplinary, and integrative research initiative will advance AMR science, and lead to new fields of investigation and much-needed knowledge of :

  • the incidence, fate, ecology and genetics of AMR in the environment;
  • the role of the environment in the AMR evolution;
  • the environmental reservoirs of resistance, and factors that contribute to the evolution of resistance;
  • the transfer of resistance genes and resistant organisms in and between environmental compartments;
  • the potential for the emergence/spread of AMR to cause harm to the environment;
  • the impact of AMR on ecosystem function and biodiversity.

Letter of intent

Applicants begin by submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI must include a cover page (one page), a research proposal (maximum five pages) and biographical information on the team (maximum two pages). All documents should follow the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards.

The cover page must include:

  • the project title;
  • a list of up to 10 keywords;
  • an approximate budget request, by project year;
  • the applicant’s name, affiliation, telephone number and email address;
  • a list of all co-applicants, with affiliation and email address.

The research proposal should include:

  • a description of the main research challenges and activities;
  • a discussion of anticipated participation by collaborators, such as international researchers and government scientists, and their roles;
  • a discussion of anticipated outcomes and benefits;
  • a description of the plans for training of highly qualified personnel;
  • a high level summary of the major budget items with justification.

The biographical information should contain short biographies of the applicant and co-applicants and their areas of expertise.

The LOI should be saved as a single portable document format (PDF) document, and uploaded to NSERC’s secure portal before the deadline.


Agency Name: 
Contact Name: 
Stacey Leavitt
Grant Amount: 
Up to $1 million per year for four years
Grant Location: 
External Deadline: 
Friday, March 1, 2019
Internal Deadline: 
Friday, March 1, 2019
Grant Type: 
Grant Area: 
Natural Science
Grant Eligibility: