Annual Report

In fulfilling our mission the Burroughs Wellcome Fund supports biomedical research and education, but more than that our mission is heavily intertwined with supporting the people behind that research and education.

We fund creative risk-takers who are driven by a desire to make a contribution to society—whether to establish a better understanding of disease or encourage students to find their passion in critical and scientific thinking.

Our grants are a validation for innovative thinkers with remarkable new ideas. Our investments are designed to last more than just one project or award cycle—but for the lifetime of impact they will have on biomedical science, through researchers and educators.

To achieve the greatest impact, to find those areas of innovation and discovery, we invest in fields that are underfunded and in need of support. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s grantmaking portfolio encompasses a range of initiatives that builds the pipeline for new scientists, kickstarts early career researchers, and continues as careers mature and lead to new discoveries.

To start the pipeline, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund is charting new paths for students and teachers to engage in STEM education in North Carolina. Our science education grants provide inspiration to the next generation of scientists by providing leadership funding for outstanding science and mathematics teachers, capital to begin informal STEM programs, and support for the general landscape of STEM education in North Carolina.

Our early career awards: Career Awards for Medical Scientists and Career Awards at the Scientific Interface encourage risk-taking in new research fields related to biomedical science. Our Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease Award provides support to assistant professor level researchers to pursue novel research protocols/discoveries.

To help encourage discoveries through the therapeutic pipeline, we have invested in the Innovation of Regulatory Science Award to help the FDA determine safety and value. To provide mentorship and career assistance we have established the Postdoctoral Enrichment Program, an award that provides professional development funding for underrepresented minority scientists, and  the Career Guidance for Trainees a broad reaching program that supports biomedical and scientific careers both inside and outside of academia.

These programs find people where they are—whether it be a middle school student, a new postdoc, or a seasoned researcher—and make critical career investments. We make investments in people.
In order to achieve true success, though, our work extends beyond funding. We cultivate relationships and partnerships with other organizations to help create a nurturing ecosystem for researchers and educators. We want to provide opportunities to collaborate, to connect, and to network across disciplines to better inform one another’s work.

For example, each October, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund hosts its annual New Awardee Networking meeting. We invite all of our scientific awardees from the past year to gather at the Fund’s headquarters in Research Triangle Park to share research, talk about career development, and connect with their fellow awardees, the Fund’s staff, and our culture. This event is an opportunity to grow the network of leaders and provide a place where the Burroughs Wellcome Fund can be that connective mechanism critical to growing new ideas.

These leaders—our awardees and partners—are the people who are advancing biomedical research. It is an honor to lead the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in finding and supporting the problem-solvers in our field. When you invest in and bring together eager and brilliant minds, anything is possible. That should give us all hope for the future.

John E. Burris, Ph.D.
Burroughs Wellcome Fund