Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: The Conrad Hilton Foundation’s U.S. disease related grants are awarded to organizations working with individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) as well as research facilities that focus on the disease. 

IP TAKE: Hilton likes to cultivate long-term relationships with its grantees. This makes it difficult for new organizations to gain the foundation’s funding attention. However, its grants are rather substantial, so Hilton isn’t a foundation that should be overlooked if MS is your area.

PROFILE: Established in 1944 by hotelier Conrad N. Hilton, the foundation is guided by his motto: "Relieve the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute." Located in Agoura Hills, California, the Hilton Foundation is a traditional family foundation, primarily governed by Hilton family members.

The only domestic disease related grantmaking the Hilton Foundation conducts is through its Multiple Sclerosis (MS) program. (Globally, Hilton awards grants to organizations working in the fields of preventable blindness and children affected by 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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