Ellison Medical Foundation Launches Neuroscience Scholar Awards

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

The Ellison Medical Foundation has launched a new program aimed at promoting scholarly research in the area of neuroscience (see Ellison Medical Foundation: Grants for Brain Research and Treatment).

The foundation's Neuroscience Scholar Awards program is modeled after its existing grant program for research on aging. The awards will be given out to two groups — New Scholars, who are in their first few years of a research career, and Senior Scholars, who have a little more time under their belt but aren't necessarily at a senior rank in their department or institution.

The Ellison Medical Foundation is looking for researchers who can find "insight into the fundamental molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie normal biological function, and when dysfunctional, lead to illness." In particular, the scientific advisory board that oversees applications is interested in research that sheds light on the neurological causes of aggressive behavior. That focus may change in future years, but in the initial stage it is a must for any application for support. (Read Ellison deputy director, Kevin Lee's IP profile).

Winners of the foundation's grant will get four years of support so they can focus on their research. New Scholars get $100,000 per year to cover their costs. For Senior Scholars, the program is even more generous — $150,000 per year for direct costs and even more to cover any indirect costs the research might rack up.

The Ellison Medical Foundation distributed its first round of grants in 2012. The five Senior Scholars who attracted support were all focused on the neurobiological roots of aggressive behavior, but the wide variety of approaches to this problem demonstrate the foundation's open-minded philosophy.

For example, California Institute of Technology professor David Anderson is using his grant for his work using mice to gain insight into the brain's circuitry and its relationship to aggression. By manipulating the brain’s activity, he can disentangle the interplay between neurological activity and emotional responses.

"In order to effectively apply these powerful tools to the study of emotion, we need to choose model organisms suitable for studying this complex subject," Anderson writes on his website. "The laboratory mouse combines powerful genetics with a brain structure that is fundamentally similar to that of humans. We are using this system to study the neural circuits of emotion behaviors related to fear and aggression."

Meanwhile, another Senior Scholar, psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler of Virginia Commonwealth University, is using a Swedish national study to look at the interaction among genetics, the environment, and violent behavior.

So the Ellison Medical Foundation is interested in a wide range of proposals related to aggression, but you have to get your idea together quickly — the deadline for this year’s awards is June 21, 2013.