August 14, 2014

University-wide Limited Submission Opportunity: Allen Distinguished Investigators Program

Vanderbilt may nominate two candidates for the 2015 Paul G. Allen Foundation’s Distinguished Investigators Program, which seeks to fund a select group of investigators to pursue new, pioneering research in academic settings that ‘move the needle’ toward answering broad scientific questions.

The most promising proposals will incorporate novel, creative, and ambitious approaches. For this reason, the program is especially interested in proposals that are unlikely to receive funding from traditional governmental sources. Five to seven projects will receive between $1 million and $1.5 million (for each project) in support over a three-year period.

This year the focus is on life sciences and supporting basic insights into neuronal maturation. The foundation will fund projects whose focus would provide insights into neuronal maturation in vitro with an emphasis on human models.

While in vitro systems are instrumental in revealing processes in healthy and disease states, currently the ability to fully understand and recapitulate neuronal cell maturation is inadequate. Recent studies reveal that cells can fail to maintain age-associated markers during reprogramming and differentiation, and be arrested or delayed at an immature developmental state. A variety of approaches have been used to induce cellular maturation, but it is unclear how closely these models mimic the normal maturation process.

While the focus here is on neuronal maturation, other relevant model systems will be considered if they have the potential to surface general underlying mechanisms, profiles or pathways. The foundation is not interested in projects that will result in incremental changes to existing technologies and methodologies.

The foundation has a particular interest in both supporting the careers of exceptional young scientists showing particular promise as thought leaders in their fields and supporting more established researchers with ambitious, high-risk ideas that could have a revolutionary impact in the field but remain outside the scope of traditional funding sources.

Anyone interested in being considered as one of Vanderbilt’s two nominees must submit the following (in PDF format) to by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 3:

1. Brief (two page maximum) research plan including summary budget;
2. Brief statement of support from department chair/center director ;
3. A brief CV or NIH Biosketch
Submissions should reference the program name in the subject line of the email.

Once received, all proposals will be forwarded to an internal review committee that will choose the final nominees. The chosen nominees will work with the Foundation Relations team to submit a full proposal to the foundation by its Oct. 31 deadline.

If you have any questions about the foundation or its interests and priorities, please contact Vivian Carmichael (, executive director, Foundation Relations (875-4915).