What's the Secret to Becoming an Ellison New Scholar in Aging?

As of November 2013, the Ellison Medical Foundation is no longer pursuing biomedical grantmaking. Please read our article about the foundation's sudden announcement here.

This fall, the Ellison Medical Foundation (EMF) announces 25 new awardees in its New Scholars in Aging Program. Each awardee will receive up to $100,000 annually over the course of four years.

Designed to serve as a financial springboard for young scientists, the Ellison Foundation New Scholars in Aging Awards are doled out to young postdocs in the first three years of their careers. "They are at a vulnerable stage in their careers, establishing their own labs," says Ellison. "These awards contribute to a safety net that allows bright young scientists to staff their labs, collect preliminary data, and organize research in order to gain ongoing support from other sources."

So, 25 young scientists received a bundle of money from the foundation this fall. But who are they? What makes them special? We at IP thought sharing more in-depth information about this award might help future New Scholars in Aging understand how to improve their odds of securing funding. So without further ado...

The first thing you need to understand is, it doesn't matter what university you hail from, how big your lab is, or how well-established you are (or aren't). What it comes down to is the idea itself. It needs to be daring. It needs to be untested. It needs to be out there (but not too far). The Ellison Medical Foundation sees itself as dropping a welcome rope ladder down to a creative pool of scientists who are usually left high and dry by more conservative philanthropic organizations. It wants the best and the brightest — but also the most creative. Where many philanthropists seek to reward great breakthroughs in scientific applications and method, Ellison Medical wants real discovery. A new protein. A new genetic marker. A cure.

The foundation wants to hear about a new hypothesis testing the importance of astrocytes in brain aging. It wants a study that looks for genetic markers that influence lifespan — in nematodes — and sees applications for how the information gathered can be applied to more advanced organisms. New Scholars come from a wide range of universities — mostly big research schools on the east and west coasts, but smaller colleges and biological research stations also are well represented. You don't need the cache of Yale or Harvard to get this award, but it doesn't hurt, either.

Spend time developing your pitch. Make sure it's truly innovative, cross your fingers, and try your luck. You just might be one of the lucky recipients that the Ellison Medical Foundation showers cash on this year.