Michelson Prizes

Prize winners are the next-generation of innovators in human immunology and vaccine research.

About the Michelson Prizes

Congratulations to the 2020 Michelson Prize Winners!

The Michelson Prizes are scientific awards of $150,000 given annually to young investigators who are applying disruptive concepts and inventive processes to advance human immunology, vaccine discovery, and immunotherapy research across major global diseases.


Well done to our 2020 awardees: This year’s winners are Dr. Danika Hill, a research fellow at Monash University, and Dr. Michael Birnbaum, assistant professor at MIT. Their winning proposals demonstrated both innovation and the potential for high impact across disease areas and states. By thinking beyond conventions, they will contribute to the Human Vaccine Project’s grand vision of decoding the human immune system. We are proud to be able to support them on this path.

Danika Hill and Michael Birnbaum received their awards in a special two-hour event. This webinar connected the experts of today with the leaders of tomorrow: Pulitzer Prize winner Laurie Garrett gave her insights into the fight against the global crisis and Harvard professor Dr. Dan Barouch presented the latest data set published in Nature with his insights on the pandemic in the Global COVID Lab Meeting, where the Human Vaccines Project connects experts in the field to discuss the latest COVID-19 data. You can watch the full recording of the 2020 awards on YouTube. 

Please register below to be emailed when the application portal for the 2021 Michelson Prizes opens.

The 2021 Michelson Prizes will focus on transformative research in human immunology, with trans-disease applications to accelerate vaccine and immunotherapeutic discovery. We will be looking for high-impact and highly innovative research that has the potential to be applied across many diseases and to significantly expand our understanding of the human immune system.


Michelson Prize Winners


Michael Birnbaum, Ph.D.

Department of Medical Engineering, MIT

Danika Hill, Ph.D.

Monash University Australia, Melbourne

Kamal Mandal, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Murad Mamedov, Ph.D.

University of California, San Francisco

Avinash Das Sahu, Ph.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Laura Mackay, Ph.D.

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Ansuman Satpathy, M.D., Ph.D.

Stanford University School of Medicine

Patricia Therese Illing, Ph.D.

Monash University

A rigorous and competitive international search will identify the most innovative projects from young scientists working across a broad range of scientific fields. Proposals will be reviewed by a distinguished committee of internationally-recognized scientists. The review committee will be looking for research that challenges dogma, from researchers who clearly articulate a vision that demonstrates an ability to look beyond convention to make a lasting impact on vaccine and immunotherapy research. We encourage applications from the full spectrum of scientific disciplines related to immunology, vaccine, and immunotherapy research, including but not limited to:

Clinical Research


Molecular Biology

Protein engineering

Computer science

AI/Machine Learning





Register to be emailed when the application portal opens:

Michelson Prize Register

The Michelson Prize was instrumental in my early career. It allowed me to pursue high-risk, high-impact ideas, which would not have been possible without the funding and scientific collaborations developed through the Human Vaccines Project.

Ansuman Satpathy, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University

Michelson Prize 2019 Galleries

Photos – UCLA Symposium on the Future of Vaccine Discovery

Michelson Prize Winners Video Gallery

Eligibility and Selection Process

Information for applicants

The initial application window for the 2020 Michelson Prizes is now closed. The Michelson Prizes are open to early-career researchers under 35 at the time of application, and will focus on human immunology, vaccine discovery and immunotherapy research.


Review our applicant FAQ below, download complete information about the prizes, or contact us at michelsonprizes@humanvaccinesproject.org.

No. Applicants born before October 31, 1984 are not eligible to apply for this year’s award.
No. Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, and others in training or non-tenure track positions are eligible to apply, provided they meet the age requirement.
Yes. The Michelson Prizes are awarded to individuals, not institutions, and are intended to accompany the awardee if they move to another institution. However, during the period of the award, you must remain associated with a research institution where the goals of the funded project can still be achieved.
Awards of this type are most often given to the research institution for direct distribution to the awardee. While the disbursement mechanism for the Prizes may be negotiated with your institution post-award, the prize money must be used for the conduct of the specific research project for which it was awarded.
Yes. However, the total amount that can be allocated for salaries is 40% of the total budget. For example, if your total project budget is $150,000 (the maximum), then amount allowed for all salaries within your $150,000 budget cannot be more than $60,000.
Michelson Prizes will be awarded to individual investigators to support the proposed project. The applicant is expected to assemble a research team that will provide the necessary expertise to accomplish the research goals proposed in the pre-application. On the pre-application form, under ‘Conflicts of Interest,’ you will be asked to enter the names and institutional affiliations of all individuals who may be associated with your project, i.e., mentors, collaborators, consultants, etc.
The Human Vaccines Project does not pay indirect costs on the Michelson Prizes.
No. All initial applications for the Michelson Prizes must be submitted electronically by the application deadline. Paper applications will not be accepted.
No. Once your application is submitted, it cannot be changed.
We do not accept full applications for projects that differ significantly from what was proposed in the pre-application. This is because all pre-applications undergo a thorough vetting and review process and are chosen for their content, innovation, and potential for trans-disease impact by a panel of scientists with high expertise. Since only a select number of pre-applications are chosen for full application submission, it is highly disadvantageous to change the focus of your full application in any significant way.

About the Donors

Dr. Gary K. Michelson is a Board Certified Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon, with more than 900 issued patents worldwide.  His work has revolutionized the practice of spinal surgery, making such procedures less invasive, less traumatic, safer, faster, and more effective. Alya Michelson is an accomplished journalist, who has written in, and been published in four different languages.

Together they support a broad array of philanthropic endeavors and operate three foundations that they founded and fund; including a medical research foundation, an education foundation, and an animal welfare foundation. Further information is available at michelsonmedical.org20MM.org, and foundanimals.org.  Information about the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology can be found here.