The Robert Packard Center is a collaboration of scientists worldwide, working aggressively to develop new treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The Center is the only international organization of its kind dedicated solely to the disease. Its mission is to translate laboratory breakthroughs to the clinic as quickly as possible. While The Robert Packard Center exists within the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Baltimore, MD, more than 70 percent of its ALS investigators are from other institutions across the U.S. and abroad. The Packard Center is 100% funded through private philanthropy and while we are associated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, we receive no Hopkins funding.

More information about the Packard Center can be found by visiting www.alscenter.org.

Who we are and how we operate

The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins is a virtual research center that brings together the labs and expertise of investigators from around the world to collaboratively study ALS biology and pathogenesis and to develop animal and cellular models of the disease.  Founded in 2001 by noted neurologist and researcher, Dr. Jeffrey Rothstein as part of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Packard Center’s virtual nature allows them identify and invite researchers located throughout the United States and Europe to be a part of their strategic, collaborative network.

The Packard Center is focused on innovation, collaboration and results.  Their grants are often used as seed money, allowing investigators to formulate the data required to apply for larger government funded research grants.  They focus on innovation, collaboration and results.

  • Packard investigators are chosen after a highly selective, invitation-only grant process.
  • Once a grant is awarded and funding is established, investigators must stay in good standing by fulfilling all requirements and milestones.
  • Investigators are required to attend monthly meetings (at least three out of ten) throughout the year (Hopkins-based researchers must attend eight).  These meetings are required brainstorming sessions where grantees, advisors and colleagues share ideas and critique one others’ work.
  • Each spring, an annual symposium brings the entire Center together.  Investigators are expected to attend and present their progress, which is evaluated by the scientific advisors. As for the monthly meeting, investigators are required to share new, unpublished data in a collaborative format.
  • A research program coordinator monitors each investigator and ensures compliance and reporting on a timely basis

To date, the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins has invested more than $23 million funding 106 research projects with several new grants pending. Research grants are awarded throughout the year on a flexible time frame, with the idea that rapid funding fosters innovative ideas.

The Center’s directors set short-term goals as well as long-range ones and keep close watch on progress.  A Scientific Advisory Board of internationally prominent scientists with expertise in basic cell biology, neurodegeneration, clinical investigation and the workings of the biopharmaceutical industry, evaluates investigators’ work annually to keep it on track.  This board also oversees the Center’s research agenda as well as approves all research grants.  The Center takes their approach to ALS research seriously and uses funding wisely; if a research path turns unproductive, support stops.

Contact the Robert Packard Center

Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins
5801 Smith Avenue, McAuley #110
Baltimore, MD  21209

How the grant process works

Prospective investigators must be invited to submit a proposal and must be endorsed by the director, science director, a Center advisor, investigator, or affiliate. Unsolicited applications are not accepted. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the funding year. Applicants submit proposals electronically to the Center’s research program coordinator. Proposals are then reviewed by the science director, director, and the Center’s internal (Johns Hopkins) Operating Committee. If accepted, proposals are finally reviewed by an external reviewer.

Even if a project is favorably received, it must be weighed in the context of our budget for each fiscal year, so the administrative director must also give approval before a project is funded. We always have more applications than we have funds, so occasionally projects must be denied, or deferred, because of funding limitations. However, we usually find a way to fit in extremely worthy projects.

Grants are almost always awarded for one year at a time. At the end of the funding year, each PI must submit a final progress report, or a renewal application to continue the project for another year (the renewal app functions as a progress report). Most projects funded by the Center are multi-year, so the majority of PIs at any given time are on their 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of funding.

Where is the Packard Center located?

The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins is a center “without walls.” While thirty scientists are conducting basic science and clinical research at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, there are many scientists working at other institutions such as Harvard University, Louisiana State University, Northwestern University, Stanford University, to name just a few. The Center embraces any high caliber organization where scientists are working toward the mission of halting or finding the cure for ALS.