Research News

Limited Submission Opportunity: 2024 Ono Pharma Breakthrough Science Initiative Awards

Applications due Jan. 4

This is a joint competition for VU and VUMC investigators. All investigators should follow these instructions.


Vanderbilt (VU and VUMC, combined) may nominate two candidates to submit a letter of intent to the Ono Pharma Foundation’s Breakthrough Science Initiative Awards Program.

Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. is a leading global health care company committed to delivering new innovative pharmaceutical products to patients and championing the fight against disease and pain. The Ono Pharma Foundation was established to support academic research in relevant scientific fields that have the potential of making significant impact on therapeutic approaches to disease and pain management.

The Ono Initiative is the embodiment of the foundation’s commitment to focus on and accelerate researcher-driven open innovation by supporting high-risk and high-reward science research projects that have potential to lead to science discoveries/solutions and, possibly, based on further research, to breakthrough treatments for patients. The program seeks proposals for research that could ultimately transform human health.

Although additional areas of research may be added in future years, in 2024 the Ono Pharma Foundation only will consider proposals for scientific research projects addressing the following field of science:

Chemical biology research

  • Target research of chemical biology is not specified. Chemical biology is defined as research that deals with the interface between chemistry and biology. The criteria for this field are deliberately broad so as not to disqualify potentially innovative and groundbreaking projects.
  • Subjects of interest include, but are not limited to:
    • Modulating interactome and cell/tissue crosstalk with chemical induced proximity
    • Manipulating biomolecular condensates and protein quality control systems
    • Deep understanding and emerging applications of chemical glycobiology
    • New concepts of drug delivery and localization to tissue/cell/organelle

Award details

Project duration may last up to three years with annual funding of up to $300,000/year. The foundation will provide up to a maximum of an additional 15 percent ($45,000) per year to be used for institutional indirect costs. The total amount of the three-year grant is up to $1,035,000.

Eligibility requirements

  • The PI must have an M.D. and/or a Ph.D. degree.
  • The PI must be a new applicant to the Ono Initiative, or, if they are returning, have applied over three years ago for a project different from the one they are currently proposing.
  • The PI must be a young and/or mid-career scientist (15 years or below of experience from starting independent academic position at the date of LOI submission).
  • The PI may not already be engaged in other sponsored research with Ono Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and/or grant program with Ono Pharma Foundation. (Contact with questions.)
  • The PI may not apply for funding to amplify current work. However, PIs may research a new idea based on a prior finding of the PI.
  • The PI must not be a health care professional (defined as individuals currently holding an active state license for which they are (a) qualified to prescribe, administer, use or supply any medicinal or medical products or (b) perform any professional clinical services. A PI with an M.D. but without an active state medical license is still eligible.
  • PIs serving on a health care formulary or similar committee are not eligible.

For more information on the program, please refer to the program website and FAQs.

Internal application process

Anyone interested in being considered as Vanderbilt’s potential nominee(s) must submit the following as a single file (in PDF format) to by 5 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2024.

  1. Vision of Proposed Research – one-page single-spaced 12-point font. Figures may be included but should not exceed an additional two pages. If there is a figure that best explains your project, please indicate which one.
  2. Letter of support from department chair/center director
  3. NIH Biosketch or brief CV (5-page max.)

Submissions should reference the program name in the subject line of the email. All applicants should verify their eligibility in advance.

If nominated by Vanderbilt, the PI must submit an LOI to the sponsor by Feb. 15, 2024. If the LOI is reviewed favorably by Ono Pharma, then they will request a full proposal that will be due by May 9, 2024.

Any questions about this opportunity or the LSO process may be directed to