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 2022 Proposals is Open


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

March of Dimes invites requests for applications for 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 and/or mothers and newborns within the first year postpartum.

Applications focused on preterm birth and health equity are prioritized. All applications should clearly outline a path from discovery to functional studies to clinical translation. The eventual goal to cure or greatly mitigate conditions that adversely impact the health of pregnant women and newborns is required.

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


April 20, 2022……………..…………..……. Application portal opened
June 30, 2022………………………………. Application portal closed
September 20, 2022………...………….. Notification of award
October 1, 2022………………………….. Award start date
September 30, 2024…………………. 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. 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.
    • This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on early career investigators in particular, the March of Dimes will grant a one year extension to investigators on their eligibility window (i.e. it will now be four to ten years past their last year of clinical training).
  • 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.
    • This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on early career investigators in particular, the March of Dimes will grant a one year extension to investigators on their eligibility window (i.e. it will now be four to ten years post the completion of their terminal degree).
  • 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 submitted an application to the Basil O’Connor program are not eligible for resubmission.

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 Dean, Chair, or Director of their affiliated Institute or Center; please see below for more details.

Required Information:

  • Applications (templates provided at the application link above) for the proposed research should include the following information in this order:
    • Contact Information
    • Project Information
    • Academic Appointment Details
    • Animal/Human Subject Use and Assurance Information
    • Payee Information
    • References
  • Application Attachments
    • Candidate’s biographical sketch, including candidate’s preferred gender pronouns and ethnicity (for our diversity and inclusion records)
    • Current Financial Support
    • Pending Financial Support
    • Professional Personnel
    • Consent Form (if applicable)
    • Budget
    • Budget Justification
    • Research Plan
    • Research Plan Citations
  • Letter of Nomination: Deans, Chairs of Departments, or Directors of Institutes/Centers 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.


All awardees are expected to attend local and national March of Dimes events during the award, and alumni sessions for the two years following. Information about these events will be provided to awardees.

In addition, awardees must agree to have their work promoted publicly by the MOD marketing and PR teams.


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.