Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards

Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards support young physicians/scientists committed to March of Dimes’ mission to fight for the health of all moms and babies. Named in honor of our first chairman and president, this award includes a $150,000 grant for outstanding investigators just embarking on their independent research careers.

2021 Award Recipients:

  • Dr. Kok Lim Kua, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. His research focuses on the implication of obesity during pregnancy on newborn health. Babies born to women who are obese have a three times higher risk of developing type-2 diabetes at an earlier age. The research will study pathways associated with diabetes and glucose control as successful targets for therapeutics and introduce an earlier intervention to prevent subsequent burden of disease.
  • Dr. Brian Kalish, Staff Neonatologist and Scientist-Track Investigator in Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. His research examines the role of inflammation during pregnancy not only for birth timing, but also for fetal development. The implications of this research may also increase the understanding of the fetal brain response to maternal inflammation which could be applicable to other intrauterine stressors.

Request for 2021 Propsals is Closed


Please read through these details carefully as many of the conditions have changed.

March of Dimes invites request for proposals of impactful research that will advance our translational understanding of, or lead to improved clinical treatment of any serious medical conditions that affect the health of pregnancies and/or moms and newborns within the first year postpartum. Applications focused on preterm birth, developmental origins of health and disease, and health equity are prioritized. All applications must have a direct link to clinical translation. The eventual goal to cure or greatly mitigate conditions that adversely impact the health of pregnant people and newborns is required.

The award is $150,000 for 2 years, including 10 percent indirect costs to sponsoring institutions.


May 14, 2021 ……………..…………..……. Application portal opened
July 9, 2021………………………………. Application portal closed
September 20, 2021………...………….. Review and notification 
October 1, 2021………………………….. Award start date
September 30, 2023 …………………. Award end date


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.

  • MD or MD/PhD applicants should be 4 to 9 years past their last year of clinical training required for medical specialty board certification, must hold a full-time tenure-track faculty position (or equivalent) at their current U.S. based institution and must have received their first tenure-track appointment no more than 4 years prior to the submission deadline.
  • For PhD scientists, the same timelines applies, but the 4 to 9 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 applicants are encouraged.
  • 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 submitted an application to the Basil O’Connor program are ordinarily not eligible for resubmission; however, exceptions will be considered on an individual basis. 

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


The entire process must be completed online at

Required Information:

  • Application (templates provided) for the proposed research, which includes 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
  • 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: deans, chairs of departments or directors of institutes/centers may submit nominations for this award. Included should be the nominator’s name, academic appointment, mailing address, telephone and e-mail address. The nomination letter should be submitted via the online system, and should vouch for a candidate’s 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: postdoctoral mentor and an additional reference 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.


All awardees are expected to attend local and national March of Dimes events during the award and alumni sessions for the two years following. Details will be available at the time of award.


Please direct any questions to [email protected].


In 2020, March of Dimes named the following award recipients (read more in this press release):

  • Dr. Ripla Arora, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, College of Human Medicine at Michigan State and a member of the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering. Dr. Arora’s research will evaluate how non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs influence endometrial 3D structure and pregnancy outcomes.
  • Dr. Corina Lesseur, postdoctoral fellow in Environmental Medicine and Public Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Lesseur’s research will characterize the effects of genetics and gestational diabetes on the placental DNA methylome in the Pacific Islander community.
  • Dr. Jamie Lo, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine and a March of Dimes sponsored fellow in the Reproductive Scientist Development Program. Dr. Lo’s research will concentrate on the effects of chronic prenatal and postnatal marijuana exposure on infant sociobehavioral and neurodevelopmental outcomes.