Knowledge Partners: Dr. Ashley Mooneyham

Knowledge Partners: Dr. Ashley Mooneyham
Parvathy Hariharan

Nested Knowledge functions at the intersection of multiple scientific disciplines. Our rapid growth reflects our stellar partnerships with passionate subject matter experts. Knowledge Partners brings an inside look at our professional partners in the business of enhancing medical research communications.  In this profile, Dr. Ashley Mooneyham, Director of Grants at Superior Medical Experts (SME), shares her journey.

A stellar scientist who walked away from the laboratory to guide other researchers and businesses, Dr. Ashley Mooneyham leads a team that manages as many as 20 National Institute of Health (NIH) grants at a time, while doubling submissions every four months. She has helped break previous records of this growing division of SME, which has successfully submitted 83 grants and secured over five million dollars in funding for clients since the company’s inception. The team has also successfully submitted grants for Nested Knowledge, and Dr. Mooneyham has consulted for Nested Knowledge’s research division, focusing on breast cancer.

Dr. Mooneyham says she was always passionate about science, particularly about human health and disease, which led to her doctoral thesis on chemoresistance in ovarian cancer. The year before her graduation, she was looking for an ideal job, one that would quench her scientific curiosity and utilize her interest in scientific communications, but also give her room to grow and contribute in a meaningful way to scientific progress. “The one thing that was common throughout my academic career was my passion for that intersection between science and health. I wanted to translate that passion toward a career that allowed me to learn and support a variety of scientific endeavors aimed at advancing human health,” she states. She reached out to Dr. Jillienne Touchette, the current CEO of SME, and began exploring a career in medical research support. Based on her performance, just six months later, upon her graduation, she was offered her current position. “This job was a perfect fit,” she says. “I get to be the conduit that moves scientific innovation from just ideas to something physical on paper. I enjoy learning about innovative solutions to ongoing problems and love that I get to impact multiple fields at a time. That never gets boring.”

Dr. Mooneyham mainly works on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants funded by the National Institutes of Health. There are many advantages to a small business grant. One is the higher success rate of 15-20% compared to academic grants (which have a success rate of ~7%). The second is the opportunity to resubmit the grant after its first submission, which has an even greater chance of success (~30%). She states that, funded or not, the first submission is invaluable for every applicant as they get a chance to hone their ideas from the perspective of an outside scientific expert. “That type of constructive criticism is what it takes to get an idea from something in your head to something physical and tangible,” she says. “Grants reflect everybody’s potential.”

SME’s grant-writing clients come from a diverse range of small businesses that include but are not limited to neurology, oncology, telehealth, alternative medicine, and cosmetic science. “Any and all client topics are welcome,” Dr. Mooneyham says. Many clients are physician-entrepreneurs, who have identified a gap in their field after years of experience and seek to resolve a critical unmet need. “They [physician-entrepreneurs] are some of our most successful clients, because they have experience in their field which gives them credibility, and they can speak to those gaps in knowledge and really think about how to feasibly address them.” But that’s not all. Other clients include small businesses with 10 employees or less and sometimes even single-person ventures. The best part of having a diversified grant team is being able to provide expert scientific and business advice customized to client needs. “This experience of writing a grant is valuable for every client. Everyone who has written a grant with us has learned something that will help take them the next step further. We care about their success.”