Request for Applications – 2020 NAM Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards


The below Request for Applications (RFA) was used for the 2020 competition administered by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). The next RFA for NAM Healthy Longevity Catalyst Awards will open in early 2021. The 2021 NAM RFA will be very similar but not identical to the text below; this information is provided as a reference only. The NAM competition is open to U.S. residents only. Non-U.S. residents should consult the competition website for information about international competitions. Please email with any questions.



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 between 2020 and 2022. Each Catalyst Award includes a $50,000 cash prize as well as travel costs to attend an annual Innovator Summit, beginning in summer 2021.

Catalyst Awards will reward bold, new, potentially transformative ideas to improve the physical, mental, or social well-being of people as they age, in a measurable and equitable way. In particular, we seek ideas that aim to extend the human healthspan through innovative approaches. Applications may originate from any field or combination of fields (e.g., biology, chemistry, medicine, engineering, infrastructure, behavioral and social sciences, technology, and policy). Ideas may focus on any stage of life, as long as they ultimately promote health as people age.

Examples of topic areas include but are not limited to:

  • Biology of aging and molecular pathways
  • Physical health (e.g., mobility and functionality)
  • 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)
  • Policy (e.g., economic, health, and science policy)
  • Behavioral health (e.g., social connectedness, engagement, and well-being)
  • Technology (e.g., artificial intelligence; robotics; medical, assistive, and information-technology)

The U.S. NAM Catalyst Awards will be open to any person or team of any discipline or background and from any organization (e.g., colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies). For-profit companies may apply, provided they don’t have annual sales revenues of more than $10 million for each of their last two fiscal years. Among for-profit companies, there will be a strong preference for early stage endeavors (e.g., seed investments, startups, social enterprises, and spinouts). Applicants do not need to be affiliated with an institution to submit an application. Applicants must reside in the U.S. but do not need to be a U.S. citizen.

There must be a single Principal Investigator (PI) associated with each application. Only one Catalyst Award application per year per PI is allowed. However, a PI can be on another application as a co-investigator or collaborator within the same annual cycle.


Review Process

There will be one application deadline per year for Catalyst Awards. The review process will include:

  • Administrative Review: Applications will be screened to determine whether they are complete, adhere to the formatting requirements, and meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Innovation Review: All responsive applications will be reviewed by external innovation reviewers in a double-blind process: reviewers will not have access to information about applicants’ identities or affiliations, nor will applicants have access to such information about reviewers. Innovation reviewers include luminaries and experts from across the health, medical, biological, and social sciences, as well as business and thought leaders from across the disciplines. All reviewers have a history of innovative and creative thinking. Each application will be read by at least two reviewers.
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME) Review: The top-ranked applications (approximately twice the number of Catalyst Awards to be given out) will be distributed to external SMEs, who will comment on the proposals’ scientific merit and promise. The SME review will follow a double-blind process.
  • Selection Committee Review: A final selection panel appointed by the NAM will review the top-ranked applications to validate the assessments and decisions made by the reviewers during Innovation and SME reviews. The Selection Committee review will follow a double-blind process.

Potential conflicts of interest in the review and selection process will be mitigated in part by the use of a double-blind review process in the Innovation, SME, and Selection Committee review stages. In addition, the NAM office will make every effort to assign an application to a reviewer without apparent conflict.


Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be assessed against 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.
  • 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.


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.

Applicants 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).


Progress Update

Each U.S. NAM Catalyst Award winner will be strongly encouraged 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 2021) 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.

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





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 website) after competition results are announced.

The application (Part 2) consists of two sections and may not exceed two pages. 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. 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 names 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 (related to aging and longevity) that your idea will address.
  • Briefly state, in one or two sentences, the crux of your idea.
  • How is your idea an 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?



  • must be in English.
  • must be submitted in PDF format.
  • must notexceed two pages in length.
  • must be single spaced
  • 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 identifying information (e.g., individual or organizational affiliation) nor refer to project partners/collaborators by names or with other identifying information (pertains specifically to Part 2: Application)
  • must notinclude hyperlinks.

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

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