Skip to content

Medicine Matters

Sharing successes, challenges and daily happenings in the Department of Medicine

Medicine Matters Home Research W.M. Keck Foundation Research Support

W.M. Keck Foundation Research Support

Concept Papers due June 21, 2019 (send to [email protected])

The W. M. Keck Foundation was founded with the goal of generating far-reaching benefits for humanity. The foundation strives to fund endeavors that are distinctive and novel in their approach. It encourages projects that are high-risk with the potential for transformative impact. "High-risk" comprises a number of factors, including questions that push the edge of the field, present unconventional approaches to intractable problems or challenge the prevailing paradigm.

To make grant determinations, the foundation relies upon a wide range of input, including assessments by its professional staff, site visits (where appropriate), peer reviews, the latest available scientific information and presentations by experts in scientific, medical and health and human service fields.


Supporting pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research has been our mandate from the beginning. By funding the high-risk/high-impact work of leading researchers, we are laying the groundwork for new paradigms, technologies and discoveries that will save lives, provide innovative solutions, and add to our understanding of the world.

The Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting projects in two specific areas (1) medical research and (2) science and engineering, that are distinctive and novel in their approach, question the prevailing paradigm or have the potential to break open new territory in their field. Past grants have been awarded to major universities, independent research institutions and medical schools to support pioneering biological and physical science research and engineering, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation or methodologies. Historically, grants range from $500,000 to $5 million and are typically $2 million or less.  [Note:  Most research grants have not exceeded $1M in recent years.]

Funding is awarded for projects in research that:

  • Focus on important and emerging areas of research
  • Have the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
  • Have the potential for transformative impact, such as the founding of a new field of research, the enabling of observations not previously possible or the altered perception of a previously intractable problem
  • Does not focus on clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development
  • Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies
  • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project’s success

Abstracts for recently funded research grants in both Science and Engineering and Medicine may be found here. 

CONCEPT PAPER GUIDELINES  [Notes were added by the Development Office]

Note:  The concept paper should be written for an intelligent lay audience -- e.g., as if you were writing an article for Scientific American or an equivalent publication.

Single-paged concepts should be in 12 point font with 1 inch margins and should include:

  1. An overview of the proposed project emphasizing any unique aspects and pilot studies (for Research Program concepts, indicate area of emphasis for project - medical research or science and engineering research). Research distinctiveness is critical!

Note: Convey that this is early stage research or a new direction, but at the same time, that you are building on existing evidence that suggests you are on a productive path – that this is NOT the first step in the discovery process.

  1. A description of the methodologies and key personnel

Note:  Mention any scientific collaborations involved in the project – Keck favors work that is taking place in the context of a broad, interdisciplinary effort.

  1. A brief justification of the need for Keck support

Note: You must explain why this project cannot be funded from federal or other sources and be prepared to provide evidence of it. If you are eventually invited to submit a Phase I application, Keck will ask to see reviewers’ comments from unsuccessful proposals to federal agencies, or if you have not yet submitted to a federal agency, they want to know that you have contacted potential federal funders and have been told that the project would not be competitive for funding at this time (e.g., because it is too early concept or falls outside the agency’s current programs/funding structure, etc.).

  1. An estimated budget broken down, if possible, by major areas, e.g., personnel, equipment, consumable supplies, etc. (budgets can be rough approximations at this stage).

Note: Non-allowable expenses include:

  • Indirect costs/overhead (IDC can be a major part of the required institutional matching funds)
  • Graduate student tuition
  • Support for principal investigators exceeding 10% of annual salary
  • Renovation in excess of 10% of request

If there is room, the authors are free to add other details (e.g., background to put the research into perspective, description of the institution’s prominence in the field, etc.). Avoid illustrations in these single-pagers – the researchers will need all the room for text. If a reference is necessary, abbreviate it as (Science, 323, 45, ‘11). DO NOT USE (Jones et al., 2011).

Email your concept paper to Ann Koch [email protected] by June 21, 2019.


Kelsey Bennett