The Ambrose Monell Foundation: Grants for Science Research


OVERVIEW: Ambrose Monell is one of two foundations incorporated by a wealthy couple in the 1950’s. Both foundations now have identical, loosely defined missions, serving religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes. For the past 20 years, Monell's biggest cause has been the Monell Chemical Senses Center, which studies taste and smell. But the foundation has supported a grab bag of other research programs, largely medical and particularly related to cancer.

IP TAKE: Monell's biggest focus is its namesake research center. Its widespread giving makes its priorities hard to pin down, but science research is unquestionably close to this funder’s heart, and it accepts unsolicited online inquiries.

PROFILE: The Ambrose Monell Foundation is one of two closely connected foundations started in 1956 by Norwegian shipbuilder G. Unger Vetlesen and wife Maude Monell. The Monell and Vetlesen foundations share the same goals, but those goals are pretty loosely defined.

Monell makes grants for "the improvement of the physical, mental, and moral condition of humanity throughout the world." This mission translates mostly to funding for hospitals, science research, museums, universities, and the arts. 

The foundation's signature program is the Monell Chemical Senses Center, which is associated with the University of Pennsylvania and bills itself as “world’s only independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste and smell.” The center was founded in 1967 with a $1 million grant from Ambrose Monell, and since then the funder has given about another $1 million a year.

The rest of Monell's giving is less specifically targeted, but a good deal of it goes to research. Each year, the foundation has regularly given dozens of grants. Most have fallen in the $25,000 to $100,000 range, but a smaller portion have reached $300,000 or higher. Past grants can be viewed here, and the foundation has also highlighted a few success stories.

Monell frequently supports research to cure diseases, especially cancer. In recent years, it has given six-figure grants to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

But Monell's grants are definitely not limited to cancer research. For example, the foundation has funded Yale for research on parasitic disease in Africa, as well as the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.

A nice aspect of the foundation for new grantseekers is that it is open to inquiries year-round. Monnell does not accept hard-copy inquiries; your preliminary application must go through the foundation’s online form. Four to six weeks after receiving your application, the foundation will let you know whether they want you to submit a full proposal.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)