The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research ASPIRE Awards support innovative ideas that have the potential to solve high-impact problems in cancer research, but may not have extensive – or any – preliminary supporting data.

ASPIRE Awards enable high-risk, high-reward projects to answer key feasibility and proof-of-concept questions and arrive at critical project inflection points in an accelerated time frame. ASPIRE Awards support work from bench to bedside, and special consideration is given to previously unaddressed questions and challenging concepts. The scope of ASPIRE Awards includes:

  • Basic Research: Projects that have the potential to substantially accelerate understanding of cancer disease mechanisms and pathophysiology
  • Therapeutic Discovery and Translational Science: Projects that include initial investigations of novel concepts in cancer therapeutics and/or that seek to answer key translational science questions on the critical path to the clinic
  • Innovative Technologies: Projects aimed at developing innovative technology solutions that are integrated with leading-edge concepts in cancer biology
  • Clinical Research: Projects involving biomarker-rich, early-stage clinical trials and correlative studies that address fundamental questions related to the interplay of cancer therapy, intervention and/or companion diagnostics and biology

Please refer to the bottom of this page to explore current and former ASPIRE awards.

Eligibility and Review Process

  • ASPIRE Awards support research worldwide, and collaborations are within the scope of the funding mechanism
  • Principal investigators must be independent researchers at their respective institutions
  • Proposals may be solicited through focused Requests for Proposals (RFPs), or individual applications may be considered by invitation
    • To stay informed of new RFPs and announcements related to the ASPIRE Award program, please sign up below for our mailing list and follow us on Twitter
  • Applications go through a rigorous and thorough internal and external review process and are selected based on the highest level of scientific merit and potential for impact

Award Terms

  • The budget and duration requested for the grant must match a realistic estimate of the cost and timeline for the proposed work, with standard awards defined as:
    • ASPIRE I Awards for periods of 12 months or less with total budgets up to $250,000 (up to 24 months and $500,000 allowed for clinical studies)
    • ASPIRE II Awards for periods of 36 months or less with total budgets up to $750,000 (larger amounts will be considered for clinical studies)
  • Projects typically start as an ASPIRE I; those that successfully demonstrate feasibility or proof of concept may be invited to apply for an ASPIRE II to further develop and expand the research
    • In unique circumstances, by invitation only, investigators may be invited to start with an ASPIRE II Award
  • The budget limit includes both direct and indirect costs, with indirect costs not to exceed 10% of the direct costs
  • Co-investigators are permitted
  • Revenue sharing terms will apply
  • Additional considerations for clinical research awards:
    • No more the 25% of the total budget may be used to defray clinical trial costs such as research nurses, data management, IRB fees, and database development
    • Funds will not be released until the protocol has necessary institutional approvals


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