Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Awards 2023 Annual Report Introduction
Innovation doesn’t come cheap. But without proof-of-concept to convince highly competitive granting agencies to fund a daring project, bold ideas are never put into action. This is a particular challenge for younger scientists still establishing their careers. La Jolla Institute’s Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Awards for Innovations in Immunology is designed to overcome these hurdles.
This philanthropically-financed program provides seed funding that allows researchers to act on their ideas and help make discoveries that could lead to answers for the important questions surrounding how we can better treat and prevent diseases that afflict us today. Each Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Award is $25,000 and must be spent within one year. The goal is to enable scientists to generate enough preliminary data through their projects to attract additional funding to further their research and careers.
In addition to funding cutting-edge research, the Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK program also trains and advances the careers of the next generation of researchers. Of course, SPARK Award winners ultimately gain experience in running an independent research project, an important career milestone. But equally as important, all SPARK finalists receive coaching in how to communicate their research to the public and how to present their ideas to funders.
Each year, LJI receives proposals from its many early-career scientists. A review panel (listed on page 21) narrows this pool down to the finalists who then have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a donor panel with the hopes of securing funding to pursue their projects. Since 2017, more than 214 donors have generously funded 39 projects, all of which have the power to transform human health and launch the careers of promising researchers.
We are incredibly grateful to all of the donors who are empowering young investigators to take risks that bridge the gap between imagination and ground-breaking discoveries, for The Tullie and Rickey Families SPARK Awards for Innovations in Immunology.