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Who Will Pay for Your Next Grant?


Spend half an hour talking to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s President Bruce Stillman about the government funding crunch, and you too may feel like taking a long walk off a short pier. “If you’re in the trenches of science now, it is very, very difficult and there’s a lot of despair,” he says.

After five years of major increases, NIH achieved the goal of doubling its budget to almost $29 billion. That played a significant role in the massive amounts of funding poured into the systems biology disciplines. But in the last few years — since the doubling stopped — the NIH budget has actually gone flat, and in inflation-adjusted terms, has dropped more than 10 percent. “We are well on our way to un-doubling the NIH budget,” says Dick Knapp, who recently addressed a group of senators on this topic in his role as chairman of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research.

The success rate for grant approval has dropped from a ’70s heyday of more than 40 percent to less than half that. In fiscal year 2005, NIH money funded about 9,600 competitive research grants; last year, that number dropped to fewer than 9,100. “Now we’re finding really good people — I mean really, truly outstanding people — not getting their grants renewed,” says Stillman at Cold Spring Harbor. This year’s estimated budget for NIH, barring any last-minute additions from Congress, gives the agency the same appropriation it received last year. With more money shifted to biodefense and other priorities, that leaves major systems biology funders on the losing side: NCI gets $40 million less in fiscal 2007, while NIGMS and NHGRI are down $12 million and $3 million, respectively.

At other agencies, similar stories are being told; NSF, for instance, has had a flat budget for the past few years. “We’re marked for an increase in ’07,” says James Collins, assistant director for NSF’s biology directorate, “but we don’t know yet what those numbers are to look like.”

At NIH, at least, another problem compounding the flat budget is the slew of multi-year commitments made to grants funded during the doubling period. “While [the budget] is increasing, it’s OK” to have a large number of grants that must be funded year after year, Stillman says. “When you stop the doubling of funding,” however, those grants still have to be honored, so “the availability of new funds goes way down. That’s the principal reason for the budget crunch at the moment,” he adds, noting that his institute has started pounding the pavement to raise money from philanthropists and other private sources to try to make up the shortfall.

Meanwhile, science itself has gotten more expensive. Cutting-edge proposals used to mean studying one gene for a career; now, scientists want to perform genome-wide screens, for example — and big biology costs big bucks. Frustratingly, with the completion of the genome, avenues for great science are more open than ever. “In some diseases, particularly in cancer, there are opportunities now that are just going begging because we don’t have the money to do it,” Stillman says.

In many places, this crunch has already caused layoffs and other scale-backs in personnel and research efforts. Leaders fear that continued scrimping will serve as a deterrent for people considering a career in science. “If we don’t correct this, all of the good will and investment we’ve made in the infrastructure, with the [NIH Roadmap], all the collaborative work, all the genomics and cancer that we’ve put this investment into, will go to waste because we won’t have a next generation of scientists to take advantage of it,” Stephen Emerson, division chief at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told a Senate subcommittee in a recent hearing about this problem.

But the more immediate problem for scientists is just finding money to tide them over. Toward that end, Genome Technology combed through hundreds of private philanthropic foundations to find the ones that offer grants for scientific and biomedical research. The pages that follow are a compilation of that information.

 — Meredith Salisbury


Alliance for Lupus Research

Focus: Research into the prevention, treatment, and cure of lupus

How to apply: Go through specific initiatives, such as the SLE Genetics program; see online for details

Contact information: [email protected]


ALS Assocation

Focus: Research relevant to understanding and treating ALS

Grant specifics: Through its grant program, the foundation gives 20 to 25 grants per year with a total value of $2 million to $2.5 million; awards for grants are usually between $60,000 and $80,000

How to apply: Submit abstract through an online form; the foundation will notify people from whom it would like more complete proposals

Next deadline: December 1


Alzheimer’s Association

Focus: Compelling issues in Alzheimer’s research

Grant specifics: The foundation funds about 50 investigator-initiated research grants, with a per-grant total award cap of $240,000 for up to three years; there will also be 25 awards issued for new investigators, and the cap for those is $100,000 for up to two years

How to apply: See website for details

Contact information: [email protected] or +1.312.335.5747


American Diabetes Association

Focus: Funds basic and clinical research into diabetes

Grant specifics: Three types of award: research awards range from $20,000 to $100,000 per year for up to three years; clinical research award maximum is $200,000 per year for up to three years; and innovation awards for cases that may lack preliminary data are capped at $50,000 per year for two years.

How to apply: Online submission process

Next deadline: July 15, then January 15, 2007

Contact information: Magda Galindo at [email protected]


American Lung Association

Focus: Basic and clinical research related to lung disease

Grant specifics: Biomedical research grants worth $40,000 per year; investigator career-development awards run $60,000 per year

How to apply: Online application

Next deadline: September 1


Cure Autism Now Foundation

Focus: Basic or clinical research into autism

Grant specifics: The foundation offers a series of programs for young investigators as well as established scientists whose research relates to autism

How to apply: Online grant application process

Contact information: Therese Finazzo, grants officer, at [email protected]


Epilepsy Foundation

Focus: Pinpointing the biological cause of epilepsy and developing new therapeutic approaches

Grant specifics: Up to $50,000 per year for one or two years

How to apply: Complete applications (see website) and mail to Epilepsy Foundation, Research Grants Program, 8301 Professional Place, Landover, MD 20785

Next deadline: September 1 for funding beginning January 1, 2007

Contact information: +1.301.459.3700


McCarthy Family Foundation

Focus: Among the many components of this foundation is a program to determine the pathogenesis of HIV/AIDS and related diseases and develop effective therapies

Grant specifics: Grants range from $500 to $250,000; most run between $5,000 and $15,000

Restrictions: Proposals will only be accepted from programs in San Diego County

How to apply: Submit a letter of inquiry

Next deadline: September 15 for funding in December

Contact information: [email protected]


National Hemophilia Foundation

Focus: Broad range of research linked to bleeding disorders

Grant specifics: Investigator-initiated Career Development award funds $70,000 per year for up to three years

How to apply: Submit letter of intent

Next deadline: November 1; full proposal due February 1

Contact information: Rita Barksy at [email protected]



Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation

Focus: Understanding and preventing cancer using biomarkers, gene indications, and other biomolecular approaches

Grant specifics: Grants given for $40,000 per year for two years

How to apply: $40 application fee; see online for details

Next deadline: September 14

Contact information: [email protected]


Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

Focus: Cancer research with a clinical angle

Grant specifics: Clinical Investigator Award is a three-year grant worth $450,000 plus up to $100,000 of medical school loan repayment; the foundation says research involving molecular imaging is a new priority

Restrictions: Priority is given to applicants who work directly with patients

How to apply: Detailed directions may be found on website


Lance Armstrong Foundation

Focus: Cancer

Grant specifics: The most recent RFP focused on testicular cancer; check website for other RFPs as they become available. Research awards run in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $75,000 (plus 10 percent indirect costs) per year for one to three years.

How to apply: Submit letter of inquiry for a specific RFP


Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation

Focus: Basic, clinical, and translational breast cancer research

Grant specifics: Awards run as high as $250,000 for a two- or three-year period; since 1982, the foundation has given more than 1,000 grants worth more than $180 million

Next deadline: August 30 for grants beginning May 1, 2007

Sample grant: The foundation awarded close to $250,000 to the Beckman Research Institute for a study on transcriptional gene interactions in breast cancer, using microarrays and linkage analysis to find risk-associated polymorphisms

Contact information: [email protected]; +1.888.300.5582


Kidney Disease/Nephrology

American Society of Nephrology

Focus: Basic and clinical research on kidneys

Grant specifics: Up to $100,000 annually for two years

How to apply: Forms available online

Next deadline: March 9, 2007

Contact information: Susan Owens, [email protected]


National Kidney Foundation

Focus: Research to enable a better understanding of kidney disease as well as how to treat, prevent, and cure it

Grant specifics: The foundation has two grant programs, one for clinical scientists and one for young investigators with $50,000 awards

How to apply: Check for opportunities at

Contact information: +1.800.622.9010



Michael J. Fox Foundation

Focus: Parkinson’s research

Grant specifics: The foundation has supported more than 250 Parkinson’s research projects with more than $74 million; has Fast Track program as well as LEAPS (Linked Efforts to Accelerate Parkinson’s Solutions)

How to apply: Applications accepted online only; check for the latest RFPs at

Sample grant: Funded eight projects with $1.6 million to identify Parkinson’s biomarkers


National Parkinson Foundation

Focus: Basic and clinical research linked to Parkinson’s disease

Grant specifics: Awards run up to $40,000

How to apply: Complete application forms, available online, and e-mail to [email protected]

Next deadline: Second Monday in March


Neuroscience/Mental Health

Dana Foundation

Focus: Neuroscience, immunology, and cognitive skills

Grant specifics: Specific programs in brain and immuno-imaging; immunology; and clinical neuroscience research, among others, provide the framework for the foundation’s grant giving

How to apply: Check for program announcements

Contact information: +


Goldhirsh Foundation

Focus: Research relevant to malignant diffuse glioma tumors

Grant specifics: Brain tumor research awards from the Goldhirsh Foundation run for three years at $600,000 or one year for $100,000; both include 10 percent indirect costs.

How to apply: Online submission

Next deadline: January 2007 for funding starting July 1, 2007


James S. McDonnell Foundation

Focus: The foundation’s 21st Century Science Initiative has three program areas: bridging mind, brain, and behavior; studying complex systems; and brain cancer research

Grant specifics: Maximum of $450,000 can be requested for three to six years

How to apply: See online for details

Sample grant: Todd Preuss leads a group funded by JSMF to interrogate the genome for “human specializations” of cognition and the brain

Contact information: [email protected]


John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Focus: Best known for its MacArthur Genius awards, the foundation’s mental health category funds applied research in the field

How to apply: Unsolicited proposals are generally not accepted, but letters of inquiry may be sent to the foundation at 140 S. Dearborn Street, Chicago, IL 60603-5285

Contact information: +1.312.726.8000; [email protected]


McKnight Foundation

Focus: The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience provides support for scientists studying the biology and disorders of the brain

Grant specifics: Competitive annual awards are issued in three categories: early career scientists; new technology; and neurological diseases. Awards range from $75,000 to $100,000 per year based on the program.

How to apply: Submit a letter of intent or full application, depending on program rules; see website for details

Next deadline: December

Sample grant: Previous awards went toward developing yeast model systems for neurodegenerative diseases and real-time RNA imaging, for example

Contact information: [email protected]


Stanley Medical Research Institute

Focus: Research that’s relevant in understanding or treating schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, including neuropathology, neurovirology, and neuroimmunology studies

Grant specifics: Maximum of $75,000 per year for two years

Next deadline: March 1, 2007

Contact information: Rhoda Marte, [email protected]


Whitehall Foundation

Focus: Neurobiology in vertebrates and invertebrates, excluding clinical research

Grant specifics: Typically range from $30,000 to $75,000 annually

How to apply: Submit letter of intent

Next deadline: October 1

Contact information: [email protected]


General biomedical/health

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Focus: The Gates Foundation, one of the wealthiest philanthropic organizations, is best known for funding research and initiatives targeting neglected diseases such as malaria, AIDS, and TB. The foundation offers grants in breakthrough science and technology as well through its Global Health initiative.

How to apply: Check online at to get the latest program announcements and application information. Letters of intent may be submitted online without a specific RFP in these categories: acute diarrheal illness; acute lower respiratory infections; child health; HIV/AIDS; malaria; malnutrition; reproductive/maternal health; tuberculosis; and vaccine-preventable diseases. Letters of intent may also be submitted for other health conditions and for critical enabling strategies — look online under Global Health for details.

Sample grant: Imperial College of London won a five-year, $10 million grant to use state-of-the-art technologies to identify the molecular signatures of latent tuberculosis in human tissue, and to target those signatures with novel drugs


Burroughs Wellcome Fund

Focus: Target areas include infectious disease; interfaces in science; medical sciences; and translational research

How to apply: Guidelines and deadlines vary by program; see website

Sample grant: Ben Black at UCSD was funded to study epigenetic mechanisms for centromere specification

Contact information: [email protected]


Gerber Foundation

Focus: Health and nutrition in infants or young children

How to apply: Submit a letter of inquiry (form available online), no more than two pages long

Next deadline: Letters of inquiry due December 1 for May award or June 1 for November award

Sample grant: $167,096 to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for a study to evaluate the genetic causes of congenital heart defects


Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Focus: Biomedical research grants for specific program topics; since 1988, HHMI has awarded about $1.5 billion in grant funding

How to apply: Check the website for program announcements


Hyde and Watson Foundation

Focus: Among the foundation’s goals is funding of medical research

Grant specifics: Awards typically run from $5,000 to $25,000

Restrictions: Grants are primarily designated for recipients in the New York City metropolitan area

How to apply: Complete the application form online and send a brief summary (no more than three pages) of your proposal; send hard copies to the foundation at 437 Southern Blvd, Chatham Township, NJ, 07928, attn: Mr. Hunter W. Corbin, President


Kettering Family Foundation

Focus: The broad-based foundation accepts proposals through its medical/health category

Grant specifics: Last year, the foundation gave approximately $190,000 through its medical/health program

How to apply: Send a one-page summary; you will be notified if the foundation would like a full proposal

Next deadline: August 1 for summary; September 1 for full proposal

Sample grant: The Children’s National Medical Center was awarded $100,000 for gene therapy research

Contact information: [email protected]


Quest Diagnostics Foundation

Focus: Research for curing, preventing, or detecting disease

Grant specifics: Typical range is $500 to $20,000

How to apply: Submit a proposal to Quest Diagnostics Foundation, Executive Director, 1290 Wall Street West, Lyndhurst, NJ, 07071

Next deadline: Next grant review will take place in October

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Focus: General health and healthcare

Grant specifics: The foundation awards approximately $370 million within 11 key areas of interest. Of those, addiction prevention and treatment; childhood obesity; and public health are most relevant. Most awards are made to responses for calls for proposals, but about a quarter of funds are given to unsolicited proposals.

How to apply: Submit a three-page brief proposal using the online application form


Wellcome Trust

Focus: Biomedical research

Grant specifics: Specific categories include neuroscience and mental health; immunology and infectious disease; tropical and clinical; populations and public health; molecules, genes, and cells; and physiological sciences

Restrictions: All projects must include at least one researcher based in the UK or Ireland

How to apply: Online

Contact information: Grants helpdesk can be reached at [email protected]




Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Focus: Research areas include molecular evolution, theoretical neurobiology, marine science, and computational molecular biology

Grant specifics: Vary by program

How to apply: There are no deadlines; send concise proposal or letter of inquiry

Contact information: +1.212.649.1649


Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation

Focus: Broadly interpreted life science research

How to apply: See details online

Next deadline: September 29

Contact information: +1.949.721.2222


Christopher Reeve Foundation

Focus: Spinal cord biology; specifically, studying spinal cord injuries in animal models; elucidating the mechanisms and functions of the spinal cord and related systems; drug efficacy; neuron growth and survival

Grant specifics: Two-year awards with a maximum of $75,000 annually

How to apply: Send a pre-proposal letter if you have questions about your research’s relevance to Dr. Landsman at [email protected]; otherwise, submit proposal through an online application and seven hard copies to Douglas Landsman, Director, Individual Research Grants Program, Christopher Reeve Foundation, 636 Morris Turnpike, Short Hills, NJ, 07078

Next deadline: December 15

Sample grant: A University of Massachusetts scientist won $150,000 for two years to use a Drosphila model to study acute nerve injury, making use of genomic analysis


Ellison Medical Foundation

Focus: Through its Aging Program, the foundation supports basic biomedical research into the aging process as well as age-related diseases. Specific areas of interest include structural biology, molecular genetics, and gene-gene interactions, among others.

Grant specifics: The senior scholar award provides up to $150,000 per year for four years

How to apply: Submit a letter of intent online

Next deadline: July 13 for the senior scholar program

Contact information: Richard Sprott, executive director, at +1.301.657.1830


Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation

Focus: Biological explanations for violence, aggression, and dominance; for instance, neuroscientific studies looking into brain systems linked with violent behavior

Grant specifics: Awards usually run from $15,000 to $30,000 a year for one or two years

How to apply: Send three copies of a completed research grant application to the address below

Next deadline: August 1

Contact information: The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, 25 W. 53rd Street, New York, NY, 10019-5401


Human Frontiers Science Program

Focus: The foundation supports novel, interdisciplinary basic research focused on complex mechanisms of living organisms, with an emphasis on collaborations that bring biologists together with scientists from other fields

Grant specifics: Research teams must be international in scope; the foundation offers young investigator grants as well as program grants, with the latter ranging up to $450,000 per year

How to apply: Submit a letter of intent online

Next deadline: End of March

Sample grant: Jerome Boisbouvier and Javier Palatnik won a young investigator grant to study RNA shape recognition and structure in microRNA processing

Contact information: [email protected]


Kresge Foundation

Focus: Providing funding to help institutions pay for new scientific equipment and instrumentation

Grant specifics: Challenge grants, which require applicants to get three-fourths of their equipment costs from other sources, run from $100,000 to $500,000

How to apply: Send information and completed application forms (see website) to Kresge

Contact information: [email protected]; +1.248.643.9630


Mayday Fund

Focus: Alleviating human physical pain

Grant specifics: The fund will provide awards toward the biological understanding of pain as well as to projects aimed at clinical interventions to reduce pain

Contact information: Christina Spellman, executive director, [email protected]


Mazda Foundation

Focus: Scientific research is one of the programs Mazda supports

Grant specifics: The total operating budget of the foundation is about $400,000 annually

How to apply: Complete an application form, which can be found on the website

Next deadline: Applications are only accepted May 1 through July 1


MJ Murdock Charitable Trust

Focus: Scientific research, health and medicine

Grant specifics: Grants tend to run up to about $50,000; bigger grants are funded, especially for large equipment purchases

Restrictions: Priority is given to organizations in the Pacific Northwest (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington)

How to apply: Submit letter of inquiry

Sample grant: Oregon Health & Science University Foundation won $50,000 for the creation of a genomic resource to study aging in the human brain

Contact information: 360.694.8415


Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Focus: Plant biology and forage improvement

Grant specifics: Genomic research for basic plant biology as well as for developing new forage varieties; in 2004, the foundation approved 55 grants for a total of $11 million

Restrictions: Primary emphasis is on applicants in Oklahoma

How to apply: Submit letter of inquiry to Michael Cawley, President, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, PO Box 2180, Ardmore, OK, 73402

Next deadline: September 1

Contact information: Donna Windel, director of granting, at [email protected]


The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.