U.S. NAM Catalyst Award Competition Round 2 (2021)

Rules and Guidelines

As part of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition, the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (“NAM”), with support from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, will issue up to 24 Catalyst Awards per year, in three annual rounds (i.e., in 2020, 2021, and 2022). Each Catalyst Award includes a $50,000 cash prize as well as travel costs to attend an annual Innovator Summit.

There will be one application period per year. The current request for applications is for Round 2 of the NAM Catalyst Awards. The application period opened on January 25, 2021, and closed on April 25, 2021.

Catalyst Awards will reward bold, new, potentially transformative ideas to improve the physical, mental, or social well-being and health of people as they age, in a measurable and equitable way. The NAM seeks innovative approaches that aim to extend the human healthspan, especially approaches that challenge existing paradigms or propose new methodologies or concepts. High-risk ideas that could potentially yield high rewards and, in turn, dramatically change the field of healthy longevity are encouraged.

Ideas may focus on any stage of life, as long as they ultimately promote health as people age.

Applications may also originate from any field or combination of fields (e.g., biology, chemistry, medicine, engineering, behavioral and social sciences, technology, data science, and policy). Examples of topic areas include but are not limited to:

  • Behavioral health (e.g., social connectedness, engagement, and well-being)
  • Biology of aging and molecular pathways
  • Built environment and urban planning
  • Disease prevention, including biomarkers and indicators of disease
  • Health care delivery
  • Housing (e.g., smart-enabled homes, intergenerational housing models)
  • Physical health (e.g., mobility and functionality)
  • Policy (e.g., economic, health, and science policy)
  • Reproductive longevity and equality
  • Technology (e.g., artificial intelligence; robotics; medical, assistive, and information-technology)

The NAM does not seek to fund the following: existing programs (or slight variations thereof), approaches that are primarily public awareness or educational campaigns, or products that are already commercially available.

Applicant Eligibility

The NAM Catalyst Awards are open to any person or team of any discipline or background. Individuals do not need to be affiliated with an organization to submit an application.

The NAM accepts applications from any type of US-based organization (e.g., colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies). For-profit companies in particular cannot have annual sales revenues of more than $10 million for each of their last two fiscal years, and there is a strong preference for early stage endeavors (e.g., seed investments, startups, social enterprises, and spinouts).

The PI must reside in the U.S. as a U.S. citizen, legal resident alien, or non-resident alien with a valid visa.

There must be one principal investigator (PI) named on each application (applicants may also name up to three co-PIs). A particular individual may only be listed as PI on one Catalyst Award application per round of the NAM Catalyst Award competition. However, a PI can be named on another application as a co-PI within the same round.

There is no limit on the number of applications a particular organization may submit.

Need some inspiration? Check out these stories from the 2020 Catalyst Awardees:

Dr. Raghu shares how his background in computer science brought him into the field of aging by examining the differences between chronological and biological age to prevent chronic disease. With the funding, he hopes to better tailor his research practices for everyday clinician use. Learn more about Deep Learning to Predict Biological Age and Longevity from Chest Radiographs.

Prizewinner Dr. Mohad’s project offers insight into understanding the connections between gut health and inflammation, which contributes to many age-related disorders. In expanding her research, she also aims serve as a role model for other women and girls interested in pursuing a career in science. Learn more about Investigating the Role of Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase in the Aging-Associated Changes in Gut Barrier and Microbiome Using a Novel Microfluidic Intestine-on-Chip Model.

Taking a cue from animals that lead long, healthy lives, Dr. Treaster’s Catalyst Award project looks to the biology of longevity in Rockfish to delay the effects of aging. He hopes to not just extend the years of human life, but also ensure they are disease-free. Learn more about Genetic Regulation of Exceptional Longevity in Rockfishes.

Review Process & Evaluation Criteria

Review Process

The review process includes the following steps:

  • Administrative Review: Applications will be screened to determine whether they are complete, adhere to the formatting requirements, and meet basic relevance and eligibility criteria.
  • Innovation Review: Responsive applications will be evaluated by at least two external innovation reviewers. These reviewers include luminaries and experts from across disciplines (e.g., basic and biomedical science, clinical medicine, social science, engineering, computer and data science, health technology, and more). All reviewers have a history of thinking “outside the box” and conducting innovative work. (See Evaluation Criteria below for further detail.)
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME) Review: Finalist applications (approximately twice the number of Catalyst Awards to be issued) will be distributed to external SMEs to evaluate the scientific merit and feasibility of the proposed idea.
  • Selection Committee Review: A final selection panel appointed by the NAM will review the finalist applications and previous reviewers’ assessments, identifying the most innovative, novel, and potentially groundbreaking ideas.

Potential conflicts of interest in the evaluation process will be mitigated by the use of a double-blind review process: reviewers will not have access to information about applicants’ identities or affiliations, nor will applicants have access to such information about reviewers. In addition, the NAM will make every effort to assign an application to reviewers without apparent conflict.

Evaluation Criteria

Reviewers will evaluate applications based on the following criteria (in order of descending importance):

  • Innovation: The extent to which the proposed idea challenges existing paradigms and employs new methodologies or concepts. (**This is the most important criterion.**)
  • Potential for Impact: The extent to which the proposed idea may have a significant impact on the physical, mental, or social well-being of people as they age.
  • Quality: The extent to which the proposed idea and the research methodology are clearly explained and the application includes a compelling or well-defined outcome metric.
  • Scope: The extent to which the proposed idea represents a challenge impacting the entire field, and not solely the interests of the applicant.


The table below lists key dates for Round 2 of the NAM Catalyst Award Competition.

  • January 25, 2021 at 12:00 am EST | Application period opens
  • April 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm EST | Application period closes
  • September 13, 2021 | Inaugural Global Innovator Summit (Virtual)
  • Sep 22, 2021 | Winners announced
  • January 2022 | Application Period Opens
  • Summer 2022 | Global Innovator Summit 

Dates are based on an estimated timeline and are subject to change. The NAM will post any changes to key dates on this website.

Questions & Answers

Potential applicants may submit questions about the NAM Catalyst Award competition and/or application requirements. Before submitting, individuals should consult the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to ensure their question has not already been addressed.

To submit a question, please send an email to catalystawards@nas.edu with the Subject line “Question – NAM Catalyst Awards.” NAM staff will respond to you within one week if your question has not been answered on the FAQ page.

Terms & Conditions

Due Diligence Review

Before winners are announced and awards are disbursed, a due diligence review will be conducted to verify that applicants are appropriate recipients of Catalyst Award funds.

For-profit companies under award consideration may be required to provide financial statements to verify that their annual sales revenues for each of the last two fiscal years do not exceed $10 million (if applicable).

Intellectual Property

Catalyst awardees will retain all intellectual property rights they may have in their applications. While reviewers will be asked to keep confidential the contents of the applications during the review process, the winning ideas, once publicly announced, will no longer be confidential. Applicants are encouraged to consult an intellectual property attorney prior to entering the competition.

Abstract Publication and Use of Your Name and Likeness Acknowledgement

By applying for a U.S. NAM Catalyst Award, applicants agree to supply a detailed abstract that describes their innovative idea (the “Abstract”).

Applicants further agree that if selected for a Catalyst Award, the Abstract may be made publicly available by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and applicants grant to the NAS a non-exclusive, royalty-free, sub-licensable, worldwide license and right to share the Abstract in all media. Applicants, including all PIs listed in the application, further agree to authorize each sponsor of the Competition (at any phase of the Competition) to use each PI’s name, abstract, and/or names, likeness, and contact information of each PI in NAS’ or any sponsor’s dissemination efforts related the Healthy Longevity Global Competition. Applicants and each PI agree to sign a permission form that describes these terms if requested by NAM.

Progress Update

Each U.S. NAM Catalyst Award winner will be required to submit a 500 word summary of progress and milestones achieved with the award dollars approximately one year after the disbursement of the prize.

Innovator Summit

In addition to the cash prize, U.S. NAM Catalyst Award winners will be strongly encouraged to attend an Innovator Summit (anticipated to take place in summer 2022) to discuss their ideas and the progress achieved against them. Travel costs will be paid for by the NAM in accordance with institutional travel policies. The Innovator Summit will be an opportunity to share ideas with fellow innovators, find opportunities to collaborate, meet industry leaders who can help guide future work, and discuss innovations with potential investors.

Other Information

Applicants may submit as an independent individual/team or on behalf of their institution. Please review the following distinctions:

  • For applicants applying as individuals (i.e., if awarded, the cash prize will be issued to an individual as opposed to an organization): Prizes awarded to individuals are reportable to the IRS. Taxes on prizes (including taxes on the cost of travel to the Innovator Summit), if any, are the responsibility of the winner. Prizes awarded to individuals who are non-resident aliens will be subject to applicable IRS tax reporting and withholding.
  • For applicants applying on behalf of an institution or in their official capacity as a staff member (i.e., if awarded, the cash prize will be issued to an institution, company, or organization).
    • Relatedly, the indirect cost policy for the NAM’s Healthy Longevity Catalyst Award competition is as follows: institution should waive indirect costs associated with the Prize. However, if absolutely necessary to comply with your institutional policy, no more than a de minimis rate of up to 10% of the total Prize amount may be charged to indirect costs.

Individuals are encouraged to consult their institution’s relevant policies if unsure in which capacity they should apply.

Staff of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) are not eligible to apply for an NAM Catalyst Award.

Winners will be announced on the Healthy Longevity Global Competition website.

Application Instructions

The application period opened on January 25, 2021 at 12:00am EST and closed on April 25, 2021 at 11:59pm EST. To apply, please visit our application portal here

The complete set of instructions on how to prepare your application are listed below. We also encourage you to visit HealthyLongevityChallenge.org. At the top of the webpage, “Sign up for Updates” to receive the latest news and important announcements. You can also click on “Winners” to read about the first round of NAM Catalyst awardees and their innovative projects.

Overview of Application Components

In the application portal, you will be asked to:

  • Complete a brief Eligibility Form to ensure you meet the basic eligibility criteria of the NAM Healthy Longevity Catalyst Award competition
  • Complete an Application Form, which includes:
    • Whether you are applying as an individual or an institution
    • PI contact information
    • Topic area(s) of your application
    • Project title
    • Project abstract (details below)
    • PI demographic questions (optional)
  • Upload your 2-page application (details below)

Project Abstract

All applicants will be required to submit an abstract, intended to be a summary of the application. The abstract must not exceed 250 words. Please write in plain language, so both experts and non-experts can understand the idea. Note that abstracts will not be considered by reviewers in their assessment of the application. However, abstracts may be used by the NAM to publicly share applicants’ ideas (e.g., on the Healthy Longevity Global Competition websites maintained by NAS and other Global Collaborators) after competition results are announced.

Two-Page Application Upload

All applicants will be required to upload a two-page PDF that is organized into two sections. Applicants may decide on the length of each section, however, the NAM suggests that the sections be of equal length (i.e., one page each). Please structure your application with a Section I and a Section II, and speak to each of the questions and considerations outlined below. The NAM does not provide a template for the two-page application. Applicants are to create their own two-page document using the guidelines provided.

Please write in plain language, so both experts and non-experts can understand your idea. Do not include identifying information (e.g., individual or organizational affiliation) nor refer to project partners/collaborators by name or with other identifying information.

Section I. Explain your idea. Why is it innovative and potentially transformative?

Briefly describe your idea and why it is innovative and potentially transformative. Notably, if your idea works, what impact will it have on the health and well-being of people as they age? What will it change?

  • Briefly describe the specific issue that your idea will address.
  • Briefly state, in one or two sentences, the crux of your idea.
  • What is the link between your idea and healthy longevity?
  • How is your idea an innovative, unconventional, or creative approach?
  • Why is now the right time for this idea?
  • Describe the hypothesis for your proposal (if applicable) and why you expect it to be successful.

Section II. How would you implement and test your idea?

Briefly describe the project design and a feasible implementation plan, and then explain how you would test your idea.

  • Describe the project design and how you would realize or implement the idea. Explain why the approach is feasible.
  • How would you establish proof of concept? How would you measure the effectiveness of your idea?
  • If you were successful in demonstrating the feasibility and effectiveness of your idea, what are the next steps you would take?

Formatting & Other Requirements


  • must be in English
  • must be submitted in PDF format
  • must notexceed two pages in length
  • must be single spaced
  • must not include identifying information (e.g., individual or organizational affiliation) nor refer to project partners/collaborators by names or with other identifying information (FAQ page includes further guidance, if needed)
  • must notuse a font smaller than 11 point and have margins of at least ½” on all sides
  • may include a maximum of one figure, to be counted towards the two-page limit
  • may include up to three key references to literature, theories, and/or evidence to suggest the proposed idea would be effective, to be counted towards the two-page limit
  • must notinclude hyperlinks
  • must not include embedded videos
  • must not consist of or include a slide presentation

Applications that do not adhere to the requirements may be removed from consideration.

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