Young Researchers to Pitch Their Innovative Ideas at 10th Annual BEAR Cage


On Monday, May 20, the ATS Drug/Device, Discovery and Development Committee will award early stage investigators who submitted highly innovative, translational, human-focused research proposals with $15,000 in cumulative prizes during the International Conference.

The DDDD Committee selected 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.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Eno-Obong Essien, MD, instructor of medicine, pulmonary and critical care, University of Pennsylvania, presenting “Endothelial-Targeted mRNA-Lipid Nanoparticles; A Novel Therapeutic For Treating Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome”
  • Julio Huapaya, MD, MHS, chief critical care fellow, National Institutes of Health, presenting “Integrating Myositis-Specific Autoantibody Quantification Using a Novel Assay and High-Density Proteomics for Precision Management of Idiopathic Inflammatory Myopathy-Associated Interstitial Lung Disease”
  • Michael Miller, MD, pulmonary and critical care fellowship, University of California San Diego, presenting “A Novel Intracorporeal Oxygenation Device for Patients with Severe Acute Lung Injury”
Eno-Obong Essien, MD
Eno-Obong Essien, MD
Julio Huapaya, MD, MHS
Julio Huapaya, MD, MHS
Michael Miller, MD
Michael Miller, MD

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.

Nina Patel, MD
Nina Patel, MD

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.”

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 participants, it’s an opportunity to pitch and develop ideas they’re passionate about.”

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

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].

Don’t Miss ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand

Don’t forget that ATS 2024 Highlights: On Demand are available to all conference registrants! On Demand will give you access to the Opening Ceremony, Plenary session, Keynote Series, Clinical Year in Review, Adult Clinical Core Curriculum, and so much more. The topics will cover ILD, asthma, health equity, and CF, to name just a few. On Demand content will be accessible to all ATS 2024 full conference and On Demand registrants until March 2025.