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Rita Allen Foundation Scholars Award

General Information

Program Description

The Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program funds basic biomedical research in the fields of cancer, immunology and neuroscience. The program embraces innovative research with above-average risk and groundbreaking possibilities. The Foundation funds basic biomedical research in the fields of cancer, immunology and neuroscience. Rita Allen Foundation Scholars are distinguished by their bold approaches to basic scientific questions that address problems of global concern, as well as their potential for learning, leadership and collaboration. The program embraces innovative research with above-average risk and groundbreaking possibilities.


Schools may submit one (1) application for Penn’s internal competition.


  • Candidates must have completed their training and provided persuasive evidence of distinguished achievement or extraordinary promise in research in one of the relevant fields (cancer, immunology, neuroscience. or pain).
  • United States citizenship is not a requirement; however, awardees must be legally employed at the time of application at a U.S. degree-granting or research institution that is an invited participant in the Rita Allen Foundation Scholars Program.
  • Candidates should be independent investigators in the early stages of their careers and research.
  • The caliber of early-stage investigators suggests nominees would be appointed to tenure-track positions at their respective institutions.
  • It is preferable that candidates be in the first three years of their tenure track. (This is taken into consideration in the rating of applications by the Scientific Advisory Committee.)
  • A senior postdoc should not be a candidate; wait until s/he is in a tenure-track position, as described.
  • Associate professors should not be candidates.
  • Candidates must have received committed startup funds from their respective institutions.
  • Candidates must have lab space from their institutions.
  • Rita Allen Foundation Scholars may not accept an award from the Beckman Young Investigator Program, Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, Searle Scholars Program, or Vallee Scholars Program that would take effect beginning in year one of the RAF award. Rita Allen Scholars may apply for awards from these organizations that would take effect beginning in year two of the RAF award. Other sources of funding also may influence selection.
  • For any sponsored research projects, the applicant must be eligible to serve as Principal Investigator for the project, unless otherwise noted in the LSO. Please see Penn’s PI Eligibility requirements to ensure you are eligible.

Award Information

  • An unrestricted research award of $110,000 per year for a maximum of five years.
  • Recipients of the Award in Pain can be granted $50,000 per year for up to three years. Rita Allen Foundation Scholar grant funds may only be used for direct project expenses, including up to 50 percent of the Scholar’s compensation.

Review Process

Selection Criteria

The University has been invited to nominate 2 faculty members. A committee, established by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR), will determine the final nominees to represent the University. 

OVPR Internal Review Process

Applications must include the following:

  1. Cover Page which includes:
    • Project title
    • Candidate’s name, academic rank, department, email address, phone number and campus address. 
    • Date of faculty appointment to the University including Month and Year  
  2. Letter of support from department chair/division chief addressing the following:
    • What is innovative and high-risk about the applicant’s research?
    • What is significant/impactful about the applicant’s published/yet-to-be published work?
    • Are there specialized facilities and resources available to the applicant and their lab?
  3. Research Summary (maximum 2 pages): including citations; single-spaced, 12-point font with one-inch margins). A proposal describing the proposed research in the areas of cancer, neuroscience, immunology, and pain. 
  4. A CV (using NIH Format) (maximum 5 pages): which includes educational background, professional appointments, awards and honors. Include all current research support (start-up and external) and pending support, including dollar amounts and start/end dates.
  5. All materials must be submitted in a single PDF document in the above order to
  6. Subject line of the email should be, RAF_applicant LAST name_ applicant FIRST name.