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 UMDF in collaboration with fellow mitochondrial disease patient groups Mito Foundation, People Against Leigh Syndrome, Lily Foundation and Mitocon have formed the Leigh Syndrome International Consortium, with the intention to positively impact the lives of Leigh syndrome patients by improving diagnoses, developing treatments and cures, and optimizing clinical care. The consortium has already raised over $1 million and is pleased to announce the launch today of a Leigh syndrome-focused grant cycle. Independent researchers are encouraged to submit translational and clinical research proposals with budgets not to exceed $50,000 over 12 months. The cycle will close on November 25, 2019 and, after peer review, awards in total of up to $150,000 are expected to be announced before the end of the year. Interested investigators may find the Request for Proposals and begin an application at this link.

Additional funding programs for this multi-year project are under development with the assistance of an expert Scientific Steering committee. Questions about the grant cycle should be sent to

Listen to Beth Whitehouse, UMDF’s Director of Development, as she introduces exciting information on our multi-year, international collaboration focused on Leigh’s syndrome.   Beth is joined by UMDF’s Science and Alliance Officer, Philip Yeske, PhD and Dr. Bruce Cohen, Leigh’s Syndrome Project Chair who will provide updates on the International Steering Committee and plans for funding mechanisms and projects focused on improved diagnosis, therapeutic development and optimized patient care.

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