Skip to content

The PhRMA Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Drug Discovery supports individuals (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) engaged in a multidisciplinary, collaborative research training program at an accredited U.S. university that will extend their credentials in drug discovery research.

$60,000 per year for up to 2 years

The deadline to apply for 2024 awards has passed. 2024 award recipients will be notified by December 15, 2023. The application portal for 2025 awards will open in March 2024.


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.

  • Applicants (U.S. and non-U.S. citizens) must be based at a PhD and/or MS degree-granting accredited U.S. university.
  • Applicants have a firm commitment from a research supervisor or sponsor at their university.
  • Applicants must hold a PhD, PharmD, MD, or appropriate terminal research doctorate. If you do not hold one at the time of application submission, please state in your extended letter when you expect to receive it, as it must be received before funding can begin. Funding can begin as early as January 1, 2024, or as late as August 1, 2024.
  • Applicants must be within their first five years of postdoctoral study at the time of award activation.
  • Applicants who are applying for funds to support postdoctoral work in the laboratory where their graduate work was performed will be given lower preference. One of the objectives of this fellowship is to gain new skills, and therefore, an ideal candidate will be conducting their research in a new laboratory and not where their graduate work was performed.
  • Only one postdoctoral applicant per lab may apply for this award. If multiple applicants apply, they will automatically be ineligible. Potential applicants and their thesis advisors and/or lab managers should decide who should 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 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Drug Discovery provides $60,000 in stipend support per year for 12, 18, or 24 months.
  • To receive funding beyond the first 12 months, awardees must provide the PhRMA Foundation with a satisfactory progress report upon completion of the first 10 months of funding.
  • Funding is conditional upon the awardee’s continued employment with the university in the postdoctoral program, which will be assessed on a quarterly basis prior to payment. Payments will be made directly to the university on behalf of the awardee, with the understanding the university will administer the funds.
  • This award is intended solely as a stipend and may not be used otherwise. PhRMA Foundation funds may not be used for tuition, fringe benefits, or indirect costs to the university.
  • An individual may not simultaneously hold another funding mechanism providing stipend support while the PhRMA Foundation postdoctoral fellowship is active, unless it helps to supplement the award to a level that is consistent with other postdoctoral fellowships the university offers. If necessary, the university may supplement the award to a level that is consistent with other postdoctoral fellowships it currently offers.
  • Funding may begin as early as January 1, 2024, or on the first day of any month thereafter, up to and including August 1, 2024.
  • A financial report (separate from the 10-month progress report) will be required upon completion of the first 12 months of funding.
  • A final progress report and financial report will be required within 60 days of the fellowship’s conclusion.
  • Unspent funds are to be returned to the PhRMA Foundation.
  • Any changes to the proposed project must be approved by the PhRMA Foundation.
  • These funds are non-transferable.

The deadline to apply for 2024 awards has passed. 2024 award recipients will be notified by December 15, 2023. The application portal for 2025 awards will open in March 2024.

To start a letter of intent, 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 Postdoctoral Fellowship in Drug Discovery Program.

Candidates must submit a 600-word LOI describing their research project and its aims. In addition to the LOI, please answer 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).
  • How will this project advance the field?
  • What challenges or gaps in the field are you solving?
  • How is your project innovative?

The LOI should be written by the applicant on a U.S. letter-sized 8.5” x 11” page 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 and figures do not count toward the 600-word LOI limit.

Those whose submissions are selected will be notified by July 1, 2023, and asked to complete a full application. Full applications are due August 31, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT, including letters of support.

Step 2: Application Process (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 statement, not to exceed eight single-spaced pages, of the plans for research, education, and training in drug discovery. Applicants should use a format similar to the format specified for grants submitted to the National Institutes of Health, including a description of the aims, rationale, research design and methodology, and a bibliography of major references (bibliographies are not included in the page limit). The proposal should be written by the postdoctoral candidate — not copied directly from a sponsor’s past NIH proposal.

Preliminary results, if any, should also be included. A project timeline is suggested. The first use of any abbreviation or acronym should be preceded by the full name or description or included in a footnote.

Each application will be reviewed closely to assess the quality of the proposed research, as well as the proposed education and training that will be obtained. Therefore, it is essential that documentation be included demonstrating that proper guidance and departmental support will be made available during the project to ensure training in the techniques and principles of drug discovery. The proposal must document the approval of all departments in which the candidate will train via letters from chairs or mentors in these departments, or from appropriate personnel if the proposal includes an experiential rotation in an industrial research laboratory.

Required type specifications: U.S. letter size 8.5” x 11” / .5” margin / 11-point font (figures may be provided in a smaller font). Submissions that do not meet the specified guidelines for proposal preparation 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. Stipend Justification

If your institution is supplementing the award to a level that is consistent with other predoctoral fellowships that it currently offers, please upload a “Stipend Justification” explaining whether the stipend is being supplemented and at what amount. If not, upload a document stating, “no stipend support.”

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 (optional)

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 from your references have been successfully uploaded. You are required to submit contact information for the following personnel.

  • Research supervisor or sponsor (the person who mentors and authorizes your work in the lab)
  • General reference(s) (1-3) 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 sent to them with instructions on what they should address in their letter of support and a personalized hyperlink where they should upload their letter. Letters of support should be uploaded before August 31 so you can submit your application before 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT.

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

Research supervisor or sponsor should include:

  • Their brief biosketch or CV.
  • Assessment of the applicant and proposed project.
  • Information describing how the department will support the applicant (e.g., funding, space, etc.).
  • Information to describe the education of the applicant in drug discovery.
  • Information on the training program in drug discovery research.
  • If the applicant does not have a formal background in drug discovery, the Sponsor must describe how the applicant will obtain such training as a postdoctoral student (e.g., a class, part of a project, etc.). The mechanism and assessment to establish successful training of the applicant must be made clear.
  • Information on the applicant’s current source of financial support for the proposed project and any pending applications for stipend support. If none are pending, this should be stated.

General reference(s) should include:

  • The period of time they 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.
  • If involved in the applicant’s project, an explanation of their roles and responsibilities regarding the project.

REMEMBER to begin your application early so your references have ample time to meet the August 31 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.

Application deadline is August 31, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. (noon) EDT. Late submissions will not be accepted.

Award notification is December 15, 2023.

The PhRMA Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship will support my research on the discovery and development of novel therapeutic modalities for cancer treatment. I am thankful to the Foundation for supporting a French female researcher, and I hope this will encourage many other international women to pursue research in the USA.

Melanie Uguen, PhD University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill