Biomedical Research Funders without Borders – Funding for Researchers Worldwide

Written by: Judy Mielke

When we talk about biomedical research funders, we tend to think about the major governmental funders, such as the NIH, the European Commission, or the UK MRC. We also know that the majority of public funders fund research within their borders, and some of these research funders further impose restrictions based on citizenship or to those with permanent residency rights. While citizenship and location restrictions are common among governmental biomedical research funders, private charitable foundations on the other hand, have more flexibility when it comes to how they fulfill their missions, and many welcome funding applications from researchers worldwide.

Let´s take a look at some of these biomedical research funders that fund researchers, irrespective of your citizenship or where you conduct your research:

The Mission-Driven Funders

A very typical example of a “borderless” biomedical research funder can be collectively referred to as the “mission-driven” funders. After all, disease and challenges respect no borders, and we need the best minds to work on solutions together. Examples of these mission-driven funders include those that fund research on rare diseases, such as: The Marfan Foundation, Chordoma Foundation, Progeria Research Foundation (PRF), Misophonia Research Fund, Myrovlytis Trust, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Alpha-1 Foundation, Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Angelman Syndrome Foundation, The Scleroderma Foundation, Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (FPWR), Jain Foundation (to cure muscular dystrophies caused by dysferlin protein deficiency), and the CMT Research Foundation (focusing on Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease), to name a few.

Cancer Research Funding

For funding opportunities in cancer research, there are many funders that fund research excellence irrespective of citizenship or location, including: the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and Conquer Cancer (The ASCO Foundation), both of which have an extensive funding program for cancer researchers at all career stages. For those focusing on cancer immunotherapy, the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) supports researchers working on cancer immunotherapy worldwide.

For research on more specific types of cancer, the Osteosarcoma Institute is a US-based charitable funder supporting researchers working on osteosarcoma worldwide. The Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) is the largest non-profit funder for melanoma research and supports researchers worldwide with an extensive funding program. Also funding melanoma researchers worldwide is the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF), which provides awards for students and early-career researchers. For blood cancer research, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) funds international researchers with several funding schemes, including research grants and fellowships for postdoctoral trainees.

Foundations that fund researchers working on childhood cancers include the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. More specifically, for pediatric brain tumors there is A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure Foundation, which funds both basic and translational studies and especially welcome applications from early-career investigators.

Other international funders that address research to improve children´s health and conditions include the Thrasher Research Fund and the Children’s Heart Foundation for pediatric cardiology researchers.

Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders

For autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, several funders fund researchers independent of their location or citizenship. One of these, The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, funds established researchers working on finding cures and improving the life quality of those with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The National Psoriasis Foundation funds psoriasis researchers worldwide and many of its funding schemes are especially targeted at facilitating early-career researchers in their transition from trainee to independent researchers.

Neuroscience, Neurology and Brain Disorders

For researchers investigating the brain and conditions related to it, several funders fund international researchers. One of these, the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO), is an umbrella organization for neuroscience societies worldwide and provides funding to its members for research and conference support. The American Brain Foundation funds researchers worldwide working across a broad spectrum of brain and nervous system diseases and disorders. For more funders that fund specific conditions related to brain dysfunction, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Cure Parkinson´s support researchers working on Parkinson´s disease worldwide. The Autism Science Foundation funds researchers working on autism and provides scholarships and fellowships for PhD students and postdocs. The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD) funds researchers working on dementia. Also funding international researchers working on Alzheimer´s disease is the Alzheimer´s Drug Discovery Foundation and the BrightFocus Foundation, which also funds age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

Biomedical Professional Societies

One of the missions of many professional and learned societies is the advancement of members’ careers. With this in mind, many medical and biomedical societies provide scholarships, fellowships, research and networking funding to its members.

For clinicians, several clinical societies fund research based on society membership. These include, for example, the Society for Endocrinology in the UK, which supports endocrinologists who are members of the society and provides numerous funding options, including travel grants, conference grants, fellowships and equipment grants. The American Urological Association supports early-career clinicians and scientists worldwide with research grants and grants that promote diversity in urology research. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) funds neurologist members worldwide with an extensive portfolio of research funding support. Similarly, the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the American Society of Hematology (ASH) support member researchers worldwide working on thoracic and blood-related research, respectively.

For microbiologists there is the Microbiology Society of the UK, which supports member microbiologists with grants for travel and scientific exchange.

Research Funding from Commercial Entities

Many commercial entities with a heavy focus on research and development or have close relationships with the academic research community, provide funding for research, either directly, or through a philanthropic arm of their corporation. Some examples of these include Eppendorf, the life science reagents supplier, which provides awards that recognize scientific achievements in neurobiology. Together with the scientific journal Science, the companies support the Eppendorf & Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is open for researchers worldwide. Thermo Fisher Scientific, another reagent supplier for the life sciences, funds research projects that are related to their products, including projects that focus on molecular profiling in oncology.

Several research funders are from the pharmaceutical industry, including Pfizer, which, through its Global Medical Grants (GMG) initiative, funds independent research initiatives with the goal of improving patient outcomes in areas of unmet medical need that are aligned with Pfizer´s strategic goals. The Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds promotes basic research in biomedicine by supporting excellent scientists worldwide with MD and PhD fellowships. Merck, the German science and technology company with products in healthcare, life science and electronics, provides research funding for researchers worldwide working in a variety of areas, including drug discovery and bioelectronics.

Navigating Funding and Funders

If all these seems like a lot of information to digest at once, we are here to help. See our infographic summarizing the major biomedical research funders that fund researchers irrespective of citizenship or location. You can also bookmark our list of worldwide funders and sign-up for content alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest research funding opportunities that are relevant to your needs.         


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