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The Interstellar Initiative

The Interstellar Initiative

Friday, June 22 - Saturday, June 23, 2018

The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St Fl 40, New York

Presented By


A Unique Opportunity for Early Career Investigators

The Interstellar Initiative ― presented jointly by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development and the New York Academy of Sciences ― recognizes the world’s most promising Early Career Investigators and connects them with peers, in related but distinct disciplines, providing a platform for them to develop a solution to a major research question. The aim is to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and thereby catalyze discovery.

Participation in this two-day conference is by application only. Applications were invited from Early Career Investigators who have backgrounds in four broad categories:

1) Clinical Research;

2) Life Science;

3) Physical Science; and

4) Technology

The application for the 2018 Interstellar Initiative has closed.


Collaboration is key to truly innovative scientific discoveries and advancement. There is a critical need to support the intersection of ideas across international boundaries and disciplines, in particular among early career scientists (ECIs). The Interstellar Initiative connects ECIs with peers, in related but distinct disciplines, under the guidance of Mentors who are established scientists at the peak of their respective disciplines. This is a remarkable opportunity for investigators to: (i) receive expert guidance from leading senior scientists on the preparation of a compelling research proposal; (ii) network with exceptional researchers from around the world; and (iii) build international research collaborations.

The 2018 Interstellar Initiative will address challenges in the interest areas of Cancer and Neuroscience, and will include a special focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in medicine. AI has shown great potential to revolutionize healthcare — allowing analysis of ever-larger data sets, assisting in diagnostics, suggesting treatment protocols, facilitating drug development, and personalizing medicine. In the categories of Physical Scientists and Technologists, we invite applications from physicists, chemists, engineers, and data scientists, among others, with ties to biomedical sciences or interest in applying their work to this area. Previous experience in Cancer or Neuroscience research is not required.


How it Works

Applications will be accepted from ECIs in broad disciplines; you can find more information about the application and eligibility guidelines here. ECIs accepted into the Interstellar Initiative will participate in a two-day conference at the New York Academy of Sciences from June 22 – 23, 2018, where they will be grouped in teams of three and asked to develop a research proposal, guided by mentors. All teams will include one member from Japan. Participants will be expected to present the proposals developed within their teams at the conference, and top teams will be recognized with a non-monetary award at the close of the event. All teams will receive a modest funding award from AMED through the Japanese team member’s institution to further enhance their proposals, leading up to a second workshop, on January 31 – February 1, 2019.  Proposals will be refined at this second workshop and prepared for submission to international funding agencies.

Interstellar Initiative participants will be reimbursed for all eligible travel expenses. For details, visit our Travel and Accommodation page.

Important Dates

  • March 2018: The application period opens.
  • April 2, 2018, 11:59 PM EDT (April 3, 2018, 12:59 PM JST): The application period closes.
  • May 2018: Investigators selected to participate in the Interstellar Initiative are notified.
  • June 22 – 23, 2018Interstellar Initiative conference convenes in New York City.
  • June 2018 – January 2019: Teams continue to develop their research proposals.
  • January 31 – February 1, 2019: Follow up workshop convenes in New York City.


Application guidelines can be found here. For details on reimbursable expenses, visit our Travel and Accommodation page. Please email with any questions.


The Interstellar Initiative
Katherine Andriole, PhD, Harvard Medical School, Mass General & Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Clinical Data Science
The Interstellar Initiative
Haruhiko Bito, MD, PhD, The University of Tokyo
The Interstellar Initiative
Manisha Desai, PhD, Stanford University
The Interstellar Initiative
Noriyuki Kasahara, MD, PhD, University of Miami
The Interstellar Initiative
Mahendra S. Rao, PhD, MBBS, The New York Stem Cell Foundation
The Interstellar Initiative
Toshio Suda, MD, PhD, National University of Singapore, Singapore
The Interstellar Initiative
Kristin Swanson, MD, PhD, Mayo Clinic
The Interstellar Initiative
Harel Weinstein, DSc, Weill Cornell Medical College

Keynote Speaker

The Interstellar Initiative
Yann LeCunn, Director of AI Research, Facebook, Founding Director of the NYU Center for Data Science

Presented by:


June 22, 2018

8:00 AM

Registration and Breakfast

8:40 AM

Opening Remarks

8:50 AM

Keynote Address

9:20 AM


10:20 AM

Morning Networking Break

10:50 AM

Breakout Groups

11:45 AM

Human Frontier Science Program Remote Presentation

12:30 PM

Networking Luncheon

1:45 PM

Discussion on Early Career Investigator Funding

2:15 PM

Breakout Groups

3:30 PM

Afternoon Networking Break

4:00 PM

Breakout Groups

6:15 PM

Closing Remarks

6:30 PM

Evening Welcome Cocktail and Hors D'oeuvres Networking Reception

7:45 PM

Day 1 Ends


June 23, 2018

8:00 AM


8:40 AM

Breakout Groups

10:00 AM

Morning Networking Break

10:30 AM

Breakout Groups

12:30 PM

Networking Luncheon

1:45 PM

Early Career Investigator Presentations

2:30 PM


2:35 PM

Early Career Investigator Presentations

3:40 PM

Afternoon Networking Break

4:10 PM

Award Announcements

4:25 PM

Top Early Career Investigator Team Presentations

5:10 PM

Follow-up Workshop

5:25 PM

Closing Remarks

5:30 PM

Day 2 Ends

The application for the 2018 Interstellar Initiative has closed. 


Applications are invited from Early Career Investigators who have backgrounds in four broad categories:

1) Clinical Research (e.g., physician scientists and others with translational interests);

2) Life Science (e.g., biomedical scientists);

3) Physical Science (e.g., physicists, chemists, and mathematicians); and

4) Technology (e.g., engineers, computer scientists)

The 2018 Interstellar Initiative will address challenges in the interest areas of Cancer and Neuroscience, and include a focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications in medicine. Special consideration will be given to proposals in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Previous experience in Cancer, Neuroscience, or AI is not required.

Early Career Investigator applicants must:

  • Hold a doctoral degree or equivalent (PhD, DPhil, MD, DDS, DVM, etc.)
  • Have obtained their last doctoral degree within the past 10 years (January 2008 or later)
  • Have been engaged in active research for 10 years or less since obtaining their doctoral degree or equivalent
  • Hold an independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty position at a university, private research institution, academic medical center, or national government laboratory

Note: Exceptions to these requirements may be made on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the organizers. If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact

Application Guidelines

The application form includes questions about applicants' research background and area of expertise. Applications must include a short proposal that identifies a critical research question in the applicants' chosen interest area (cancer or neuroscience). The proposal should highlight the significance of the research question, describe the hypothesis, and propose a research plan that explains how the applicants' expertise can address the question. Proposals may not exceed 1000 words in length, must be in English, and must address the evaluation criteria outlined below. A supplementary figure may be included but is not required.

Please visit the application portal for more information.

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Clarity: There is a clear, well defined question. The aims are structured so that they answer a specific question
  • Scope: The extent to which the proposed research question represents a challenge impacting the entire field, and not solely the interests of the applicant.
  • Quality: The extent to which the proposed research question is defended, and the research solution is valid and scientifically rigorous.
  • Impact: The extent to which the proposed research solution may influence the field.
  • Novelty: The extent to which the proposed research solution challenges existing paradigms and employs new methodologies or concepts.
  • Promise: Future prospects in the field and potential for further significant contributions to science.

The proposal should address the above and include a few sentences defining the methodology, why the proposal is unique or different from existing research, and what will be known once there is an answer from the proposed experiments

To view full attendee list, you must first register for the event, then log in to the Academy website. This list is provided for the personal, noncommercial and informational use only of event attendees, in a manner that is consistent with the New York Academy of Sciences’ mission, goals and activities.
  • AMED

  • Bioinformatics Institute A*STAR

  • California Institute of Technology

  • Cancer Precision Medicine Center, Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research

  • Cancer Research Institute, Kanazawa University

  • Chiba Cancer Center Research Institute/ Tokyo University of Science

  • Chiba University

  • Consulate General of Japan

  • Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, University of Manitoba

  • Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Nippon Medical School

  • Department of Physiological Genomics

  • Emory university

  • European Institute for Molecular Imaging

  • Facebook; NYU

  • Fraunhofer Research Institution for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Technology

  • Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology

  • ISIR, Osaka University

  • Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development

  • Keio University School of Medicine

  • MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science and Harvard Medical School

  • Mount Sinai Health System

  • Nanyang Technological University

  • National University of Singapore

  • New York University Langone Medical Center

  • Ochanomizu University

  • Osaka University

  • Q Therapeutics

  • Stanford University

  • The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

  • The University of Tokyo

  • TU Munich, Walter Schottky Institute

  • University of Cambridge

  • University of Cambridge Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

  • University of Miami

  • University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine

  • University of Toronto

  • University of Toyama

  • Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University