Apply to Enter the 10th Annual BEAR Cage Competition at ATS 2024


The ATS Drug Device Discovery and Development (DDDD) Committee invites all new or early-stage investigators to apply to the 10th Annual BEAR Cage (Building Education to Advance Research) competition by the Feb. 5 deadline.

Nina Patel, MD
Nina Patel, MD

The DDDD Committee will select three highly innovative research proposals to be presented at the ATS 2024 International Conference in San Diego. Finalists will pitch their submissions to a panel of translational science experts representing academia, industry, and governmental sectors in front of a live audience.

The competition features a fun, “Shark Tank”-style learning environment that sparks real-time feedback and supports the strategic thinking required for novel ideas to become practical innovations. After each presentation, the panel and audience will have the opportunity to ask questions of each of the three finalists.

Once the presentations have concluded, the panel will award one grand prize winner a $10,000 prize and the two runner-up proposals $2,500 each. BEAR Cage prize money is not grant funding, and how the funds are spent is at the winners’ discretion.

“The BEAR Cage is an excellent opportunity for new or early stage investigators to find a foothold in the research space,” explained BEAR Cage Co-Chair Nina Patel, MD. “I think back to the start of my career when I had a bunch of ideas and no money to do anything with them – this is a place where you can find that funding you might not receive through a traditional NIH-based forum.”

Josh Fessel, MD, PhD
Josh Fessel, MD, PhD

Dr. Patel’s BEAR Cage Co-Chair, Josh Fessel, MD, PhD, was the competition’s inaugural winner. He emphasized his appreciation for how the competition spotlights applicants’ inventive creativity with an exciting atmosphere onsite.

“Sometimes, I think we forget to make sure that there is an element of fun in the important and innovative science we’re all striving toward. The BEAR Cage brings the fun,” Dr. Fessel said. “For applicants, it’s an opportunity to pitch and develop ideas they’re passionate about.”

He also shared that the DDDD Committee’s job of selecting three finalists has become increasingly difficult.

“It gets truer every year: The ideas that come in are really neat! I would say to anybody who applies and isn’t selected as a finalist, please submit again if you are still eligible. The odds are it was a great idea, but we can only pick three people to present on stage,” Dr. Fessel said. 

Last year, Sreyankar Nandy, PhD, was awarded the $10,000 funding prize for his proposal, “Endobronchial Optical Coherence Tomography (EB-OCT): A Novel Imaging Technique for Early Microscopic Diagnosis and Monitoring of Interstitial Lung Disease.” 

“This is a Shark Tank atmosphere, but I found it very enriching,” Dr. Nandy said after the 2023 competition. “All the questions were very specific and very pertinent — a very engrossing experience.”

For any questions about the application process or the competition for ATS 2024, please send an email to [email protected].