Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is broad in scope, focusing on the health care system itself. But disease-specific research still receives a decent amount of funding

IP TAKE: RWJF’s disease focus leans more toward prevention and quality of healthcare for patients with chronic illnesses, so support for research of the diseases themselves is somewhat limited.

OVERVIEW: Robert Wood Johnson II established the foundation that bears his name through a bequest of stock in his family's company, health products giant Johnson & Johnson, in 1968. Unsurprisingly, one of the major funding interests of the RWJF is health, especially disease prevention rather than research per se. 

Much of the funding awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is broad in scope, focusing on the health care system itself. But disease-specific research still receives a decent amount of funding attention through its Disease Prevention and Health Promotion program.

There are no specific illnesses the foundation is particularly interested in funding. For example, it’s made disease related grants to support research in acute coronary syndrome, mitochondrial disease and sickle cell disease—all within the same year. So if you’re looking for a pattern here, you won’t find one.

However, a wide focus, nationwide funding, high grant amounts, and a fairly open application process makes this foundation much more accessible to potential grantees than most outfits of RWJF’s size and scope.

The foundation provides two pathways to funding: Program area-specific Calls for Proposals (CFPs) and unsolicited proposals for Pioneering Ideas. For more conventional research into disease prevention and patient quality of care, CFPs are probably your best bet. Pioneering Ideas are meant to be innovative or unusual approaches to addressing health problems, which may or may not pertain to disease.

CFPs are released throughout the year. It's worth noting that while the Pioneer Portfolio typically awards grants for unsolicited proposals throughout the year, the program does occasionally release CFPs of its own.

There are few general restrictions placed on potential grantees applying for money from the foundation. Even if you have already received a grant from Robert Wood Johnson, you can apply for additional grants as long as you submit a separate proposal for each one. Definitely take note of the CFP-specific restrictions for applying, though, as each program area has its own set of guidelines for eligibility.

RWJF grants vary considerably in total value, from as little as $5,000 up to $13 million. To get an idea of the type of work RWJF supports, and at what level, explore its excellent grants database, which offers detailed information on all of the foundation’s awarded grants.  

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