GRANT PROGRAM OVERVIEW
Q: What are the basics of the grant cycle?
A: A new grant cycle begins each July. Applicants are invited to send a Letter of Intent (LOI) which is a brief form outlining the research project. Members of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (s to whether they are invited to send a full proposal. A proposal is a much longer, more in-depth project description which includes methods, justification, goals, and detailed budget. Selected reviewers, including SMAB members and non-members, PhDs and MDs, review assigned proposals based on their own areas of expertise in relation to the proposals. They provide not only scores, but full page critiques. A face-to-face review meeting, involving all the reviewers, is held in late spring to further discuss each proposal, after which they are given a final score based on the discussion. Grant recipients are selected at this grant review meeting. A letter is then sent to each proposal applicant apprising him/her of the decision concerning his/her proposal, and includes the reviewers’ critiques, minus the reviewers’ names. Winners are awarded at the symposium.
Q: What do the reviewers look for in LOIs and proposals?
A: In LOIs, the reviewers provide scores for scientific merit and viability, relevance to mitochondrial diseases and the mission of the UMDF, applicant’s qualifications and current or future impact in the mitochondrial field, and his/her mentor’s qualifications (if the applicant is a post-doctoral fellow).
In proposals, reviewers look for significance/impact on mitochondrial disorders, the applicant’s approach to accomplishing project goals, and the project’s feasibility.
Q: Why is it that most of the UMDF-funded projects do not directly involve potential treatments and cures for mitochondrial diseases?
A: There are two main categories of research: basic and clinical. It is true that most of the UMDF-funded projects are basic research. Researchers realize that, in order to “fix” a problem in the human body, they must first understand the basics: the structure and function of that system, organ, cell or organelle. Secondly, they attempt to determine what happens when some part of that structure or function is manipulated. Most of basic research falls into one of these two areas and forms the building blocks for clinical research. Because mitochondrial research is a newer field than some other research areas, there is still much to be learned about the basic structure and function of mitochondria. Clinical research focuses more on standardized testing and diagnosis, treatments, and eventually a cure. Approximately 10 percent of UMDF LOI applications are clinical.
One of the focuses of the UMDF is to support and encourage new researchers in the field of mitochondrial disorders. Once these researchers become established, it is then more likely they will be competitive for much larger grants through bigger organizations and institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Q: Why doesn’t the UMDF automatically fund the research of mitochondrial researchers and specialists well known to the UMDF?
A: The UMDF seeks to fund the top research project applications in a given year. The grant review committee makes every effort to judge each application fairly and without bias toward the applicant. It is quite possible that the top applications in a given year will be from researchers other than those with whom the UMDF has a relationship, and those projects are the ones that will be selected for funding. This in no way diminishes our appreciation, enthusiasm, and respect for other dedicated mitochondrial disease researchers whose projects were not selected for funding.
Q: Why doesn’t the UMDF continue to fund an ongoing project?
A: The UMDF has a policy not to continue funding a project beyond the original one to three year limits. The rationale is that the UMDF funds small projects with the hopes that the researcher will then be able to capitalize on the project’s results by acquiring a larger grant from a bigger institution such as the NIH to further investigate that area of research. This leaves more funds available to encourage young/new mitochondrial researchers entering the field. However, even experienced researchers previously funded by the UMDF are welcome to submit an application for a brand new project.
For further information regarding the research grant process, click here.