2021 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science

The Vilcek Foundation will award three Creative Promise Prizes of $50,000 each to young foreign-born biomedical scientists who demonstrate outstanding early achievement. Eligible work may be in basic, applied, and/or translational biomedical science.

The open call for the 2021 Creative Promise Prizes has closed. The winners of the Creative Promise Prize in Biomedical Science will be notified in fall 2020.


Why Should You Apply?

  • 3 Biomedical Science prizes are awarded each year
  • Unrestricted cash prize of $50,000 is awarded to each prizewinner
  • Reflect on how your experience as an immigrant has shaped your success
  • Receive an invaluable endorsement of your contributions to biomedical science from leaders in your field
  • Winners are featured in a public relations campaign that promotes their work


Who Should Apply?

  • You were born outside the United States and are a naturalized citizen or a green card holder, or currently hold a valid H1B or O-1 visa and have been living or working in the United States for at least five years, or have been granted DACA relief
  • You are not more than 38 years old (born after January 1, 1982)
  • You are a biomedical scientist who has conducted creative, independent research in basic, applied, and/or translational biomedical science

Prizewinner Areas of Research

Cancer research
Cell biology
Chemical biology
Computational biology
Developmental biology
Genetics/molecular genetics
Human disease
Infectious diseases
Molecular biology
Stem cell research

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must meet all of the criteria listed below:

  • Applicant must have been born outside the United States;
  • Applicant must not be more than 38 years old as of December 31, 2020 (born on or after January 1, 1982);
  • Applicant must: be a naturalized citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States; be a holder of an H1B or O-1 visa and have been living and working in the United States for at least 5 years; or have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) relief;
  • Applicant must have earned a doctoral degree (MD, PhD, or equivalent);
  • Applicant must hold a full-time position at an academic institution or other organization. Eligible positions include the following: assistant or associate professor, or equivalent independent position. The applicant must be directly responsible for the design and execution of the work submitted for consideration. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working under the supervision of a mentor are not eligible;
  • Applicant must intend to pursue a professional career in the United States;
  • Applicant must not be a past winner of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise.

Application and Selection Process

  1. Complete the application process. You will be required to:
    • Provide personal information
    • Upload a PDF of your CV
    • Upload a PDF with documentation of your immigration status
    • Provide information on authored publications
    • Complete three essay questions
      1. Please describe your role in the conceptualization, research and writing that resulted in the articles you submitted. We are interested in the scientific insights you developed, the evolution of your research approaches and strategies, and any technological innovations you may have made. What is the major significance of your work in the general context of biomedical science? [maximum 3,500 characters]
      2. Please reflect briefly on your background and experiences in developing your scientific knowledge, talents and skills. Indicate what you have done personally and professionally that demonstrates your creativity and productivity. Feel free to make mention of any individual who has played a significant role in your personal development or in regards to your work. In addition, tell us about your future goals and what you are interested in accomplishing in your career. [maximum 3,500 characters]
      3. Describe the circumstances of your immigration to the United States. [maximum 1,500 characters]
    • Request two letters of recommendation by providing the names and contact information of recommenders.
    • Submit a completed application by 5:00pm EDT, June 17, 2020.
  2. A panel of distinguished jurors—scientists and science/medical writers or editors—will evaluate each application based primarily on the individual’s research contributions to progress in biomedical sciences, as demonstrated in the quality and significance of their research and publication record. The individuals chosen will have demonstrated exceptional independence and creativity by their 38th birthday. In addition, the applicants will also be judged on their ability to communicate the significance of their research to a scientifically literate audience. The Creative Promise Prize recipients selected by the jury will be scientists whose work best exemplifies the characteristics above.
  3. Recommendations of the jury will be submitted to the Vilcek Foundation’s Board of Directors for final approval. All three winners will be considered equal in standing.
  4. The winners of the Creative Promise Prize in Biomedical Science will be notified in fall 2020. Prizewinners will be invited to attend the Vilcek Foundation’s annual awards ceremony in New York City, in the spring of 2021. Travel expenses and accommodations will be covered by the foundation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can more than one person from an institution submit an application?

  • Yes, we will consider each application in its own right.

Do applicants have to be nominated by their place of employment?

  • No, applicants are welcome to create and fill out an application on their own. They do not need to be sponsored.

I am currently here on an O-1/student/other visa types; am I eligible?

  1. You are eligible if you currently hold a valid O-1 or H1B visa and have been residing in the United States for at least five years. Any other visa status is not eligible.

I am currently in the process of applying for a green card; am I eligible?

  • If you are in the process of finalizing the application for a green card and expect to have the proper documentation by August 2020, please contact us at creativepromise@vilcek.org before submitting your application.

I am currently applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status; am I eligible?

  • You are eligible if you have an I-797 approval notice showing approval of the I-821D DACA application. If you are in the process of applying for DACA and expect to have the proper documentation by August 2020, please contact us at creativepromise@vilcek.org before submitting your application.

My temporary green card has expired, but I have submitted paperwork to become a permanent resident. I do not know if and when they will receive my information. Am I eligible?

  • Yes, applicants in the process of becoming a permanent resident are eligible. Please contact us at creativepromise@vilcek.org for further instructions.

I am over the age limit but not by much; can you make an exception?

  • Regretfully, we are not able to consider candidates who fall outside of our age limit.

I was born in Puerto Rico, Guam, or another U.S. territory; am I eligible?

  • Regretfully, we do not accept applications from individuals born in U.S. territories.

I was born outside of America, but to American citizens; am I eligible?

  • Regretfully, we do not accept applications from citizens who were born overseas but are American by birth.

Can the winners use the prize money to support a specific project, personal expenses, etc.?

  • Each winner will receive an unrestricted cash prize; there is no obligation to use the money in any particular way.

Which publications should I submit?

  • If you are applying in the field of biomedical science, please submit publications that best reflect your creativity. Submit at least one publication in which you are listed as a corresponding author.

In the citation section, are you requesting the number of times my publications have been cited by other publications?

  • No, we are not looking for the number of times your article has been cited; instead, please submit a full reference allowing others to find your article in full, i.e., author names, journal name, volume number, publication date, etc.

My biomedical science publication uploads are over the accepted size limit.

  • Please be sure that you are submitting only the first page of your publication, or the first page and the page containing the abstract. Do not submit the whole article. The only exception to this is if you are submitting an article that has been accepted for publication but is still in press. If so, please contact us at creativepromise@vilcek.org to let us know.

I would like to submit an article that has been accepted but not yet published; is this acceptable?

Yes; please submit the article in full if possible. Please contact us at creativepromise@vilcek.org to let us know.

I do not have any corresponding author papers yet but have multiple independent grants. Am I eligible?

  • Applicants have to have at least one corresponding author publication to be eligible for the prize.

Can I submit a publication if I am a contributing author, instead of corresponding author?

  • You do not have to be the corresponding author on all publications.

If I apply for the prize this year and am not chosen as a prizewinner, can I apply again in the future?

  • Yes, as long as you are within the age limit of a certain prize cycle and are not chosen as a prizewinner, you are eligible to apply as many times as you would like.

Can I submit my application even though my recommenders have not submitted their letters?

  • Yes, we encourage you to submit your application as soon as you can without waiting for your recommenders to submit their letters. You can always log in to your account to check on the status of your recommendation letters after your application has been submitted.

I applied to the Creative Promise Prizes last year. Can I please use the same recommendation letter I used in my last application?

  • Your recommenders may submit the same letters (not recommended) but you still have to re-enter your recommenders’ contact information and have them re-submit the file through their individual recommender upload link.

Is there a length limit for the letters of recommendation? 

  • No, there is no limit on length.

If you have any other questions regarding the awards or the application process, please contact Shinnie Kim, senior program officer, at 212-472-2500 or creativepromise@vilcek.org.