ASPIRE Awards Guidelines

Accelerating Innovation at the Intersection of AI and Cancer Research


Program Overview

The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research ASPIRE Awards (Accelerating Scientific Platforms and Innovative REsearch) are designed to enable innovative approaches to solving high-impact problems in cancer research that tend to fall outside the scope of other funding opportunities. These awards will be used to support high-risk, high-reward projects with research plans designed to answer key feasibility and proof-of-concept questions in an accelerated timeframe, typically one year. Projects that successfully demonstrate feasibility may be selected to apply for additional funding in a second phase to further develop their innovative concepts and increase the speed to impact for cancer patients.


• Principal investigators must have attended the workshop, Accelerating Innovation at the Intersection of AI and Cancer Research, at Carnegie Mellon University (April 24-26, 2019).
• Collaborative project proposals that include co-investigators who also attended the workshop are strongly encouraged.
• Workshop attendees are limited to one application as principal investigator. Attendees may also be co-investigators on other proposals without limitation.
• Projects should focus on topics and themes that were discussed at the workshop, such as predictive models for disease onset, progression, and response to treatment.
• Applications will be accepted from both U.S. and non-U.S. entities, including both not-for-profit institutions and for-profit organizations.

Terms of Award

• Applicants may request funding to support a total budget between $50,000 and $250,000 for a period of up to 12 months.
• The budget and duration requested for the grant must match a realistic estimate of the cost and timeline for the proposed work; most awards will be for periods of 12 months or less.
• Projects that include clinical studies entailing patient enrollment will be allowed up to 24 months. Limited additional funds may be available for these projects to be determined on an individual basis.
• The budget limit includes both direct and indirect costs, with indirect costs not to exceed 10% of the direct costs.
• Applicants should review The Mark Foundation’s 2019 ASPIRE Awards Policies before applying.

How to Apply

• Register and log in through The Mark Foundation’s online portal.
• Complete Investigator profile(s), including biosketches (NIH biosketch or CV).
• Enter requested grant amount, project duration, and keywords
• Upload Project Concept Letter, which must be no more than 2 pages (~750 words), including any references, figures, or tables, and must contain the following information:

      • Project title
      • Brief abstract (less than 200 words)
      • Problem statement describing unmet need and opportunity to enable substantial and differentiated impact for cancer research and cancer patients
      • Synopsis of research plan, including key feasibility or proof-of-concept question(s) to be answered, methods overview, and list of specific aims
      • Statement of innovation

• Materials must be submitted as PDF files; submissions with narrow margins (< 0.5 inches), small font sizes (< 10 point), or poor scanning quality will not be reviewed.
• All required information and files must be submitted via our online portal no later than 5 PM Eastern Time on the key dates listed below.
• Full applications will be accepted by invitation only, after review of the Project Concept Letter. Additional guidelines will be provided to invited applicants.

Key Dates

• Project Concept Letters due: Wednesday, May 8, 2019
• Applications invited: Week of May 13, 2019
• Applications due: June 19, 2019
• Grantees notified: Week of August 5, 2019
• Award start date: October 1, 2019

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