Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards

Basil O'Connor Starter Awards

Supporting outstanding researchers who are embarking, or continuing, on their independent research careers.

They are conducting concerted translational research in line with their personal and professional interests that will one day grow into a body of distinguished work that sheds light on the U.S. maternal fetal health crisis. Named in honor of the first MOD Chairman and President, this award is comprised of a $150,000 grant over a two-year period. It prioritizes investigators proposing to conduct impactful research studies that will advance our translational understanding of, or lead to improved clinical treatment of, any serious medical conditions that affect the health of a woman’s pregnancy or the health of mothers and newborns in the first year postpartum.

Reflective of our mission, applications should focus on preterm birth and health equity. They should clearly outline a path from discovery to functional studies to clinical translation, with the eventual goal to cure or greatly mitigate conditions that adversely impact the health of pregnant women and newborns.

Award Amount: $150,000 over two years 

Areas of Research: any serious medical conditions that affect the health of a woman’s pregnancy and/or mothers and newborns within the first year postpartum.

Applications focused on preterm birth and health equity are prioritized.  

Open to: MD or MD/PhD applicants should be four to nine years past the last year of clinical training required for medical specialty board certification and must hold a full-time tenure-track faculty position (or equivalent) at their current U. S. based institution. Those who have previously received a Basil O’Connor Award are not eligible.

Note: The current cycle is now closed

Application portal opens: February 29, 2024   
Application portal closes: May 31, 2024  
Notification of awards: September 2, 2024  
Award Start Date: October 1, 2024  
Award End Date: September 30, 2026 


Apply on Portal  


The Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award is intended to be an early career grant to young investigators who are just embarking on an independent research career. Eligibility is thus restricted. Please consider:

  • MD or MD/PhD applicants should be four to nine years past the last year of clinical training required for medical specialty board certification and must hold a full-time tenure-track faculty position (or equivalent) at their current U. S. based institution. 
  • For PhD scientists, the same timeline applies, but the four to nine year window begins upon completion of their terminal degree. They must have either primary or secondary appointments in clinical departments related to maternal or child health. 
  • Applicants who have transition faculty-mentored awards (e.g. K99/R00) are welcome if they still have one year of the mentored portion. If not, application should be deferred. K12 and K08 grantees are encouraged to apply.  
  • Candidates may not simultaneously hold a grant for any other March of Dimes research program.  
  • Applicants may not have total grant support exceeding $200,000 per year before the BOC award start date (e.g. R01). 
  • Those who have previously received a Basil O’Connor Award are not eligible.

Requests for exceptions on timing (e.g. parental leave) may be submitted to Courtney Dower at ([email protected]).   

The entire process must be completed online at

Each application should be accompanied by a Letter of Nomination from the applicant’s Chair; please see below for more details.

Applications (templates provided at the application link above) for the proposed research should include the following information in this order:

  1. Contact Information
  2. Project Information
  3. Academic Appointment Details
  4. Animal/Human Subject Use and Assurance Information
  5. Payee Information
  6. References


Application Attachments

  1. Candidate’s biographical sketch
  2. Current Financial Support
  3. Pending Financial Support
  4. Professional Personnel
  5. Consent Form (if applicable)
  6. Budget
  7. Budget Justification
  8. Research Plan
  9. Research Plan Citations


Letter of Nomination: 

Chairs of Departments may submit nominations for this award. Included in the letter of nomination should be: Nominator’s name, academic appointment, mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address. The nomination letter should be submitted via the online system. As part of the nomination, the letter should vouch for a candidate having an unrestricted faculty position and dedicated lab/clinical research space. Information provided should explicitly include: details concerning the candidate’s faculty appointment, independence, laboratory space (assigned to the candidate), startup package, and access to core facilities. This information will be scrutinized closely.

Two (2) Letters of Recommendation: one letter should be the postdoctoral mentor and the second letter of reference is of the applicant’s choosing.



  1. The academic background and potential of the candidate. 
  2. Resources available as judged by the nominator’s letter.  
  3. The proposal: once completed, it should place the candidate in position to be competitive for a R21 or R01 building on the results of the project.
  4. Clinical relevance to research priorities of March of Dimes as outlined above.


March of Dimes works with a variety of researchers from around the world. It is our hope that our awardees view their time as scholars, grantees, or center partners as mutually beneficial, and with value beyond the monetary consideration.  
We expect our awardees to attend key meetings that pertain to their award program, or assign an appropriate delegate if not possible. We expect members of our research centers to collaborate scientifically and collegially with other centers or non-profit organizations that are identified during the course of the award period. We expect that our awardees will attend scientific meetings that may be established by MOD and use good faith efforts to help MOD raise funds for future awards through attendance at some events, interviews, or other public-facing opportunities. 

We expect our awardees to make an impact on the thematic areas outlined in our strategic plan as the relate to their awards. To that end, we expect awardees to notify us of publications, posters, and presentations so that we may help to amplify their good work to the public.  
All these things we do so that our awardees can be successful now and in the future…

Please direct any questions to [email protected]

2022 Award Recipients

Last Cycle’s Grant Recipients

Making an Impact with Research

March of Dimes research is focused on making an impact NOW to end preventable preterm birth; we do this by approaching research in several key ways. At both the bench and bedside– through descriptive research that aims to characterize and understand the factors that lead to preterm birth and other adverse outcomes; and through work that leads to mitigation and prevention of preterm birth- through therapeutics, diagnostics, and/or policy changes. 

We know that pregnancy is complex. March of Dimes research approach takes a whole-system view and brings the best talent and minds to bear, so we can make a difference in our lifetime. 

Recent examples

  • How are we making a difference: March of Dimes research programs have made discoveries that lead to direct impact on the health of moms, babies, and their families.
  • PRC microbiome studies leading to bedside testing; rapid, low cost predictive testing.
  • Early detection of preeclampsia and other adverse pregnancy outcomes through several approaches, including cell-free RNA, data analytics, and other diagnostic markers.
  • Understanding maternal-infant nutrition, to wit, NEC and how breastfeeding can improve outcomes    

Your Support Helps us Fund Research

There are a number of ways to support research at March of Dimes. Your time – through volunteering at events, raising awareness in your community, and recruiting new and impactful researcher to our network; your attention – by focused attention on how research can impact your community, your country, and the global family; and your resources – by way of funding, access to your network, and getting involved in research directly.

We need your help to continue developing diagnostics, therapeutics, and understanding of the complex factors that lead to preterm birth, maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, and overall adverse outcomes in pregnancy. Moms, Babies, and their Families can’t wait for you to step up and get involved. 

Join our amazing volunteer community and make a difference in maternal and infant health across the country.

Advocate for healthy moms and strong babies with March of Dimes. Join our network and make a difference in maternal and infant health.

Help save moms and babies nationwide with your donation. Support lifesaving research and advocacy at March of Dimes.