St. Baldrick’s Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: St. Baldrick’s is the leading all-volunteer cancer charity dedicated to funding childhood cancer research--and it’s done it all one shaved head and one donation at a time.

IP TAKE: Long before the "Ice Bucket Challenge" came along, St. Baldrick’s came up with a higher-stakes fundraising gimmick--the shaved heads--that has worked like a charm, mobilizing serious funds for childhood cancer research.

PROFILE: Launched in 2000 in Manhattan, St. Baldrick’s premise is simple: "Shavees" promise to shave their heads in solidarity with kids who have cancer to raise money to combat this scourge. The organizers chose St. Patrick’s Day for their first event, which featured 19 shavees and raised $104,000. The cause became a foundation in 2005 and has stayed true to its all-volunteer roots.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation currently has three focus areas. It wants to boost cancer research for adolescents and young adults, increase survivorship, and increase supportive care that focuses on quality of life and symptom management during treatment.

Grant-wise, it splits the giant, many-headed dragon that is childhood cancer into manageable pieces. It makes grants in numerous areas, and its review process is meticulous. There’s funding for new research on the cutting edge of science, and funding for translational research that has an impact beyond the laboratory walls. There’s funding for clinical trials, funding for the next generation of pediatric oncologists, summer fellows, and infrastructure grants to provide support staff for researchers.

St. Baldrick's currently offers several types of grants, which are outlined below:

  • St. Baldrick's Fellows - Supports 3-5 years of pediatric oncology research.
  • St. Baldrick's Scholars - A career development award that provides up to $110,000 per year for at least three years.
  • St. Baldrick's International Scholars - Supports the training of researchers from low and middle income countries (as defined by the World Bank) to meet the needs of childhood cancer research.
  • Research Grants - One-year grants averaging $100,000 to support specific laboratory or clinical research projects.
  • Supportive Care Research Grants - Grants averaging $50,000 to support research on care for children with cancer.
  • Consortium Research Grants - Grants to support a collaborative project by three to five institutions that seek to answer key questions in the field of childhood cancer.
  • St. Baldrick's Summer Fellows - A $5,000 stipend to allow students to work on pediatric oncology research.
  • Infrastructure Grants - Grants averaging $25,000 to $50,000 for institutions with the potential to take part in clinical childhood cancer studies but lack the resources to do.

Full information about the types of grants and application guidelines can be found here. The foundation's list of past grantees provides a valuable indication of how many of each type of grant are given out, and to what projects and institutions.

In 2014, it announced its first-ever Genius Award, which will be used to form an international federation of organizations devoted to developing precision cures for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that are uniquely tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup. Though AML is primarily an adult cancer, this children’s cancer charity is making it a real priority. Nearly 20% of St. Baldrick’s latest fellows are explicitly seeking out new treatments and approaches to AML, and AML projects are well represented on the St. Baldrick’s Scholars list as well. This likely reflects St. Baldrick’s expanding commitment to cover adolescents and young adult cancer. 

“We are always working closely with pediatric oncology research experts to ensure that what we are doing is the best way to accomplish our ultimate goals: to find cures for childhood cancers and to give survivors longer and healthier lives,” Traci Shirk, St. Baldrick’s PR manager told IP editors. “We will continue to evolve to fund research that will move us closer to cures in the fastest and most efficient ways.” 

As for getting a grant, the foundation does a great job of explaining its grantmaking process and making it easy for researchers to apply. Everything you need to know is spelled out here, including the important fact that there are two grantmaking cycles, and that the deadlines for LOIs are in late January and in early July. Applications are reviewed by a group of more than 180 pediatric oncology experts in a rigorous peer–review process and final decisions are made by the board. 

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