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Medical Research Foundation of Oregon Establishes New Award to Help Early-Career Scientists

First $75,000 Oregon Scientist Development Award goes to Portland State chemist designing nanostructured materials for biomedical applications.

Young scientists starting out in the world of research face a potentially career-ending conundrum. To advance their work, they must quickly establish a reliable pipeline of federal funding. However, government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health will seldom fund projects proposed by researchers without a track record of success. Many scientists give up on their most innovative ideas, or even abandon the field altogether, rather than weather the years of delayed progress.

In response to this funding crisis, the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon has introduced a new grant program creating a pathway to financial independence for young Oregon investigators.

The MRF’s annual Oregon Scientist Development Award is a $75,000 unrestricted grant awarded on a competitive basis to one outstanding investigator at an Oregon research institution. It is the latest and by far the largest grant in the MRF’s portfolio of programs stimulating medical discovery in Oregon. 

This level of funding is sufficient to enable early-career scientists to flesh out daring ideas and generate publishable data that will, in turn, increase their ability to compete for federal support. More importantly, it will advance the search for new medical treatments and cures, said MRF Chair M. Susan Smith, Ph.D.

 “In an era when the average researcher does not receive his or her first independent NIH funding until after age 40, organizations such as the MRF have a vital role to play. Through privately funded programs like the Oregon Scientist Development Award, we can help repair a system that currently inhibits innovation, thwarts excellence and drives promising scientists from the field,” Smith said.

“This grant will truly make a difference in getting my research off the ground and is an important step towards transforming scientific ideas into fruition,” said inaugural recipient Marilyn Mackiewicz, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of chemistry at Portland State University, whose work involves the use of nanomaterials for biomedical applications. “With these funds, I can conduct the additional studies I need to complete before we can publish some of our exciting initial findings, which is an incredibly important first step toward earning future grants.  Synergistically, this opportunity allows me to work with and mentor students interested in pursuing careers in research.”

According to Smith, the Oregon Scientist Development Award represents a major financial undertaking, but one the committee deemed vital to the future of science and economic development in Oregon. “This award reflects a new level of support we’re able to offer the Oregon scientific community,” she said. “And by awarding the first grant to Dr. Mackiewicz, we are especially excited to be advancing the critical goals of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) to pursue applications of nanotechnology through collaborations across the state.”

The Medical Research Foundation of Oregon was established in the early 1940s to support promising biomedical exploration and the development of research careers in clinical investigation in Oregon. In 1994, the MRF merged with the OHSU Foundation, though it retained its own unique purpose to promote biomedical research at institutions across the state. Through research grants and early clinical investigator awards, the MRF invests more than $1 million annually to support exceptional medical research in Oregon and to acknowledge the work of outstanding investigators and mentors. More information about the MRF and its vital programs can be found at


The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support to advance Oregon Health & Science University’s vital missions, and to invest and manage gifts responsibly to honor donors’ wishes. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors’ wishes.

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