Research Grants

2020 Cycle of the UMDF Research Grant Program

The 2020 cycle of the UMDF Research Grant Program launches on Monday January 20, 2020.

Key features of the current cycle: 

  • Prize structure
    • A single award will be made in June 2020 in 3 categories: Postdoctoral Fellow (accelerators), Early Stage Investigator, Experienced Principal Investigator
  • Total funding of 250,000 USD with fixed budget amounts
    • accelerators Prize – 50,000 USD for up to two years
    • Early Stage Investigator Prize – 100,000 USD for up to two years
    • Experienced Principal Investigator Prize – 100,000 USD for up to two years
  • Submission Process
    • Applicants will be invited to directly submit a Full Proposal.
      Note – there will not be a Letter of Intent round 
    • Applicants have 6 weeks to respond to the RFP

Peer Review, the hallmark of UMDF’s Research Grant Program for the past twenty years, will remain a critical component of the selection process.  The UMDF Scientific and Medical Advisory Board in conjunction with select external experts will assist the Foundation in making award selections. We are also continuing a new tradition started last year with the accelerators program, developed to involve the UMDF donor community in selecting the final Postdoctoral Fellowship award.

As per in previous cycles, all proposals will be created and submitted via our online portal.  While submissions may not be started until 9:00am EST on January 20, 2020, the RFP is immediately available on the portal link here.

Roadmap Project focused on Leigh’s Syndrome

The Leigh Syndrome International Consortium, a patient-driven research network steered by five of the world’s leading mitochondrial disease patient advocacy groups, including Mito Foundation, Mitocon Onlus, People Against Leigh Syndrome (PALS), The Lily Foundation and the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, is pleased to announce it will grant a total of 179,000 USD to six research teams that are actively working toward improving diagnosis, developing treatments and optimizing clinical care for Leigh syndrome patients.

“These awards represent an exciting next step for our global collaboration, said Dr. Philip Yeske, UMDF Science and Alliance Officer. By jointly funding 6 excellent research proposals we are fulfilling our commitment to the Leigh syndrome community to advance the development of therapeutics.”

More than 20 institutions answered the Consortium’s request for proposals seeking Leigh syndrome specific translational and clinical research. An international scientific steering committee with deep expertise in Leigh syndrome then conducted rigorous peer review on the research proposals submitted and selected six proposals to fund. The awardees are:

Institution:  University of Pittsburgh
Applicant:     Michael Palladino
Project:          Novel dietary and pharmacological therapies in a Drosophila model of Maternally Inherited Leigh Syndrome
Award:           50,000 USD

Institution:   Regents of the University of California
Applicant:     Gino Cortopassi
Project:          Fumarates for Leigh Syndrome
Award:           30,000 USD

Institution:   Heinrich Heine University (HHU)
Applicant:     Alessandro Prigione
Project:          iPSC-driven repositioning of PDE5 inhibitors for Leigh syndrome patients carrying MT-ATP6 mutations
Award:           34,000 USD

Institution:    Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial Research
Applicant:      Robert McFarland
Project:           Leigh syndrome: Investigating Outcome measure & Natural history  (LION)- a prospective, longitudinal cohort study.
Award:            25,000 USD

Institution:    University of Iowa
Applicant:      Dao-Fu Dai
Project:          The role of microglia, NAD+ and mitochondrial ROS in Leigh Syndrome
Award:            15,000 USD

Institution:   Fondazione Telethon
Applicant:     Brunella Franco
Project:          Therapeutic efficacy of miR-181a/b down regulation in Leigh syndrome
Award:            25,000 USD

The Leigh Syndrome International Consortium’s mission is to accelerate research aimed at uncovering better treatments and therapies for Leigh syndrome patients.  Together, the Consortium has pledged over 1 million USD to fund research with a focus on improving diagnosis, therapeutic development and optimized patient care for Leigh’s patients.  For additional information on the Consortium and to read summaries of the awarded research grants, please visit

2019 UMDF Research Grant Awards Presented at Mitchondrial Medicine: 2019

The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (UMDF) awarded two new research grants totaling $300,000 to three projects that will impact the diagnosis, treatment and clinical care of mitochondrial disease patients.  The projects and their prize winners will be awarded at the UMDF’s Mitochondrial Medicine 2019 Symposium.

The UMDF Research Grant Program was established in 1996 at a time when no other organization existed to fund mitochondrial disease research.  Today, UMDF is the largest, non-governmental funder of basic and translational research designed to bring the best science from the bench to bedside.  All submitted research projects are peer reviewed by the top global scientific and medical experts in the mitochondrial research field.  In conjunction with the UMDF Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and select external experts, awards are made.

UMDF’s 2019 Research Grant Awards

2019 Experienced Principal Investigator Prize – $200,000
Matthew Whiteman, Ph.D.
Professor of Experimental Therapeutics
University of Exeter
United Kingdom

Dr. Whiteman was awarded the UMDF’s 2019 Experienced Principal Investigator Prize for his research project entitled “Can novel mitochondria-targeted hydrogen sulfide delivery molecules restore cellular bioenergetics in primary mitochondrial disease.” Dr. Whiteman extends his work over the past 5 years in other disease areas to primary mitochondrial disease using a well-established worm model of mitochondrial disease. This is a new approach in studying mitochondrial health and may lead to novel therapeutic opportunities to normalize, restore, and rescue loss of mitochondrial function and cellular energy.

2019 Early Stage Principal Investigator Prize – $100,000
Zarazuela Zolkipli Cunningham, MBChB, MRCP
Division of Human Genetics, Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program
Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)

Dr. Cunningham’s award winning project is entitled ‘Defining the Natural History of Mitochondrial Myopathy’.  Her project focuses on further exploring how the symptoms of individuals with skeletal muscle issues change over time and how best to measure those changes.  Dr. Cunningham’s research will capture the severity of patient symptoms, disease progression, and treatment response, with the ultimate goal of identifying clinically-meaningful interventions.

accelerators Program

The accelerators program funds  innovative projects that move our community fast toward diagnosis, treatments and cures.  From the submitted projects, 3 to 5 finalists will be selected by the UMDF Grant Review Committee. Those selected will present their projects, with accompanying slides, at ‘The Big Pitch’.  The pitch will occur on during the opening session of the UMDF Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona in June 2020.    Donors who are accelerators will have the opportunity to cast their vote for the project they feel the most passionate about, and ultimately see the difference their contribution makes.  See more about the accelerators program here.


Grant Program Updates

The Science and Alliance Office will provide regular updates on the UMDF Research Grant Program.    For the latest information about the grant program, click here and add your name to our e-communications list.

Funded Projects