Hope Through Research

At MDA, we take a big picture perspective across the full spectrum of neuromuscular diseases to uncover scientific and medical breakthroughs that accelerate treatments and cures. The power in our research approach is that we can often apply learnings from one disease to progress in others to bring urgently-needed answers to our families.

Grant Types

Discovery Research 

Discovery research includes the search for understanding the causes of disease, unraveling pathways involved in disease, identifying novel drug targets, and testing new strategies to treat disease. The goal for discovery research is to form a solid foundation which informs and accelerates all subsequent drug development. Since each rare disease poses unique challenges to therapy development, discovery research may include various types of studies related to the unmet needs of each disorder including the creation of improved disease models, biomarker discovery, and the identification of the genetic causes of disease, among others.

  • Research Grants

    Research Grants comprise the majority of MDA’s research funding awards each year. They are awarded to independent, established investigators to accelerate progress toward understanding and treating muscle disease and total $100,000 per year for one to three years. In a very limited number of cases, awards will exceed $100,000 per year, but pre-approval is required before letter of intent submission.

    Who can apply?

    To be eligible to apply for a Discovery Research Grant, applicants must: 

    • Hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) or equivalent degree (i.e. D.O.)
    • Be a professional or faculty member (professor, associate professor or assistant professor) at an appropriate educational, medical, corporate or research institution
    • Be qualified to conduct a program of original research within his or her own laboratory
    • Assume both administrative and financial responsibility for the grant
    • Have access to institutional resources necessary to conduct the proposed research project

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit hypothesis-driven applications on innovative research with the following elements in mind:

    • Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program
    • Applications should focus on accelerating therapy development for the disease(s) in question. Such projects may include:
      • New target identification
      • Target validation
      • Screening for new therapeutic molecules that hit validated targets
      • Addressing a need of the neuromuscular research field (e.g., developing a novel animal or cell model of the disease, developing new technologies)
      • Clinical research projects which fit the budget restraint of this program (however, clinical trials should be submitted either through the MVP program or HCTG program - see below under Clinical Research)
    • MDA is also seeking applications that may result in new understanding of disease etiology and pathogenesis in neuromuscular disorders where these are not well understood

    How to apply:

    Applications will be accepted by MDA twice yearly for Research Grants. Letters of Intent and Grant Applications can be submitted through proposalCENTRAL.

    Full Grant Application Instructions

    Research Grant Policy Book

    Tips for Applying for a Successful Grant

    Timeline for Grant Cycles:

    • Letters of Intent are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on the specified due date
    • Grant applications are due by 5 p.m. ET on the specified due date
    • If a due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the due date will be moved to the next business day
  • Development Grants

    MDA Development Grants are awarded to senior postdoctoral researchers on the brink of becoming independent investigators, and are intended as seed money to help launch the scientific programs of promising new neuromuscular disease researchers. Development grants total $60,000 per year, for one to three years.

    Who can apply?

    To be eligible for a Development Grant, applicants must:

    • Hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) or equivalent degree (i.e. D.O.)
    • Be qualified to conduct a program of original research under the supervision of an Independent Investigator
    • Have a strong record of achievement with their postdoctoral mentor
    • Have access to institutional resources necessary to conduct the proposed research project
    • Have a minimum of 18 months of post-degree (Ph.D or M.D.) research laboratory training at the time of application
    • Be no more than 60 months from receiving their most recent advanced degree (e.g. Ph.D, M.D. or equivalent); and in the case of M.D., Ph.D. applicants on a variable career path, you will need to consult with MDA to discuss your eligibility.
    • Not have been funded under the Development Grant program in the past.

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit hypothesis-driven applications on innovative research with the following elements in mind:

    • Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program
    • Applications should focus on accelerating therapy development for the disease(s) in question. Such projects may include:
      • New target identification
      • Target validation
      • Screening for new therapeutic molecules that hit validated targets
      • Addressing a need of the neuromuscular research field (e.g., developing a novel animal or cell model of the disease, developing new technologies)
      • Clinical research projects which fit the budget restraint of this program (however, clinical trials should be submitted either through the MVP program or HCTG program - see below under Clinical Research)
    • MDA is also seeking applications that may result in new understanding of disease etiology and pathogenesis in neuromuscular disorders where these are not well understood
    • Successful applications will include a training plan which details how the applicant will receive the necessary training and mentorship to transition to an independent research career

    How to apply:

    Applications will be accepted by MDA twice yearly for Development Grants. Letters of Intent and Grant Applications can be submitted through proposalCENTRAL.

    Full Grant Application Instructions

    Development Grant Policy Book

    Tips for Applying for a Successful Grant

    Timeline for Grant Cycles:

    • Letters of Intent are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on the specified due date
    • Grant applications are due by 5 p.m. ET on the specified due date
    • If a due date falls on a weekend or holiday, the due date will be moved to the next business day

Translational Research

MDA’s translational research program represents an innovative way to fund research that’s designed to move new drug targets into the clinic as rapidly and efficiently as possible. The program was developed in response to the increasing number of promising therapeutic avenues for neuromuscular diseases that have developed from MDA's discovery research program.

  • MDA Venture Philanthropy (MVP) Program

    MDA Venture Philanthropy is the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s drug development program, which is exclusively focused on funding the discovery and clinical application of treatments and cures for neuromuscular diseases. MVP funds projects from proof-of-principle studies through phase 2 trials. For-profit entities are required to contribute funds that match or exceed MDA’s contribution. MDA will negotiate return on investment. Projects funded by MVP are milestone-driven projects, with funds released according to the completion of pre-agreed upon sections of the project.

    Who can apply?

    Biotechnology, pharmaceutical or other companies are eligible for MVP funding. MVP also may choose to invest in academic projects that fit within the mission of MDA’s translational research program, whereby the project has a path toward clinical development. Companies may be public or private, and MVP does not discriminate between U.S. and international projects.

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    • Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program
    • High-risk studies at companies that might not otherwise enter the rare neuromuscular disease arena, effectively making potential therapeutics more attractive to investors
    • Critical academic, preclinical research to guide whether potential therapeutics developed in academia can be developed as drugs, and to enhance the value of such therapeutics to drug development companies
    • Research and development projects including target validation, lead optimization, preclinical efficacy studies, as well as pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic, and ADME studies
    • Preclinical work necessary to file an investigational new drug application (IND), such as manufacturing, scale-up and toxicology studies
    • Phase 1 or early phase 2 clinical trials
    • Development of diagnostic, prognostic, and pharmacodynamic biomarkers which may accelerate drug development efforts
    • Size and Time Frame of Investment: The award period will be on average 2 years, but follow-on investment may be negotiated if all milestones are met and the project moves into later phases of development. The following ranges are guidelines for the value of investment that MVP may put into projects at each stage.
      • Research and Development (up to $500,000)
      • Preclinical (up to $1 million)
      • Early Clinical (Phase I/II) (up to $3 million)

    How to apply:

    Deadline for receipt of letters of intent (LOI):

    • March 1
    • June 1
    • September 1
    • December 1

    Submit LOI through Proposal Central.

    For further funding inquiries, contact Grace Pavlath, Ph.D., Senior Vice President & Scientific Program Director at gpavlath@mdausa.org.

Clinical Research 

MDA’s clinical research program supports the continued development of exciting therapies in the pipeline moving into testing in humans. This includes human clinical trials testing repurposed drugs and non-drug interventions as well as clinical research studies which are non-interventional. As part of the Clinical Research program, MDA also supports clinician scientists in training as well as clinical research networks and travel grants to aid patients traveling to and from clinical research sites.

  • Human Clinical Trial Grants

    Human Clinical Trial Grants are designed to support both clinical trials of compounds already on the market and clinical research studies performed at academic medical centers. Trials of novel therapeutics should be submitted as MDA Venture Philanthropy (MVP) projects. MVP commonly supports for-profit entities and return-on-investment is negotiated by MDA.

    Human Clinical Trial Grants may last up to three years and are “milestone-driven” with funds released according to completion of pre-agreed upon sections of the project.

    Who can apply?

    Investigators from academic institutions may apply. To be eligible, applicants must: 

    • Hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) or equivalent degree (i.e. D.O.)
    • Be a professional or faculty member (professor, associate professor or assistant professor) at an appropriate educational, medical or research institution
    • Assume both administrative and financial responsibility for the grant
    • Have access to institutional resources necessary to conduct the proposed research project

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    • Clinical trials of repurposed drugs or non-drug interventions
    • Natural history studies
    • Non-interventional clinical research studies performed at academic medical centers which exceed the maximum budget of the discovery research grant program (e.g. epidemiology and risk factor studies, biomarker research)
    • All trials and studies must be of relevance to MDA covered diseases, FDA-approved (if appropriate), and approved through an Institutional Review Board

     

    How to apply:

    Letters of intent for Human Clinical Trial Grants are accepted on a rolling basis  Please contact the appropriate Scientific Program Officer to discuss applying for a Human Clinical Trial Grant.

    Full Grant Application Instructions

    HCTG Grant Policy Book

  • Clinical Research Training Grants

    MDA is committed to supporting investigators who are at an early stage in their medical careers with the goal to stimulate talented physicians entering the field of academic clinical neuromuscular research.  In partnership with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Brain Foundation, MDA is pleased to announce a new Clinical Research Training Fellowship opportunity. The award will provide $55,000 per year for two years, plus a $10,000-per-year stipend to support education and research-related costs.

    Who can apply?

    • Applicants must have completed residency or a post-doctoral fellowhip (for a Ph.D) within the past five years of the start date of the award (July 1st)
    • Applicants must be a member of the AAN interested in an academic career in clinical research

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    • Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program
    • For the purpose of this fellowship, clinical research is defined as:
      • Patient-oriented research conducted with human subjects
      • Translational research specifically designed to develop treatments or enhance diagnosis of neurological disease
      • Areas of research could include:
        • Epidemiologic or behavioral studies
        • Clinical trials
        • Studies of disease mechanisms
        • Development of new technologies
        • Health services and outcomes research
        • Disease-related studies not directly involving humans or human tissue are also encouraged if the primary goal is the development of therapies, diagnostic tests, or other tools to prevent or mitigate neurological diseases

     

    How to apply:

    To learn more about eligibility requirements, evaluation and selection criteria, and how to apply, visit Clinical Research Training Fellowship in Muscular Dystrophy at AAN.com. Applications must be completed by October 1.

  • Clinical Research Network Grants

    MDA supports two clinical research networks - one for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and one for myotonic dystrophy. Each consists of multiple MDA care centers with special expertise in clinical research. The care centers were chosen through a competitive process. The care centers work together on projects selected by the network, such as clinical trials, natural history studies, and other clinical research efforts. The investigators of the networks meet regularly by phone and in-person to discuss ongoing and novel programs.

    How to apply:

    Letters of intent for Clinical Research Network Grants are accepted on a rolling basis. Please contact the appropriate Scientific Program Officer to discuss applying for a Clinical Research Network Grant. Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program.

    Full Grant Application Instructions

    CRNG Grant Policy Book

  • Clinical Trial Travel Grants

    MDA recognizes that travel to clinical trial sites presents a serious, financial burden to many patients and families wishing to participate in clinical research. To help alleviate this burden and provide equitable access to clinical trials for all patients, MDA awards Clinical Trial Travel Grants which can be used to support the costs of travel to and from the hospital for patients enrolled in clinical trials. These grants are awarded to the trial sponsor or the lead investigator and are to be used to support patient travel to all trial sites included in the study. Clinical Trial Travel Grants are not for individual patients or trial sites, but rather intended to alleviate travel burden for the entire trial.

    How to apply:

    Contact the appropriate Scientific Program Officer for information on how to apply for a Clinical Trial Travel Grant.

Infrastructure Grants 

Infrastructure Grants are designed to support the development of tools, techniques and services of need to the neuromuscular research community. The main review criterion for this grant is need for the infrastructure to further research for the purpose of therapy development. Recipients of an MDA Infrastructure Grant must develop a plan to make this MDA-funded resource available to the research community and have a plan for sustaining the infrastructure beyond the period of MDA support. Letters of support from the community are an essential part of the application.

  • Infrastructure Grants

    Who can apply?

    To be eligible for an Infrastructure Grant, applicants must:

    • Hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) or equivalent degree (i.e. D.O.)
    • Be a professional or faculty member (professor, associate professor or assistant professor) at an appropriate educational, medical, corporate or research institution
    • Be qualified to conduct research within his or her own laboratory
    • Assume both administrative and financial responsibility for the grant
    • Have access to institutional resources necessary to conduct the proposed project

     

    What kinds of projects are funded?

    Infrastructure grants are used to support the development of tools, techniques, and services such as:

    • Tissue banks to support the collection and storage of patient tissue for research purposes
    • Antibody banks
    • Development of core facilities (e.g., sequencing/phenotyping cores, vector production)
    • Patient registries
    • Clinical consortia
    • Web-based databases

    How to apply:

    Letters of intent for Infrastructure Grants are accepted on a rolling basis. Contact the appropriate Scientific Program Officer for information on how to apply for an Infrastructure Grant. Applications should directly relate to a disease in MDA’s program.

    Full Grant Application Instructions

    RIG Grant Policy Book

Conference Grants 

MDA supports conferences, meetings, and workshops which facilitate the exchange of scientific ideas and crucial information relevant to diseases under the MDA umbrella.

  • Conference Grants

    What kinds of conferences are funded?

    • Research conferences focused on the biology of disease and/or the development of therapeutics directly related to a disease in MDA’s program.
    • Meetings which promote collaboration across different diseases
    • Symposium focused on new techniques or therapeutic strategies which may be of use to the neuromuscular community
    • Workshops to update guidelines for standards or care, clinical trial practices, etc.
    • Conferences which include opportunities for young and early stage investigators to share their research and network with others in the community

     

    How to apply:

    Letters of intent for Conference Grants are accepted on a rolling basis. Contact the appropriate Scientific Program Officer for information on how to apply for a Conference Grant.

    Conference Grant Policy Book

     

To receive updates and alerts about grant opportunities and deadlines, please email grants@mdausa.org to be added to our mailing list.

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