Next Steps Program

MRA is excited to announce a new funding opportunity called Next Steps, a separate and distinct grant mechanism from the MRA’s annual RFP call for applications. The intent of this funding strategy is to help advance translation of discoveries into the clinic by supporting: 1) needed preclinical resources and tools for the research community to identify and begin to develop new therapies and 2) infrastructure to analyze and build large datasets to identify better diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers leading to hypothesis-driven research proposals for submission to MRA and other funding agencies. 

Separate Requests for Application (RFAs) in the following three high priority research areas will be released throughout 2024 with key dates for each RFA listed in the table below:

  • Advancing Drug Discovery to Identify New Therapies: Drug discovery efforts against validated targets to support new therapeutic entity identification, optimization and testing in preclinical models, with an emphasis on targets including adapter proteins, transcription factors, cell surface proteins, etc (ie: CRKL, TERT, GAB2, YAP, LZTR, B7H3);
  • Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarker Identification: Analysis and/or validation of large multi-institutional datasets to advance improvements in early detection and diagnosis across different skin types and identify prognostic biomarkers at different stages of the disease;
  • Characterization of Rare Melanoma Preclinical Models: Characterization of rare melanoma cell lines and PDX models with different molecular assays and drug sensitivity tests with the goal of making the models and corresponding data available to the research community to enable more preclinical research in rare melanomas.

Next Step Program Key Dates (as of May 2024):


Advancing Drug Discovery to Identify New Therapies

Diagnostic and Prognostic Biomarker Identification

Characterization of Rare Melanoma Preclinical Models

RFA Released:

2/6/2024 - no longer accepting applications

May 2024

July 2024

Proposals Due:


End of July 2024 (date TBD)

September 2024 (date TBD)

Decision Dates:

June 2024

October 2024

December 2024

Awards through the Next Steps Program will be granted as milestone-based payments. Therefore, submitted applications will require the research proposal and budget, and a clearly defined milestone plan and timeline. Funding levels range from $50,000- $250,000 (specified in each Next Step priority area announcement) with study duration of 1-2 years.  Only researchers from academic medical centers and universities are eligible to apply including institutions in the U.S. and worldwide.

Announcements of this program will be made via email and on the MRA website. If you have any questions please contact Dr. Joan Levy, MRA Chief Science Officer at