The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience: Grants for Brain Research and Treatment

OVERVIEW: The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience (MEFN) grew out of William L. McKnight's desire to improve society by preventing or curing brain and memory disorders, especially those associated with advancing age.

IP TAKE: The social component is key at the MEFN. Many of their past funded projects have tackled such concrete, empirically grounded questions as how we remember and how we learn.

PROFILE: The result of ten long years of neuroscience research, the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience was founded in 1986 by the Minneapolis-based McKnight Foundation, and is now a separate entity from the foundation. It has its own board of directors, which boasts some of the sharpest minds in neuroscience, but is administered fully by the McKnight Foundation. The fund makes research awards in three highly competitive areas each year: 

  • Memory and Cognitive Disorders - These grants support scientists working to apply findings in basic research to human brain disorders that affect memory or cognition. This is a three-year grant awarded at $100,000 per year.
  • Scholar Awards - These awards support scientists in the early stages of setting up their independent laboratories and beginning to focus on disorders of learning and memory. In particular, the endowment seeks "applicants working on problems that, if solved at the basic level, would have immediate and significant impact on clinically relevant issues." This is a three-year, $225,000 award ($75,000 per year), and is open to those who hold an MD, PhD, or both.
  • Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Awards - These awards support scientists developing new technologies or using technology in new ways to expand neuroscience research. This two-year grant awards up to $200,000 ($100,000 per year).

MEFN considers the brain to be one of the "last frontiers" of medical science, and they fully appreciate the breakthroughs to be gained by rigorous study. Nothing they're funding is especially unusual; they're mainly interested in solid, steady research aimed at deepening our understanding of the brain.

All MEFN awards are determined by a selection committee rather than McKnight Foundation officers and managers.