Changes to the John Merck Fund's Developmental Disabilities Program

October 31, 2011

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As part of The John Merck Fund's plan to spend all of its assets over the next ten years, there will be major changes to the Fund's Developmental Disabilities Program, the Fund's original grantmaking area.  The program will shift its focus from basic research to clinical and translational research, with primary emphasis on children who have Fragile X or Down Syndrome.  The goal is to help these children and their families by encouraging research collaborations that bridge basic and clinical science, more rapid translation of findings into treatment settings, and promulgation of best clinical practices.

Starting in 2012, The John Merck Fund's Developmental Disabilities Program is launching the Developmental Disabilities Translational Research Program, which will replace the John Merck Scholars Program in the Biology of Developmental Disabilities in Children.  The new Translational Research Program will award $1 million research grants over four years ($250,000 per year) to Principal Investigators at any career stage who have a deep commitment to developing treatments and improving outcomes for children with developmental disabilities. Award criteria and application guidelines will be available by mid-February 2012 on JMF's website ( or through the JMF office. 

In addition to the Translational Research Program, in 2013 JMF will start a new initiative, the Research-to-Clinical Practice Program.  The goal of this program will be to enable scientists and clinicians to work together to synthesize and disseminate the available knowledge about diagnosis and treatments, initially focused on Fragile X syndrome.  Dissemination will be implemented via a number of pathways, most notably through the member centers of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), including the IDDRCs, the UCEDDs, and the LENDs.  In some instances, the Research-to-Clinical Practice Program will build on existing consensus statements, evaluate them, and bring them to the level of gold standard practice guidelines.  The same process will then be used to address a second developmental disorder, and so on. 

A Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) consisting of distinguished experts in research and treatment of developmental disabilities will oversee the program.  The SAB is chaired by Marsha Mailick Seltzer, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and includes the following members: Elisabeth Dykens, PhD (Vanderbilt University), Michael Guralnick, PhD (University of Washington), Charles Nelson, PhD (Boston Children's Hospital), Joseph Piven, MD (University of North Carolina), and Brad Schlaggar, MD, PhD (Washington University in St. Louis).  George Jesien, PhD, Director of the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD) will be an ex-officio member.


For more information, contact Nancy Stockford at