Dr. Scott Somers

About Dr. Scott Somers

Scott manages grants that examine the body’s responses to burns, traumatic injuries and surgery at all levels—from molecular and cellular changes to the body-wide reactions seen in critically ill patients. More

Our Investigator-Initiated SBIR/STTR Program

In January, NIH and several other agencies issued new omnibus solicitations for the Small Business Innovation Research (PA-14-071) and Small Business Technology Transfer (PA-14-072) programs. A program descriptions and research topics document gives details about each funding component’s areas of interest. The NIGMS section begins on page 91.

Potential SBIR/STTR applicants often assume that, like some other federal agencies, NIGMS will be an end user of the tools, devices, products or services being created under the grant or will play an active role in their ongoing development toward eventual commercialization. As a result, we get questions like:

  • How can I ensure that my project offers what NIGMS needs?
  • Can NIGMS provide technical and/or regulatory assistance to help my project obtain FDA approval?
  • What clinical trial/technology development expertise does NIGMS have that I may access?

These assumptions are not correct. Like the vast majority of NIGMS-funded research, our SBIR/STTR program is investigator-initiated. Applicants propose what to do, how to do it and the best path toward commercialization. Although we may occasionally issue or participate in SBIR/STTR funding opportunity announcements targeted to stimulate activity in a specific area, these are still independent projects because we do not prescribe what the activity should be or how it should be pursued.

Our goal is to support innovative SBIR/STTR projects that could benefit the broader research and development communities and/or directly impact human health.

If you’re interested in applying for an SBIR/STTR grant in an NIGMS area of interest, you can get general advice and answers to many procedural and technical questions about the application and review process from NIGMS program and grants management staff. If you don’t know whom to contact, you can start by asking me your program questions or asking Patrice Molnar your grants management questions. If we don’t know the answers ourselves, we can refer you to others as appropriate.

You can also find useful information on the NIH SBIR/STTR Web site and in a recent blog post from NIH’s Sally Rockey titled What’s New with NIH’s Small Business Research Programs?

Give Input on ‘Big Data’ Training Needs

To maximize utilization of the vast amounts of biomedical data and information that are being amassed, NIH has started to develop a series of activities grouped under its Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative. One of the efforts focuses on ways to train the workforce needed to manage, access, integrate and analyze large, complex datasets.

As a first step toward developing a set of recommendations, a BD2K working group has issued a request for information (RFI) on the short- and long-term training needs of individuals who work with biomedical data. The group is also seeking examples of programs or strategies to cross-train scientists at all career levels as well as comments on evaluating workforce skills and knowledge and developing a diverse research workforce. Your input, which should be submitted by March 15, 2013, will inform discussions during an upcoming BD2K planning workshop on training and education needs.

SBIR/STTR Program Changes

In late January, NIH issued the 2013 omnibus solicitations for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. As mandated and recently re-authorized by Congress, NIGMS and other NIH components have set aside funds for these programs focused on developing innovative technologies with commercial applications.

Starting with the April 5, 2013, receipt date, all applications must follow the instructions and guidelines in the 2013 solicitations. A few key changes are:

  1. The suggested guidelines for allowable budget requests are now $150,000 in total support for Phase I (R41/R43) and $1,000,000 in total support for Phase II (R42/R44). Note that total support includes the direct and indirect costs and fees for the entire length of the project. With appropriate justification, applicants may exceed the budget guidelines by up to 50 percent ($225,000 in total support for Phase I and $1,500,000 in total support for Phase II, a hard cap). NIH, including NIGMS, has received a limited waiver from the Small Business Administration to exceed the hard cap for specific topics.
  2. As in the past, NIH offers applicants for the SBIR and STTR programs access to various technical assistance programs to help move the funded projects toward commercialization. Alternatively, awardees may now directly request up to $5,000 to use for technical assistance of their own choosing.
  3. All applicant organizations must complete registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) Exit icon, Grants.gov Exit icon and eRA Commons. Soon, all small business concerns seeking SBIR or STTR funding will also need to register with the Small Business Administration Exit icon.

NIH plans to publish guidelines later this year to explain how small businesses with venture capital investors may use the SBIR and STTR funding mechanisms.

The NIH SBIR/STTR Web site has a wealth of information covering all aspects of the two programs, and additional updates will be posted there. I am happy to answer questions and discuss potential proposals with applicants. E-mail me at somerss@nigms.nih.gov or call 301-594-3827.

UPDATE: NIH has reissued the SBIR and STTR funding opportunity announcements. View comments section for details.