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Program Background

The Neuroscience program, McKnight’s oldest research program dating to 1977, is a direct legacy of founder William L. McKnight, who was interested in brain biology and diseases affecting memory. The neuroscience program works to translate basic discoveries into fundamental advances in diagnosing, treating, and preventing neurological diseases and disorders.

In 1986, after 10 years of supporting investigators at different levels of neuroscience research, the Foundation established The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience as a permanent commitment to fundamental research in the field. Funded solely by The McKnight Foundation, the Endowment Fund operates independently, with a board and awards committees made up of leading neuroscientists from around the country.

In 2008, The McKnight Foundation commissioned an evaluation of the Endowment Fund; this evaluation was performed by a team of neuroscientists and other experts unrelated to the McKnight Endowment Fund. Overall, the evaluation affirmed the accomplishments and direction of the Endowment Fund, while recommending strategies to make the program even more effective, including: refining one award program to focus more on disorders of memory and cognition; encouraging more clinical proposals; and creating a more diverse pool of applicants by diversifying the institutional affiliations of the Endowment Fund’s leadership.
Currently, the Endowment Fund fulfills its mission by supporting innovative research in neuroscience through three competitive annual award programs and by holding an annual conference of current and former awardees. The conference fosters collaboration among the McKnight awardees, uniting them in their efforts to further the goals of the McKnight Neuroscience program. The award programs support scientists establishing their neuroscience research, developing new technology in the field, and applying their knowledge to human brain disorders that affect memory or cognition. Each in a different way, the three programs seek out investigators whose research shows promise in bringing society closer to preventions, treatments, and cures for many devastating diseases.