BEAR Cage Competition FAQ

HomeProgramEarly Career Professionals ▶ BEAR Cage Competition FAQ

Bear Cage FAQ

  • What is the BEAR Cage?

    The BEAR Cage (Building Education to Advance Research) is a competition held annually at the ATS International Conference, but starting in 2020 we moved it to a virtual competition. 2021 will be our seventh year holding a “Shark Tank”-style live pitch session for early career professionals to share their research and innovative ideas with veterans of translational science in the areas of academia, industry, and government. After the initial submission period, The ATS Drug Device Discovery and Development (DDDD) Committee chooses three finalists from the applications and invites them to present and pitch their ideas on a virtual webinar. Each finalist will have 10 minutes to present their findings with a pre-recorded presentation, then the judges will have 10 minutes to query the finalist on their research, and finally the audience will have 5 minutes to ask the presenter any questions about their project. Once all finalists have presented, one is chosen as the winner and all three win a sum of money and distance mentor/s for the upcoming year.

  • Am I eligible?

    The program is open to all ATS members. All applicants must be at an early stage in their career as defined by NIH guidelines and must hold a research or health-professional doctoral degree or its equivalent. Clinical doctorate degrees include, but are not limited to: MD, DrPH, DO, 2 DDS, DMD, OD, DC, PharmD, ND, PsyD, as well as epidemiologists, behavioral scientists, and nurses with doctoral degrees.

  • What about confidentiality of my research?

    If you are a finalist, while we do not publish your slides anywhere in order to keep your confidentiality intact, we do publish the title of your research on our website and social media channels. During the webinar, we will be recording the footage of the program as well as taking pictures. We use these recordings and photos only for marketing purposes for use by ATS in printed materials and on the ATS website. We cannot guarantee that your likeness or slides will be kept completely confidential, but don’t want to deter you from applying. If you have any further questions about confidentiality before submitting, please send us an email:

  • If I already applied once, am I eligible again?

    If you applied to a past BEAR Cage Competition with the ATS and did not make it to the final three, we welcome another application! All of our applicants receive constructive feedback from our expert reviewing panel and are encouraged to reapply. Please note, if you have already applied twice, it is unlikely that your application will be accepted a third time.

  • Can I send in more than one application?

    Yes. For example, if you have two separate innovative research projects you are welcome to submit more than one application for that year.

10-Minute Presentation Perfection: Tips from a BEAR Cage Winner

John Fessel, MD, PhD

Joshua P. Fessel, MD, PhD, 2015 BEAR Cage Winner encourages all young researchers and junior faculty with great ideas to apply! If your application is selected as one of the final three, Josh shared four helpful ways to streamline your slide presentation:

1. Mind Your Numbers
Be careful not to bury audience members under a mountain of numbers and statistics. One or two startling statistics will speak volumes.

2. Choose Visuals Wisely
Pare down your slides to the best ones that directly impact your message.  You don’t need a ton of text—you want people listening to you! 

3. Packaging the Solution

Remember what your audience needs to know in conclusion. What problem are you addressing, and why is it a problem? What is your proposed solution? How are you going to do it? 

4. Practice Makes Perfect!
Practice your pitch with a naïve audience. BEAR Cage panelists and spectators are a mixed group. Your job is to get everyone to understand and to also pique their enthusiasm.

Where are they now?

BEAR Cage Alumni Accomplishments

Joshua P. Fessel, MD, PhD, 2015 Winner

Project Title:
A Novel System to Detect and Prevent Impending Aspiration –
AspirGard IT-NGT

Since winning the first BEAR Cage, Dr. Fessel:

Laura Crotty Alexander, MD, 2015 Finalist

Project Title:
Effects of E-Cigarette Vapor on Viability, Inflammatory Responses and Antimicrobial Function of Airway Cells

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Crotty Alexander:
  • Became an Associate Professor at University of California at San Diego
  • Was selected as Chair of the ATS Training Committee
  • Received an AHA Award for her BEAR Cage research
  • Received an R01 for her BEAR Cage research
  • Was featured in an ATSNews Spotlight

Tiffany Powell-Wiley, MD, 2015 Finalist

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Powell-Wiley:
  • Promoted to Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator at NHLBI (with joint appointment at NIMHD)
  • BEAR Cage research approved as an NHLBI Protocol ( NCT03288207)
  • Presented research at NIH Clinical Center Grand Rounds
  • Served as a co-chair and speaker for ATS Scientific Symposium titled “The Promise and Reality of Wearable Health Technology”

Jake Brenner, MD, PhD, 2016 Winner

Project Title:
Pulmonary Endothelial-Targeted Liposomes (PELs) for the Treatment of ARDS

Since winning the BEAR Cage, Dr. Brenner:
  • Became an Assistant Professor and Attending Physician in Pulmonary, Allergy, & Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Invited to give a 2016 NIH Talk: "Pulmonary nanomedicine for the treatment of ARDS"
  • Received a K08 Career Development Award from NHLBI for his BEAR Cage Research
  • Received a McCabe Fund Pilot Award for his BEAR Cage Research
  • Received a Sponsored Research Agreement from Insmed Corporation for his BEAR Cage Research
  • Was published in the ATS AJRCCM in 2017
  • Was featured on an episode of The Penn HealthX Podcast for “Thinking Like a Medical Entrepreneur”
  • Published three papers related to his BEAR Cage Research

Katherine N. Cahill, MD, 2016 Finalist

Project Title:
Targeting Mast Cells in Aspirin-exacerbated Respiratory Disease (AERD)

Since participating the BEAR Cage, Dr. Cahill:
  • Moved from Brigham& Women’s Hospital to accept position of Young Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of clinical asthma research at Vanderbilt
  • Had her work funded by a K23 Award from the NIH
  • Was awarded an Innovation Evergreen Fund grant from Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Medicine in 2018 for the following project: Therapeutic benefit of Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists in asthma

Valentin Prieto-Centurion, MD, 2016 Finalist

Project Title:
Promoting Activity After COPD Exacerbations (PACE)

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Pietro-Centurion:
  • Is currently funded by a NHLBI K23 to conduct a clinical trial based on his BEAR Cage project research
  • Accepted role of Assistant Professor at University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Was published in the ATS Annals in 2018

 Sanghyuk Shin, PhD, 2017 Winner

Project Title:
Impact of Low-level Drug Resistant Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Infections on Molecular Diagnosis of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Since winning the BEAR Cage, Dr. Shin:
  • Left UCLA and accepted new role at UC Irvine Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing as Assistant Professor
  • Received a K01 Grant for tuberculosis research
  • Received a R21 Grant for tuberculosis research
  • Was invited to give a talk at the NIH

Marcus Chen, MD, 2017 Finalist

Project Title:
Chest CT at Chest X-ray Radiation Dose

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Chen:
  • Won an NHLBI Innovation Award
  • Was invited to give a talk at the NIH
  • Was published in Chest 2019
  • Received the 2019 ATS Research Innovation and Translation Achievement Award

Prema R. Menon, MD, PhD, 2017 Finalist

Project Title:
Communicating with Mechanically Ventilated Patients

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Menon:
  • Continues to be Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Physician & Assistant Professor, Larner College of Medicine

Sean Agbor-Enoh, MD, PhD, 2018 Winner

Project Title:
Precision Genomics: Early Detection of Antibody-Mediated Rejection to Improve Survival

Since winning the BEAR Cage, Dr. Agbor-Enoh:
  • Presented his research at the NIH
  • Was invited to give a Sunrise Seminar at ATS 2019 – “State of the Art and Future “Omic” Approaches to Detect Lung Transplant Rejection”
  • Voted best paper in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation for 2018-2019.

Jatinder K. Juss, MD, PhD, FRCPC, 2018 Finalist

Project Title:
NEMESIS (NEutrophil MEchanical StabilISation): A Novel Extracorporeal Technology to Modulate and Monitor Pathological Inflammatory Responses of Neutrophils (PMN) in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Juss:
  • Continues to be a Critical Medicine Fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
  • Continues her research in ARDS

Carlos Barerro, MD, 2018 Finalist

Project Title:
Identifying Novel Disease- Modifying Drugs for the Treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Barrero:
  • Continues to be a Research Associate Professor in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Department at Temple University School of PharmacyContinues to be a Critical Medicine Fellow at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
  • Active member of the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research
  • Gave a Pulmonary Rounds lecture at NIH in February 2019

Adrienne Campbell-Washburn, PhD 2019 Winner

Project Title:
Functional Lung MRI

Since winning the BEAR Cage, Dr. Campbell Washburn:
  • Continues to be Staff Scientist at NHLBI/NIH.
  • Functional Lung MRI technology data was recently published in RSNA Radiology
  • Sunrise Seminar proposal accepted at ATS 2020

Scott M. Gordon, PhD, 2019 Finalist

Project Title:
Targeting Pulmonary Protease Activity with an HDL-Binding Protease Inhibitor Peptide

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Gordon:
  • Continues to be Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky
  • Continues to work on protease inhibitor peptides
  • Has received a Pilot and Feasibility Award from the Alpha-1 Foundation to investigate the efficacy of these peptides in mouse models of emphysema.

Jasleen Pannu, MD, 2019 Finalist

Project Title:
Steerable Electromagnetic Navigation Guided Endobronchial Radial Ultrasound with Biopsy Needle

Since participating in the BEAR Cage, Dr. Pannu:
  • Continues to be Assistant Professor of Medicine, Director, Interventional Pulmonology Translational Research at Ohio State University
  • Continues to research electromagnetic navigation guided ultrasound, by researching grant opportunities

For any questions about the BEAR Cage Competition and to submit your application, please contact .