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Program Snapshot

The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program has four unique funding opportunities for exceptionally creative scientists who propose highly innovative approaches to major challenges in biomedical research:



In the News

PBS's NOVA Features Christine Denny in "Memory Hackers"

Christine Denny, a 2013 Early Independence awardee, is featured in PBS's NOVA "Memory Hackers" Exit Disclaimer airing February 10, 2016 at 9pm on PBS. The special examines the science of memory editing.

Crossing the Blood-Brain Barrier to Deliver Genes

Viviana Gradinaru, a 2013 New Innovator, modified a virus so it is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier to deliver genes to nervous system cells. The virus could help researchers map the brain and deliver therapeutics. Read more.

Hibernation and Human Health

William Israelsen, a 2015 Early Independence awardee, is featured in the NIH Director's Blog discussing his research on how hibernating animals alter their metabolism over the course of the year, and what those findings may reveal about human obesity, cancer, and other health conditions.

Using Gene Editing to Treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Amy Wagers (2008 New Innovator), George Church (2013 Transformative Researcher), and Feng Zhang (2012 Pioneer; 2010 & 2015 Transformative Researcher) published back-to-back Science papers on using the CRISPR-Cas9 system to edit the genome of a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and improving muscle function. Their work was featured in The New York Times Exit Disclaimer and Science News Exit Disclaimer.

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Program Booklet  •  Abstracts  •  Photos Exit Disclaimer  •  Videocasts for Day 1Day 2, and Day 3

Application Information

Comparison of  High Risk-High Reward Programs

  Pioneer Award New Innovator
Research Award

Early Independence

FY 2016

Under Review

Under Review

Under Review


FY 2017

FOA Pending

FOA Pending

FOA Pending

FOA Pending


Edward Boyden and Karl Deisseroth Receive 2016 Life Sciences Breakthrough Prize


Edward Boyden (2007 New Innovator, 2012 and 2013 Transformative Research, and 2013 Pioneer awardee) and Karl Deisseroth (2005 Pioneer and 2012 Transformative Research awardee) were awarded $3 million each for the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life SciencesExit Disclaimer

Pioneer  •  New Innovator  •  Transformative Research  •  Early Independence

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Kjersti Aagaard Honored with 2015 DeBakey Research Award


Kjersti Aagaard (2007 New Innovator) was honored with the Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award Exit Disclaimer by the Baylor College of Medicine. The award recognizes faculty members with significant scientific contributions to clinical or basic research.

Karl Deisseroth Awarded Albany Prize, Lurie Prize, Dickson Prize in Science, & Keio Medical Science Prize


Karl Deisseroth (2005 Pioneer and 2012 Transformative Researcher) receives the prestigious Albany Prize Exit Disclaimer and FNIH 2015 Lurie Prize Exit Disclaimer for his work on optogenetics. Dr. Desisseroth also received the Carnegie Mellon's Dickson Prize in Science Exit Disclaimer and the 2014 Keio Medical Science Prize Exit Disclaimer for his revolutionary work in optogenetics and his work on CLARITY, converting tissue into a gel linked to polymers that allow transparency and high-resolution optical access.

Xiaoliang Sunney Xie Wins Albany Prize


Xiaoliang Sunney Xie (2004 and 2013 Pioneer and 2009 and 2010 Transformative Researcher) wins the prestigious Albany Prize Exit Disclaimer for his pioneering work in single-molecule biophysical chemistry and its application to biology.

Pardis Sabeti & Martin Blaser Listed in "The 100 Most Influential People"


Pardis Sabeti Exit Disclaimer (2009 New Innovator) and Martin Blaser Exit Disclaimer (2010 Transformative Researcher) named in "The 100 Most Influential People" in Time magazine. Pardis Sabeti was recognized for her dangerous and crucial work during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa identifying a single animal to human transmission that was responsible for the devastating epidemic. Martin Blaser was recognized for his work warning the public on the consequences of antibiotic overuse.

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