Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
Application or LOI Due Date
Brief Description

The Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Award is designed to provide support for the next generation of exceptionally creative thinkers with “high-risk/high-reward” ideas that have the potential to significantly impact our understanding of and/or approaches to the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of cancer.

The Innovation Award is specifically designed to provide funding to extraordinary early career researchers who have an innovative new idea but lack sufficient preliminary data to obtain traditional funding. It is not designed to fund incremental advances. The research supported by the award must be novel, exceptionally creative and, if successful, have the strong potential for high impact in the cancer field.

Awards are made to institutions for support of the Damon Runyon-Rachleff Innovation Investigators. All awards are approved by the Board of Directors of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation acting upon the recommendation of the Innovation Award Committee.

At the beginning of each review session the following Biases Statement is read aloud: As an organization, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation seeks to promote gender equality and increase diversity, in all of its forms, throughout our programs. Studies have demonstrated that often subtle and unconscious biases can dramatically affect outcomes in review processes and that by simply acknowledging that unconscious biases exist, we can combat their potential negative impact. To that end, please be aware of your potential unconscious biases when reviewing, scoring and discussing candidates and applications throughout the review process.

Applications will be evaluated based on the following: 

  • The applicant’s capacity to conduct bold, exceptionally creative research.
  • The novelty and creativity of the proposed research. Incremental research will not be funded.
  • The potential of the proposed research to lead to advances that will significantly impact the prevention, diagnosis, treatment or basic understanding of cancer.
  • The applicant’s lack of resources to pursue the proposed research.


  • The Stage 1 award will be for two years, $200,000 per year ($400,000 total) with the opportunity for up to two additional years of funding (up to four years total for $800,000). Stage 2 support for years three and four will be granted to those awardees who demonstrate progress on their proposed research during years one and two of the award. Applicants will provide a written update on their research and present their progress in person to the committee shortly before the end of the second year of the award, at which time the committee will make a decision regarding continued funding.
  • The Award cannot be used for indirect costs or institutional overhead.
  • Awards will be paid in increments of $200,000 per year for the term of the award. However, the Innovation Award Committee will consider an accelerated payment schedule if an award recipient can demonstrate compelling need.
  • The Innovation Award funds are intended to be flexible and can be used for a variety of scientific needs including the Investigator’s salary, salaries for professional and technical personnel, special equipment, supplies and other miscellaneous items required to conduct the proposed research.
  • No budget is required at the time of application.

Concurrent Funding
Since the goal of the Innovation Award is to fund high-risk/high-reward research that lacks sufficient preliminary data to secure traditional funding, the applicant should not have funding for this proposed project.

During the course of the award, award recipients are encouraged to seek additional funding to expand and further develop their projects.


  • Institutional nominations are not required and there is no limit to the number of applications that can be received from a particular institution.
  • Applicants (including non-U.S. citizens) must be conducting independent research at a U.S. research institution.
  • The applicant must have received an MD, DO, PhD, or MD/PhD degree(s) from an accredited institution.
  • Basic and translational/clinical projects will be considered.  Applications will be accepted from all scientific disciplines provided that the proposed research meets the selection criteria.
  • Applicants with a background in multiple disciplines are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Joint submission from two collaborators working in different disciplines will be considered. (The collaborators will share the award.) Each collaborator must meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Applicants must belong to one of the following categories:
    • Tenure-track Assistant Professors within the first five (5) years of obtaining their initial Assistant Professor position (Cut-off date: July 1, 2016).
    • Clinical Instructors and Senior Clinical Fellows (in the final year of their sub-specialty training) holding an MD, MD/PhD, DO who are pursuing a period of independent research before taking a tenure-track faculty position.  Such individuals must have an exceptional record of research accomplishment, dedicated laboratory space and the support of their institution.
    • Distinguished Fellows with an exceptional record of research accomplishment identified by their institution to pursue an independent research program and who have dedicated laboratory space.  These candidates are markedly distinct from traditional postdoctoral fellows.  Examples: Whitehead Fellows, UCSF Fellows, Cold Spring Harbor Fellows.
      [Research Assistant Professors, Research Associate Professors, Research Scientists and Postdoctoral Fellows are not eligible.  If you are unsure about your eligibility for this award program, please contact the Foundation's Award Programs at 212.455.0520.]
  • Applicants are expected to commit a minimum of 80% of their time to conducting research.
  • Applicants may apply no more than two times.
  • Applicants must demonstrate that they have access to the resources and infrastructure necessary to conduct the proposed research.
  • The department must guarantee the Investigator is conducting the proposed research independently.