Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: Grants for Brain Research and Treatment

OVERVIEW: This funder’s brain research grantmaking is focused on finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and improving the quality of life for people suffering from MS. Grants are awarded to researchers and health practitioners in this field.

IP TAKE: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Hilton is looking for researchers willing to think outside the box and bypass bureaucratic red tape. This is a great brain research funder for young scientists just starting their careers.

PROFILE: The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s brain research grantmaking is focused on finding a cure for multiple sclerosis and improving the quality of life for people suffering from the condition. MS is a chronic and disabling disease of the central nervous system. The Hilton Foundation has provided grants to researchers and health practitioners for over 50 years in hopes of finding a cure for MS. This is just one of several grantmaking priorities at the Hilton Foundation, alongside disaster relief, hospitality, catholic education, avoidable blindness, safe water, substance abuse, foster youth and HIV/AIDS.

Hilton aims to use philanthropy to fill funding gaps that push innovations further for multiple sclerosis patients. In addition to grantmaking, Hilton works with partners who are also seeking MS treatments, cures and quality-of-life enhancements. The foundation partnered with the UCLA Department of Neurology and the Southern California Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to create the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center, which opened in 2001 and provides wellness services to MS patients. Services include recreation, health education, and for physical, social and emotional needs. The foundation aims to replicate its programs across the country. Marilyn Hilton was the wife of Barron Hilton who died from complications of MS.

The foundation also began awarding the Marilyn Hilton Award for Innovation in MS Research in 2014. In its first year, the foundation awarded a $4.5 million, four-year grant after receiving over 75 proposals. Funding is expected for this award every two years, at least initially.

The Hilton Foundation has pointed out that publicly funded medical research is predominantly funded by large, nationwide institutional donors, which tend to be averse to risk. It has also noted that universities must often rely on federal grant dollars to pay professors' salaries, which leads researchers to submit safe proposals. Hilton is taking a drastically different approach to funding and actually looking for risky and innovative projects that strive for groundbreaking research. It supports researchers that may not qualify for traditional types of funding. It also looks for young researchers just beginning promising careers.

Questions about Hilton’s MS program should be directed to Elizabeth Cheung, senior program officer, and Justin McAuliffe, program associate at 818-851-3700. Visit the foundation's website and sign up for its newsletter to stay current with upcoming calls for submissions and deadlines.

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