Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award Overview

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Program Description | Funding | Eligibility | Terms of the Award | Continuation Grant
Forms for Awardees | Application Guidelines

Program Description

NOTICE: Institutional nominations have been reinstated. Please review carefully.

The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award supports independent young physician-scientists conducting disease-oriented research that demonstrates a high level of innovation and creativity. The goal is to support the best young physician-scientists doing work aimed at improving the practice of cancer medicine. 

The Clinical Investigator Award responds to three recognized realities:

  • Though there has never been a more pressing need or more promising time for clinical cancer research, fewer young physicians enter this area of investigation every year.
  • The number of institutions committed to training young physicians in the scientific discipline and methodologies of clinical investigation is critically low.
  • The burden of medical school debt (averaging over $100,000) discourages many physicians from pursuing clinical investigation.

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s award offers solutions to these realities. The awardee will receive financial support for three years, as well as assistance with certain research costs such as the purchase of equipment. The Foundation will also retire up to $100,000 of any medical school debt still owed by the awardee.

The Clinical Investigator Award program is specifically intended to provide outstanding young physicians with the resources and training structure essential to becoming successful clinical investigators. The goal is to increase the number of physicians capable of moving seamlessly between the laboratory and the patient’s bedside in search of breakthrough treatments.

Definition of Clinical Research

a) Patient-oriented research: Research conducted with human subjects (or on material of human origin such as tissues, specimens and cognitive phenomena) for which an investigator directly interacts with human subjects. This area of research includes: patient-based studies of mechanisms of human disease, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, clinical trials and development of new technologies for the detection, treatment and prevention of human cancers.
b) Epidemiologic and behavioral studies.
c) Outcomes research and health services research.

The applicant must be involved in patient care and be conducting research that has the potential to be translated to impact patients.

Preference will be given to research that adheres to the “Handshake Rule,” meaning that the physician will conduct research studies that directly involve patients. (This rule does not apply to pathologist candidates.)

Partnership with NIH and NCI

Damon Runyon has a novel partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which uniquely opens access to the NIH Clinical Center (CC) to Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators. The goal of this partnership is to use the special talent, expertise and resources of the participants to undertake pilot studies of specific diseases and to develop collaborative partnerships that accelerate clinical and translational cancer research, and thereby improve human health.

Potential opportunities for partnership: 

1. Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award applicants may apply with a mentor or co-mentor from NCI or another NIH Institute. The proposal must identify the research to be done at and resources to be used at the NIH CC.
2. Current Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators may conduct a research project at the NIH CC in collaboration with an NIH tenured/tenure-track investigator. The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator would be the PI or co-PI on the project.
3. Current Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators may request to use the special equipment or facilities at the NIH CC, which could provide opportunities for investigators that may not be possible in their home institutions. Examples are: obtaining research materials such as research PET ligands or products from the CC Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facilities, or accessing other non patient-related activities/facilities. No NIH scientist collaboration would be required.

Click here to view the press release announcing this partnership.

Please contact the Foundation’s President and CEO, Yung Lie, PhD, with any questions regarding NIH/NCI partnership opportunities (212.455.0521 or yung.lie@damonrunyon.org).

Research, Training and Development

During each award year, the applicant must commit a minimum of 80% of their full-time professional effort to the conduct of research and research career development. [In rare unique circumstances, the CIA Committee may consider an applicant with a very modest reduction of 80% protected time if their Department Chair can provide a compelling reason explaining why a waiver of the 80% requirement should be granted, what percentage of effort will be guaranteed, and what safeguards will be put in place to make sure the individual’s research will not be compromised by their clinical/administrative activities.]

The Mentor’s role is to foster the development of the applicant’s knowledge, technical and analytical skills, and capacity for scientific inquiry in the field of human disease-oriented clinical and translational research.  The Mentor also acts as an advocate for the applicant at the departmental, institutional, and professional levels.

Selection and Review

The Clinical Investigator Award Committee (CIAC) will review applications and select awardees for approval by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation's Board of Directors. CIAC puts a premium on innovation and creativity when reviewing applications.

At the beginning of each review session the following Biases Statement is read aloud: As an organization, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation seeks to promote gender equality and increase diversity, in all of its forms, throughout our programs. Studies have demonstrated that often subtle and unconscious biases can dramatically affect outcomes in review processes and that by simply acknowledging that unconscious biases exist, we can combat their potential negative impact. To that end, please be aware of your potential unconscious biases when reviewing, scoring and discussing candidates and applications throughout the review process.

Selection Criteria

  • Excellence of the applicant and Mentor.
  • Innovation, creativity, quality and originality of the research proposal.
  • The commitment of the Mentor and institution to the development and training of the applicant as a skilled clinical research investigator.
  • Evidence of the applicant’s commitment to clinical translational and/or cancer prevention research and their ability to apply advances in laboratory research to clinical problems.
  • Importance of the proposed research to the field of cancer and/or cancer prevention.
  • Adherence of the proposal to the definition of clinical research as set out on this web page.
  • Adherence to the “Handshake Rule.” (This rule does not apply to pathologist candidates.)


The $600,000 award will be for a period of three years. Funding in the amount of $200,000 will be allocated to the awardee’s institution each year for the support of the Clinical Investigator.  Funds are intended to be flexible and can be used for a variety of scientific needs including the Investigator’s stipend and/or fringe benefits (up to $130,000 annually), salaries for professional and technical personnel, special equipment, supplies, and other miscellaneous items required to conduct the proposed research.  No part of this grant can be used for indirect costs or institutional overhead.

Other Funding

Investigators may receive funding from other sources to support their research.  However, no other physician-scientist mentored career development award from a private source (non-federal government) may be held concurrently with the Clinical Investigator Award.

Physician-scientist career development awards from the federal government including the National Institutes of Health (e.g., K08, K12, K23), the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs are allowed.

Scientific or budgetary overlap with other funded projects is not allowed.  Therefore, it is critical that all current and pending grant support for your research be reported to the Foundation and the relationship of that support to the Damon Runyon-funded project be explained.

Examples of awards that cannot be held concurrently with the Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award include (but are not limited to):

  • American Association for Cancer Research- Career Development Award
  • Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation- A Award Grant
  • Conquer Cancer Foundation (ASCO)- Career Development Award
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund- Career Award for Medical Scientists
  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation- Clinical Scientist Development Award
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society- Career Development Program, Scholar Awards
  • St. Baldrick's Foundation- St. Baldrick's Scholar
  • Lymphoma Research Foundation- Clinical Investigator Career Development Award
  • Melanoma Research Alliance- Young Investigator Awards

Please contact the Foundation with any questions regarding concurrent funding (212.455.0520).

Debt Repayment Program

The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation will retire up to $100,000 of any qualifying medical school debt still owed by the awardee. Payment will be made annually over the course of the award. Note: Qualified candidates must first apply to the NIH Loan Repayment Program in order to be eligible for loan repayment from Damon Runyon (see Terms of the Award below).


  • The applicant must hold an independent Assistant Professor position or equivalent at a U.S. institution and is expected to demonstrate significant support from the home institution through a comprehensive start-up package, ample laboratory space, and protected research time, for example. 
  • Each applicant must be nominated by their institution. Applications will only be accepted from institutions that have been invited to submit them by the Foundation (See list). Five (5) nominations per institution, including its affiliated schools, will be accepted. 
  • The applicant must have received an MD, DO, or MD/PhD degree(s) from an accredited institution, completed their subspecialty training and be U.S. Board eligible.
  • The applicant must hold a valid, active U.S. medical license at the time of application.
  • The applicant must apply within the first five (5) years of their Assistant Professor or equivalent full faculty appointment (Cut-off date: July 1, 2020). Instructor, Adjunct and/or acting positions are not eligible.
  • Candidates holding or awarded R01s (or R01-equivalent grants such as the DP2 and DP5) at the time of application are not eligible to apply.
  • The applicant must commit to spending 80% of their time conducting research. [In rare unique circumstances, the CIA Committee may consider an applicant with a very modest reduction of 80% protected time if their Department Chair can provide a compelling reason explaining why a waiver of the 80% requirement should be granted, what percentage of effort will be guaranteed, and what safeguards will be put in place to make sure the individual’s research will not be compromised by their clinical/administrative activities.]
  • The applicant is required to apply in conjunction with a Mentor who is established in the field of clinical translational cancer research, cancer prevention and/or epidemiology and can provide the critical guidance needed during the period of the award.  No more than two Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators will be funded to work with the same Mentor at any given time (including Co-Mentors).
  • Candidates may apply up to two times during this eligibility period. 
  • Only one application will be accepted from a Mentor per review session (including Co-Mentors).

Terms of the Award

All awardees must adhere to the terms of both our award statement and our invention policy.

Please note: The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation will not modify the terms of its policies at the request of individual institutions. Policies have been approved by our Board of Directors, and we do not have the resources to negotiate separately with the many institutions that receive our support.

All awards are made to the sponsoring institution for support of the designated Clinical Investigator.  An award does not constitute an employer-employee relationship between the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the awardee.

Accelerating Cancer Cures Annual Symposium

Each year a symposium will be held to highlight the achievements of the Clinical Investigators and promote scientific interactions with our Accelerating Cancer Cures sponsors (currently AbbVie, Amgen, Eli Lilly and Company, Genentech, Merck, and Novartis.)  All current Clinical Investigators are expected to attend.

Medical School Loan Repayment Program for Clinical Investigators

The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award is designed to encourage and assist greater numbers of physicians to become clinical investigators and conduct patient-oriented research.  As part of this award program, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (the “Foundation”) will pay up to $100,000 of outstanding medical school loans of Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award recipients pursuant to the below policy.

Note: Qualified candidates must first apply to the NIH Loan Repayment Program in order to be eligible for loan repayment from Damon Runyon.

Qualifying loans: Debt incurred for tuition and direct educational expenses during medical school and any interest thereon.  (Loans for general items or living expenses [e.g., housing, transportation, and consumables] do not qualify for this program.)  Loans must be from a government entity, academic institution, or commercial or chartered lending institution.  Qualifying medical school loans, which have been combined or refinanced with non-qualifying loans, will be partially eligible based on the ratio of eligible and ineligible expenses included.

Eligibility and amount of support: Up to $100,000 debt will be paid in the aggregate over the three-year award period not to exceed $33,333 in any one-year period, if the following conditions are met:

(i) Participants in this program must submit documentation regarding the loans (e.g., receipts and supporting documents for tuition and directly related expenses, loan agreements, and payment information) to the Foundation within one month of acceptance of a Clinical Investigator Award to determine whether they qualify for this program. Documentation of loan status and payment information must be provided to the Foundation annually, no later than one month prior to the award renewal date, as a condition of continued participation.
(ii) Participants enrolled in NIH-sponsored loan repayment programs or any other debt relief programs must disclose the details of such agreements to the Foundation.
(iii) Participants must agree to refund all amounts paid under this loan repayment program if they terminate the Clinical Investigator Award prior to completion of the three-year term.

Payments: For each year of eligibility, the Foundation will pay directly to each lender an amount representing the total payments owed by the participant for all qualifying loans for that year up to an aggregate maximum of $33,333 (“Annual Debt Payments”).  If the participant has qualifying loans with annual payments in excess of $33,333, the Foundation, in its discretion, will determine which loans it will pay.

Consolidated loans: Participants must submit the loan agreement for consolidated loans as well as loan agreements for each of the underlying loans.

Leave without pay: Loan repayments will not be made during leaves of absence unless written permission is granted by the Foundation.

Obligations not qualifying for repayment: (i) Loans not obtained from a government entity, academic institution, or a commercial or other chartered lending institution such as loans from friends, relatives, or other individuals.  (ii) Delinquent loans, loans in default, loans not current in their payment schedule, or loans already repaid.  (iii) Late fees, penalty fees, additional interest charges, or collection costs.

Reimbursement for increased income tax liabilities: Loan repayments made to lenders represent taxable income to program participants.  This income will be reported annually to the IRS and may result in an increase in participants’ Federal, State, and Local tax liabilities.  To offset tax liability increases, the Foundation will approximate the added liability using the applicable tax rates each year and pay this amount directly to the participant at the time of each repayment (“Additional Tax Payment”).  For purposes of the foregoing, the assumed tax rate shall be determined by the Foundation, in its sole discretion, and may or may not equal the tax rate that actually applies to the participant.

Payback Agreement: If a participant in this program terminates their Clinical Investigator Award prior to the end of the award term, the Foundation shall, in its sole discretion, be entitled to require repayment by the participant of all Annual Debt Payments and Additional Tax Payments.  The Foundation reserves the right to waive this payback requirement if the participant continues in clinical investigation after early termination of the Clinical Investigator Award.  This payback will be paid over the same period of time and in the same amounts as the initial payments by the Foundation.

Publications and Presentations

Publications (including abstracts of presentations at scientific or clinical meetings) resulting from projects supported by the Foundation must carry the following acknowledgment: “[Name of Awardee] is a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator supported (in part) by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (CI-#[___]).”

Awardees should identify themselves as Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators when presenting their work at scientific conferences or accepting professional honors or awards.  Download a copy of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation logo for inclusion in Power Point presentations or posters.

Transfers or Termination

Should the Clinical Investigator wish to discontinue the project, leave the designated institution or modify any agreement on the award letter, they must seek approval from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation in advance.  Failure to comply with this requirement will result in an immediate termination and may jeopardize any future awards to the institution by the Foundation.

The award will be granted for a period of three years and is subject to review and approval each year as set out under the terms and conditions.

Continuation Grant

The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award Continuation Grant is designed to provide two additional years of support to Damon Runyon Clinical Investigators who are approaching the end of their awards and need extra time and funding to complete a promising avenue of research, or initiate/continue a clinical trial.

Forms for Awardees

Award Statement
Award Acceptance Form
Loan Repayment Form
Budget Form
Expenditure Report Form
Invention Policy
Intellectual Property Disclosure Form
Annual Progress Report Form
Final Progress Report Form
Continuation Grant Cover Sheet
Continuation Grant Award Acceptance Form
Continuation Grant Budget Form

Contact Information

Award Programs | awards@damonrunyon.org

See Application Guidelines