Science & Engineering and Medical Research Programs -- Phase I

Funding Agency:
Keck (W.M.) Foundation

Duke University is seeking cutting-edge science, engineering, and medical research projects to consider for presentation to the W.M. Keck Foundation. We are conducting an internal review process to identify and select competitive ideas.


The Keck Foundation supports pioneering discoveries in science, engineering, and medical research that fall outside the mission of NIH, NSF, and other public funding agencies. Keck strives to fund distinctive and novel approaches. It encourages high-risk projects with the potential for transformative impact. "High-risk" comprises factors including questions that push the edge of the field, present unconventional approaches to intractable problems, or challenge the prevailing paradigm. “Transformative” may mean creation of a new field of research, development of new instrumentation enabling observations not previously possible, or discovery of knowledge that challenges prevailing perspectives. Duke is seeking proposal ideas that have been rejected or counseled away from NSF, NIH, or other public funding agencies. If you have a promising idea that is not yet at this stage, please contact Steve Murray to discuss before submitting a concept paper.

The Science and Engineering Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting high-risk/high-impact projects that are distinctive and novel in their approach to intractable problems, push the edge of their field, or question the prevailing paradigm. Past grants have been awarded to support pioneering science and engineering research and the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation, or methodologies. 

The Medical Research Program seeks to advance the frontiers of medicine to benefit humanity by supporting high-risk/high-impact projects that are distinctive and novel in their approach to intractable problems, push the edge of their field, or question the prevailing paradigm. Past grants have supported pioneering biological research, basic research, and the development of promising new technologies. The Keck Foundation does NOT fund work that is clinical, applied, or translational; treatment trials; or research for the sole purpose of drug development.

Both senior and early career investigators are encouraged to apply. Team approaches, including interdisciplinary teams, are encouraged.


  • Duke Internal Deadline: Dec. 17, 2023
  • Sponsor Deadline:  May 1, 2024

Agency Website



Amount Description

Types of support

PI salary limited to 10%. Personnel such as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Renovations limited to 10% of the request. Equipment, noting Keck does not fund equipment for equipment’s sake; the science and methodology are paramount.

Funding Type


Duke Awardees

2016 - Fan Wang, Kafui Dzirasa: Unraveling the neural gate to consciousness




Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Medical - Basic Science

Internal Nomination

Interested faculty should submit a one-page concept paper that addresses the following through DORI's Limited Nomination Process:

  1. One-page descriptionmust be in Times New Roman, 12-point font, with one-inch margins. There are no exceptions to this requirement. No figures or images. The single page should include:

    1. Title
    2. Abstract (including methodology):  Provide an executive summary including the overall goal, methodology, and significance of the proposed project. Methodology should be the most robust section of the abstract. Indicate area of emphasis for the project (medical research or science and engineering research). Note in particular any potential breakthroughs in method, technique, or technology. Mention any relevant pilot studies.
    3. Unique aspects: Emphasize any unique or distinctive aspects of the project.
    4. Key Personnel:  Name the key personnel, with the lead PI’s name listed first.
    5. Budget:  State total cost of this project and the amount to be requested from the Keck Foundation ($1M - $1.5M is typical). Briefly describe how funds requested from Keck will be allocated among personnel, equipment, and operations (supplies, animal costs, travel, contracted services, etc.). Keck does not provide overhead or support tuition/tuition remission.
    6. Justification for WMKF support:  Explain why Keck’s support is essential.  REQUIRED: state whether the project has been rejected or counseled away from one of the traditional funding agencies and, if so, explain why. Also note any other pending or upcoming proposals for the project (or aspects of the project) that you are proposing for Keck.  If you have a similar proposal pending, or anticipate submitting one concurrently with a Keck approach, please contact Steve Murray to discuss before submitting a Keck concept paper.

If there is room, you may include other details (e.g., background to put the research into perspective, description of the institution’s prominence in the field, etc.). Avoid illustrations. If a reference is necessary, abbreviate it as: (Science, 323, 45, ’11). DO NOT USE (Jones et al., 2011)

Prior to submitting your project description, please review the list of the Foundation’s recently awarded grants provided on its website:


Selection Process

Duke faculty reviewers will score and comment on the proposals based on Keck’s criteria. Senior research leadership may request feedback from deans and other scholars in related fields regarding the strategic importance of the proposed projects. Their feedback will be an important factor in the vetting process. Leadership will select which ideas will be discussed with a Keck program officer in advance of the submission, and their feedback will help determine the final submissions. Staff from the Office of Foundation Relations will work closely with the finalists on each proposal.

It is strongly recommended that you contact Steve Murray, Associate Director of Foundation Relations, at prior to submitting a concept paper.


Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal (Code: ILN):

Instructions for creating an account (if needed) and submitting your materials:

Internal Deadline

December 17, 2023

External Deadline

May 1, 2024