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$100,000 for one year

The PhRMA Foundation Faculty Starter Grant in Drug Discovery offers financial support to individuals beginning independent careers in drug discovery research at the faculty level at an accredited U.S. university. Applicants must be within the first three years of their independent status.

Letter of Intent Deadline: May 1, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET

Key Dates

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March 15, 2024

Application Portal Opens for Letters of Intent

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May 1, 2024 @ 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET

Letter of Intent Deadline

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July 1, 2024

Invitation to Submit Full Application for Select Candidates

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Aug. 29, 2024 @ 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET

Full Application Deadline

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Dec. 15, 2024

Award Winner Notification

Successful drug discovery involves the innovative application and integration of multiple scientific disciplines to create efficacious, safe, and differentiated treatment options for patients. The PhRMA Foundation seeks to fund novel early-stage, exploratory drug discovery research with the potential for translation to humans, including biological validation of potential drug targets, signaling pathways, or mechanisms of disease.

Research topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Cellular and Molecular Biology
  • Design and Generation of Pharmacological Tools
  • In Vitro and/or In Vivo Pharmacology
  • Protein Biochemistry
  • Molecular Modelling
  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Imaging
  • Single Cell Analysis
  • Artificial Intelligence and Computational Approaches

Projects that focus exclusively on single aspects such as identification of and development of assays for single targets, chemical probes, biomarkers, chemical library screening, or diagnostics will not be considered for review. Project aims should have a high likelihood of completion in the award timeframe.

Note: Please ensure you are applying to the correct PhRMA Foundation program. If your project does not align with the goals of the Drug Discovery program, as outlined above, please review the PhRMA Foundation’s Drug Delivery and Translational Medicine programs to see whether your project fits into one of those programs. Contact the PhRMA Foundation ( with your project description if you need further clarification. 

  • Applicants (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) must be full-time, promotion-eligible, research-intensive faculty at a PhD and/or MS degree-granting accredited U.S. university by the time of award activation. (Awards may be activated between January 1, 2025, and August 1, 2025.)
  • You are not eligible if your faculty status began before January 1, 2022.
  • Applicants who have taken leave from their career (e.g., parenting of a child, childbirth, long-term care of a parent/spouse/child/dependent, personal health issues) that puts them outside of the eligibility time frame can reach out to PhRMA Foundation staff ahead of their LOI submission to determine their eligibility. The Foundation aims to be flexible and adjust these time frames if appropriate.
  • Applicants must be eligible to apply for independent external research funding by their university.
  • Applicants should not have other substantial sources of research funding. (For example, applicants are ineligible if they are the principal investigator of an R01 from the National Institutes of Health, a career award from the National Science Foundation, or other significant financial award from any grant-making institution.) Individuals receiving only intramural funding or start-up funding from their university are eligible to apply.
  • The Foundation will not consider multiple applications for similar efforts on the same project. For instance, if a predoc, postdoc, and faculty member from the same lab are all submitting applications for proposed efforts on the same project, the efforts must be separate activities and not duplicative.
  • The PhRMA Foundation Faculty Starter Grant in Drug Discovery Targets and Pathways provides funding of $100,000 for one year.
  • Funding is conditional upon the awardee’s continued employment with the university, which will be assessed on a quarterly basis prior to payment. Awardees are required to notify the PhRMA Foundation if they leave the university. Payments will be made directly to the university on behalf of the awardee, with the understanding the university will administer the funds.
  • Funds must be used to conduct the proposed research. Funds may not be used for salary support of the awardee, fringe benefits, or indirect costs.
  • Funds may be budgeted to include the support of a technician, graduate student, or postdoctoral fellow at an hourly rate. The funds may not be used to provide tuition, fringe benefits, or indirect costs for said personnel. Said personnel may not be an active award recipient of the PhRMA Foundation.
  • Up to $1,500 may be used for travel by the awardee to professional meetings in the United States.
  • Funds may be used to purchase equipment and/or data to support the research efforts.
  • Funding may begin as early as January 1, 2025, or on the first day of any month thereafter, up to and including August 1, 2025.  
  • If you are offered a PhRMA Foundation award, the Foundation will reconfirm your external grant support. Should you receive additional funding in excess of $250,000 in annual direct costs, the PhRMA Foundation award will be withdrawn.
  • A final progress report and financial report will be required within 60 days of the grant’s conclusion.
  • Unspent funds are to be returned to the PhRMA Foundation upon the grant’s conclusion.
  • Any changes to the proposed project must be approved by the PhRMA Foundation.
  • Funds are non-transferable.

The application portal for 2025 awards will open in March 2024.

This is a two-step process. Step one is submitting a letter of intent (LOI) by May 1, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET. If your LOI is accepted, you will be notified by July 1, 2024, that you should proceed to the second step of submitting a full application, due August 29, 2024.

To start an application, go to the ProposalCentral website at If you are a new user of ProposalCentral, follow the link “Create an Account” and complete the registration process. If you are already a registered user, login with your username and password. If you have forgotten your password, click the “Forgot your Password?” link.

Once you are logged in, please click the “Professional Profile” tab at the top and complete steps 1-11 or update with your current information. Your name, degrees, position/title, academic rank, department, and address will be pulled from this page in ProposalCentral.

Step 1: Letter of Intent (LOI)

To submit an LOI, select the “Grant Opportunities” tab in ProposalCentral and a list of applications will be displayed. Find “PhRMA Foundation” and click the “Apply Now” link next to the Faculty Starter Grant in Drug Discovery Program.

Candidates must submit a 600-word LOI describing their research project and its aims.  In addition to the LOI, please address the following questions using the Research Impact Questions template provided.  

  • Explain how your project fits into the PhRMA Foundation’s Drug Discovery Targets and Pathways Program (see program goals).
  • What challenges or gaps in the field are you solving?
  • How will this project advance the field?
  • How is your project innovative?

The LOI should be written by the applicant on U.S. letter-sized 8.5” x 11” paper with .5” margin and 11-point font. The first use of any abbreviation or acronym should be preceded by the full name or description. Citations, figures, and legends do not count toward the 600-word LOI limit.

LOIs are due by May 1, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Those whose LOIs are selected will be notified by July 1, 2024, and asked to complete a full application. Full applications are due August 29, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET, including letters of support. 

Step 2: Full Application (by invitation)

The following components will be required if you are invited to submit a full application.

1. Applicant’s Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Biosketch

Preference is for the applicant to submit a biosketch. References, where requested, may submit either a CV or NIH-style biosketch.

2. Extended Letter (personal statement)

This is an opportunity to tell us who you are. Include a synopsis of your career, your professional interests, and your desired career path. The letter should not exceed two single-spaced pages (U.S. letter size 8.5” x 11” / .5” margin / 11-point font).

3. Research Plan

Applicants must prepare a comprehensive research plan using a format similar to that for National Institutes of Health grants. The proposal should include a specific aims page (one-page limit), followed by a research strategy (not to exceed eight pages) that describes the rationale, significance, research design and methodology, and preliminary results (if any exist). A bibliography of major references should also be included (bibliographies are not included in the page limit). A project timeline is suggested.

Clearly identify other principals involved as collaborators in the project, the amount of time they will commit, and the amount of time you will commit.

Identify the amount of intramural support available for the proposed project and other research efforts by budget categories and amounts. If the university makes the services of a technician available to the candidate, note this. Identify the part of the proposal that will be directly initiated or expedited by the PhRMA Foundation’s funds.

Required type specifications: U.S. letter size 8.5” x 11” / .5” margin / 11-point font (figures may be provided in a smaller font). The first use of any abbreviation or acronym should be preceded by the full name or description. Submissions that do not meet the specified guidelines for proposal preparation will be considered non-responsive and will not be considered for funding.

4. Research Impact Questions

Please reupload your responses to the Research Impact Questions from the LOI stage using the provided template. You may make adjustments to your responses if you choose.

5. Budget

Upload your budget explaining: 1) how the funds will be used and 2) whether the project receives other funding.

6. Other Sources of Funding/Funding Explanation

Upload information about other support this project receives. If no other support, upload a document stating, “No other support has been received or is pending.” Other support includes all financial resources — federal, non-federal, commercial, or institutional — available in direct support of an individual’s research endeavors, including but not limited to research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and/or institutional awards. Training awards, prizes, or gifts do not need to be included.

7. Manuscripts/Presentations

You can upload up to three relevant publications in PDF format.

8. References

Please note that the system will not accept your application unless the letters of support have been successfully uploaded. You are required to submit contact information for the following personnel (2-4 references):

  • Collaborators, if any
  • General reference(s) who are familiar with you and your scientific career

Once you add their name and contact information to your application, an auto-generated email will be forwarded to them. The email will include instructions as to what they should address in their letter of support, and it will provide a personalized hyperlink where they should upload their letter. Letters of support should be uploaded before August 29 so you can submit your application before 12:00 p.m. (noon) ET.

We suggest you inform your references in advance of what items should be addressed in their letter of support.

Collaborator(s) should include:

  • Acknowledgment of their commitment, participation, and enthusiasm in the project.
  • Their brief biosketch.

General reference(s) should include:

  • The period of time you have known the applicant and in what capacity.
  • Comment on the applicant’s communication and interpersonal skills, and ability to collaborate with peers on research projects.
  • Explanation of how this program will be a productive experience for the applicant and why they should be selected.

REMEMBER to begin your application early so your references have ample time to meet the August 29 deadline. It is your responsibility that these letters are uploaded. The application portal will permit you to review your application and the status of your letters of support before your final submission. Be sure to check it frequently and do not wait until the last minute. The application portal will not permit the application to be submitted until the letters of support have been uploaded.

The full application deadline is August 29, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Award notification is December 15, 2024.

The support from the PhRMA Foundation allows us to test a new hypothesis in the infancy of my independent lab. The project will help us develop chemical tools to probe immune signaling, which could unlock new therapeutic mechanisms for autoimmune diseases.

Ziyang Zhang, PhD University of California, Berkley