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Small Research Grants Can Make a Big Impact in Disease Areas Such As Sickle Cell, DDCF’s Escobar Alvarez Details in Blood Advances

In “Impact of a Grant Program to Spur Advances in Sickle Cell Disease Research,” an article in Blood Advances by Sindy Escobar Alvarez, program director for medical research at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) and Betsy Myers, DDCF’s previous program director for medical research, Escobar Alvarez and Myers illuminate how relatively small research grants can have a substantial return on investment and result in significant advances for a disease such as Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). 

Escobar Alvarez and Myers explained the outcomes of an evaluation of DDCF’s Innovations in Clinical Research Awards program, conducted in the first quarter of 2021, 12 years after the start of the first grants. The aim of the program was to accelerate application of technologies pioneered in other fields, such as cancer, to problems in SCD. Grants of $450,000 direct costs over three years were awarded every other year from 2009 to 2013, and no-cost extensions and competitive renewals were allowed. The last set of renewals for the Innovations in Clinical Research Awards program was distributed in 2015, for a total investment of $17 million. Evaluation of this funding program revealed a substantial return on investment through follow-on funding for the projects equaling four times the original $17 million – or 303 percent, and the median number of resulting publications per team was three. Perhaps most impressive were the major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease that resulted from the funded research.

Read more about these innovations and other outcomes in Blood Advances.