The John Merck Fund

The John Merck Fund

Developmental Disabilities
Translational Research Program

Guidelines and Application Process 2015


The John Merck Fund has had a longstanding interest in people with intellectual and developmental disorders since its inception in 1970.  In 2012, JMF launched the Developmental Disabilities Translational Research Program, which supports researchers in developing treatments and improving outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities, particularly Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome (and FX associated disorders).  The awards are made to the most highly innovative translational research projects that have the greatest potential of investigating rational and effective treatments and interventions for the particular condition being addressed.  The program emphasizes interdisciplinary collaborative grant applications focused primarily on FXS and DS, but the program supports studies focused on other developmental disabilities under special circumstances.  The Fund is particularly interested in translational research that is designed to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families.  Investigators from a range of disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Over the spendout period, the Translational Research Program will make approximately ten awards of $1 million each ($250,000 per year for four years).  Scientists at any career stage who have a scholarly commitment to developmental disabilities are eligible to apply.  Special consideration is given to interdisciplinary proposals from scientists who have demonstrable evidence of their ability to collaborate in carrying out innovative and significant developmental disabilities research. 

Click here for information on the first recipients of the Translational Research Program awards.


Applicants must have the following:

Awards and Restrictions

The next competition will be held in 2015; 2014 is a hiatus year.  In 2015 awards will be made for $250,000 per year for a four-year period, subject to an annual review of research progress.  The sponsoring institution must be located in the United States and is responsible for fiscal management.  No portion of the award may be used for indirect costs.  The award is for the exclusive use of the Principal Investigator (PI) and may not be used for institutional or departmental support.  Payments will be made to the PI’s institution with the understanding that the total amount of the award will be used only by the PI and will be transferred should the PI change institutions.  At the PI’s discretion, up to 25 percent of the award may be used for his or her salary support (which is limited to the NIH salary cap), including, when necessary, fringe benefits.  The balance may be expended for research assistants, equipment, or other purposes that promote the PI’s project. 

Preliminary Proposal Submission

The Translational Research Program competition accepts applications through a two-part, open process.  Each applicant must submit the title of the project, a 200-word abstract, a two-page narrative description of the research activities and plans for the future, and the NIH biosketches of the PI and all members of the team.  The two-page narrative should include a project description and a brief statement showing evidence of the PI’s career commitment to developmental disabilities.  The narrative should also address how the project will advance the applicant’s overall research program and plans and how the applicant believes the work to be supported will have the potential to improve the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities.  State whether this is a new project or is part of an ongoing research project.  The narrative section is not to exceed two pages, Arial font, 11-point type, with 1/2-inch margins, and should be sent along with the NIH biosketches via email as one Word or PDF document by 12 noon Eastern Time on May 18, 2015, to  The subject heading of the email should read: “Translational Research Program Preliminary Proposal.” 

Full Proposal Submission

The Scientific Advisory Board (listed below) will review all the preliminary proposals and select a limited number of full proposals to be submitted by September 14, 2015.  Detailed application guidelines for the full proposal will be provided to successful applicants by July 31, 2015 .  The full proposal  (due September 14, 2015 ) will require an eight-page narrative, as well as detailed descriptions of the candidate’s commitment to developmental disabilities, a Resources and Environment statement, a letter of institutional support, letters of support from collaborating investigators, project timeline, budget, and budget narrative.

Scientific Advisory Board

The SAB is chaired by Marsha R. Mailick, PhD, of the Waisman Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Other members of this distinguished panel of experts include Guoping Feng, PhD (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Daniel Goldowitz, PhD (The University of British Columbia), Michael Guralnick, PhD (University of Washington), Charles Nelson, PhD (Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School), Joseph Piven, MD (University of North Carolina), and Brad Schlaggar, MD, PhD (Washington University in St. Louis).  George Jesien, PhD, former director of the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD), is an ex-officio member. 

Review and Notification Procedures


For more information, contact Nancy Stockford, Developmental Disabilities Translational Research Program, The John Merck Fund, 2 Oliver Street, 8th Floor, Boston, MA 02109;; telephone: (617) 556-4120.