Last Submission Deadline for Collaborative Science Supplements

NIGMS grantees have one final opportunity to introduce new collaborations into their ongoing research projects through the Supplements for Collaborative Science (SCS) program. The submission deadline in response to NOT-GM-11-105 is May15, 2014. Investigators can request supplements of up to $90,000 per year in direct costs for two collaborating labs or up to $135,000 per year for three collaborating labs.

The proposed research must be within the original scope of the project and should propose approaches not used previously by the principal investigator. All collaborators should be able to make significant intellectual contributions, and we especially encourage proposals that involve less commonly combined areas of expertise.

To be eligible, an NIGMS parent R01 or R37 award must be actively funded through November 30, 2015. Proposals may request support to cover a period up to the end of the parent project. The application now requires that collaborating investigators provide a letter of commitment and “other support” page countersigned by their institutional official. Send any additional questions to me at andersonve@nigms.nih.gov or to Sue Haynes at hayness@nigms.nih.gov.

The SCS program is very competitive, so if you are interested in submitting an application, we recommend that you first discuss your potential proposal—and its new and novel aspects—with the program director of your grant.

Final Funding Opportunity Announcement for “Genomes to Natural Products” Research

Natural products are a prolific source of therapeutic drugs because they have been selected through evolution to be biologically active. New opportunities for natural products development made possible by genomic discoveries are poised to rapidly expand the utility of this critically important resource.

To further stimulate studies in this area, we have just issued the final funding opportunity announcement for Genomes to Natural Products (U01) research. Applications are due by June 10, 2014.

We’re looking for multidisciplinary teams of experts in natural products, synthetic biology, bioinformatics, genomics and analytical chemistry to develop high-throughput natural products discovery platforms based on a synthetic biology approach that leverages genomics and metagenomics data. The goal is to deliver broadly applicable, context-independent (i.e., independent of organism and/or natural products class) and game-changing tools, methods and resources in natural products discovery. The funded research also should lead to a deeper understanding of the regulation of natural products biosynthesis.

In addition to talking with potential collaborators, I encourage you to discuss your application with me.

Biomedical Technology Research Resources: Funding and Access Opportunities

Our Biomedical Technology Research Resources (BTRRs)—until recently known as Biomedical Technology Research Centers—develop and disseminate cutting-edge technologies and methods that allow scientists nationwide to advance their projects beyond the levels that could be attained using commonly available laboratory resources.

If you’re a researcher who works collaboratively to create and integrate potentially transformative biomedical technologies and are interested in providing service and training to the scientific community, you may want to apply for a BTRR grant. The first step is to submit your concept in a pre-application. Feedback from its review can help you decide whether to submit a full application.

If you’re a biomedical researcher with a project in need of technology resources, you may be able to access them at an existing BTRR. The Biomedical Technology Resources Portal Exit icon includes descriptions of the available resources Exit icon, including those funded through NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and instructions for accessing them Exit icon.

Before granting use of its technologies (whether remotely or in-person), the BTRR will evaluate your research project for demonstrated need as well as the level of engagement and assistance that would be required of resource staff. It’s also possible that, if your project has potential for advancing a newly emerging technology, you’ll be able to collaborate with BTRR investigators as they develop it. This close collaboration benefits your research and also furthers innovation at the BTRR.

For more details about the BTRR program, please contact me or Doug Sheeley.

Bolstering Our Commitment to Investigator-Initiated Research

As part of an ongoing examination of our grant portfolio to ensure that we invest taxpayer money as effectively and efficiently as possible, we recently analyzed changes over time in the distribution of investigator-initiated research compared to research funded through targeted funding opportunity announcements (FOAs).

Changes over time in NIGMS investments in investigator-initiated research (research grant funds not associated with targeted FOAs) (right axis) and research funded through targeted FOAs (left axis). The analysis does not include fellowship, career development and training awards; programs transferred to NIGMS from the former National Center for Research Resources; and some other programs. For more details about the analysis, which was performed by Jim Deatherage, chief of our Cell Biology Branch, see the NIGMS Funding Trends Web page.

The figure shows that in the early 1990s, 99% of NIGMS’ grant budget supported investigator-initiated research, compared to 80% today. During the budget doubling in Fiscal Years 1998-2003, the Institute’s investment in research funded through targeted FOAs increased dramatically, then continued to increase at a slower rate during Fiscal Years 2004-2009.

As I discussed in a previous post about our large-scale research initiatives and centers, there were many good reasons for using FOAs to target specific areas of research with some of the funds made available by the budget doubling. For example, FOAs allowed the Institute to experiment with catalyzing the development of such new and emerging fields as structural genomics, pharmacogenomics and systems biology.

Since the budget doubling ended, however, maintaining steady support for our targeted research portfolio has made it difficult to maintain steady support for investigator-initiated research project grants (RPGs). Partly as a result, the success rate for RPGs (the number of funded RPGs divided by the number of RPG applications) fell below 20% in Fiscal Year 2013. Although a number of factors have contributed to the declining success rate, a significant one is that targeted and investigator-initiated research grants compete directly with each other. To bolster the success rate, we need to decrease our commitment to targeted FOAs. Furthermore, because none of us knows where the next major advances will arise, the soundest investment strategy is to have a distributed portfolio in which researchers investigate a wide range of scientific questions. History strongly suggests that letting scientists “follow their noses”—which involves a combination of curiosity, expertise, creativity and serendipity—is the most productive route to findings that will eventually translate into medical and technological breakthroughs.

To rebalance our portfolio in order to renew and reinvigorate our commitment to investigator-initiated research, we will be reducing our use of targeted FOAs, generally reserving them for cases in which they are likely to have a major impact on a large segment of the biomedical research enterprise. These cases could include promoting the rapid development of accessible, cost-effective new technologies that enable major advances in understanding biological systems; more efficiently organizing the Nation’s basic biomedical research resources to provide scientists throughout the country access to high-end instrumentation and technical expertise; and, in some instances, using targeted FOAs with defined lifetimes to catalyze the rapid development of emerging research areas.

It is important to note that we are making a distinction between investigator-initiated research and targeted research, not between investigator-initiated research and team science. We strongly support team science, which can certainly be investigator-initiated, and we expect such collaborative efforts to increase as research probes more deeply into the complexities of living systems. Currently, team-based, investigator-initiated research can be funded through multi-PI R01s and can also occur through groups of individually funded PIs working together. In special cases, program project grants (P01s) may be appropriate, particularly for long-term, interdisciplinary collaborations that require dedicated core facilities. As we move forward with our strategic planning process, we will be exploring additional ways to support investigator-initiated team science. I invite you to send us ideas you have for how best to do this.

Scientific Workforce Diversity Awards, Collaborative Science Supplements

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grant (T34)
(PAR-13-205)

Purpose: Increase the number of well-prepared underrepresented (UR) students who, within 3 years of graduation, matriculate into competitive/research active Ph.D. or combined M.D.-Ph.D. programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, go on to research careers and participate in NIH-funded research
Application due dates: June 24, 2013; June 24, 2014; June 24, 2015
NIGMS contact: Shawn Gaillard, 301-594-3900

Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) (R25)
(PAR-13-196)

Purpose: Develop new or expand existing effective institutional developmental programs designed to academically and scientifically prepare underrepresented students for Ph.D. degrees in the biomedical and behavioral sciences
Application due date: June 20, 2013
NIGMS contact: Robin S. Broughton, 301-594-3900

Reminder: The application due date for Supplements for Collaborative Science is May 15. For details, see this related Feedback Loop post.

Genomes to Natural Products RFA

Last September, I described a concept clearance for an initiative to develop new approaches in natural products discovery that had just been approved by the NIGMS Advisory Council. The resulting request for applications on Genomes to Natural Products (U01) has now been published in the NIH Guide.

NIGMS, along with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), will support multidisciplinary research to develop high-throughput, broadly applicable approaches to natural products discovery that integrate genomics, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. We anticipate that up to four awards will be made through the cooperative agreement mechanism, totaling up to $9 million in Fiscal Year 2014. For NCCAM-specific interest areas and application requirements, see NOT-AT-13-005.

Applications are due by July 17. Potential applicants are invited to participate in an optional online Q&A session on April 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. Access this event at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/rfa-gnpn/ and sign in as a “guest” to be able to submit questions.

Letters of intent are not needed, but depending on which funding component’s areas of interest are more relevant to the proposal, I strongly recommend that potential applicants e-mail me or my counterpart at NCCAM, Craig Hopp to discuss submission plans.

How to Use RePORTER When Preparing New Grant Applications

NIH offers two tools that can help you search for projects similar to the one you’re thinking about. In this post, I’ll take you on a quick tour of the NIH RePORTER tool, a repository of information about NIH-funded research projects, and show you how to find information that may be useful to know before you start writing a grant application. A future Feedback Loop post will cover the thesaurus-based search tool called Like This.

Main Query Form

From RePORTER’s Main Query Form, you can search by principal investigator name, project number, organization, text term(s) and many other criteria.

If you want to know which NIH institutes or centers fund projects like yours, or which study section would be most appropriate to review your application, then searching by text term(s) would probably be the best approach.

To find projects in a particular research area, you may start with the “Advanced” text query option, which allows for complex queries using the Boolean operators “and,” “or,” and “not” along with parentheses for nesting phrases. The example below searches for projects on telomeres and their relationship to cancer using wildcards (%) and synonyms to encompass variations such as telomere, telomerase, neoplasm, neoplastic, etc.

Text search box

TIP: One way to limit the number of search results is to use the Funding Mechanism field on the Main Query Form to select the mechanism(s) most relevant to your particular search (e.g., “Research Project Grants” or “Training, Individual”). If you already have a funding mechanism in mind, you can type R01, R21, F33, etc., into that part of the Project Number field.

Once you have entered your search and submitted the query, you’ll get a Project Search Results page, which displays the grant number, project title, principal investigator’s name and organization, NIH funding institute or center, and fiscal year total cost.

Project Information Details Page

To get specific information about a particular project listed on the Project Search Results page, click on its Project number (e.g., GM066228). You’ll get the Project Information Details page that lists the grant’s program official with contact information, the study section that reviewed the application, and the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to which the application responded.

By viewing the details of projects most relevant to yours, you can begin to get a sense of which program director(s) to contact to discuss your potential application, which study sections review applications like yours, and whether applications in this area typically respond to a parent FOA or a special initiative.

Other Project Information Page Tabs

From the Project Information Details page, you can use the tabs near the top to get to pages with other information relevant to your search. For example, the Description tab takes you to the grant abstract. Reading these can help you become familiar with other funded projects in your interest area and help you identify and highlight what’s unique about your proposal. The Similar Projects and Nearby Projects tabs offer additional ways to find grants related to your search term and to find potential collaborators.

TIP: To refine your original search term on the Main Query Form, use the results from the Similar Projects tab to identify alternative phrases in project titles and abstracts that can increase the effectiveness of your text search.

Data & Visualize Tab

Another feature, available from the Project Search Results page, is a tab called Data & Visualize. This provides a graph of the NIH institutes or centers that administer research in that area and their levels of support. The table next to the bar chart lets you drill down to see projects by funding component.

Data and visualize graph

Comments Welcome

I hope this sampling has introduced you to some useful ways of exploring the NIH-funded research portfolio. We continue to make RePORTER faster, easier to use, and more informative, and we welcome your comments and suggestions, including topics for other RePORTER tutorials. Send them to RePORT@mail.nih.gov or directly to me at onkenj@od.nih.gov.

2013 Submission Deadlines for Collaborative Science Supplements

Collaborations are an ideal way to enhance a research project by introducing new approaches and complementary expertise. To support collaborative efforts by NIGMS grantees, we’re continuing our Supplements for Collaborative Science (SCS) program with two submission deadlines in 2013: January 15 and May 15. Investigators can request supplements of up to $90,000 per year in direct costs for two collaborating labs or up to $135,000 per year for three collaborating labs.

To be eligible, an NIGMS parent R01 or R37 award must be actively funded through July 31, 2014, for the January deadline and through November 30, 2014, for the May deadline. Proposals may request support to cover a period up to the end of the parent project.

The proposed research must be within the original scope of the project and should propose approaches not used previously by the principal investigator. All collaborators should be able to make significant intellectual contributions, and we especially encourage proposals that involve less commonly combined areas of expertise.

One new aspect of the submission process is the requirement that the collaborating investigators provide a letter of commitment and “other support” page countersigned by their institutional official. For more details, see the funding opportunity announcement. Send any additional questions to me at andersonve@nigms.nih.gov or to Sue Haynes at hayness@nigms.nih.gov.

The SCS program is very competitive, so if you are interested in submitting an application, we recommend that you first discuss your potential proposal—and its new and novel aspects—with your program director.

Early Notice: Genomes to Natural Products FOA

Natural products have been a prolific source of therapeutic drugs because they have been selected through evolution to be biologically active.  New opportunities for natural products development are being made by genomic discoveries and are poised to reinvigorate this critically important area.

At its September meeting, the NIGMS Advisory Council approved a new initiative that will use the cooperative agreement (U01) mechanism to support collaborative and multidisciplinary research aimed at developing high-throughput, broadly applicable approaches for natural products discovery that integrate genomics, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. Research under this initiative will provide the scientific community with tools and knowledge for inferring the basic structure of natural products and for producing natural products, regardless of whether the source is cultivable or the biosynthetic operon is expressed in cultures.

We expect the funding opportunity announcement to be published in the NIH Guide early in 2013. In the meantime, I encourage you to start talking with potential collaborators and thinking about applying.

For more on the current challenges of natural products discovery, read a Nature Chemistry article Exit icon written by NIGMS Advisory Council member Scott Miller of Yale University and Jon Clardy of Harvard Medical School that summarizes discussions during our 2009 Natural Products and Biomedical Science symposium.

IDeA Program Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research

As I discussed in an earlier post, the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program supports the development of infrastructure and capacity to enable investigators in IDeA-eligible states to become more competitive for NIH and other biomedical research funding opportunities.

While the program has led to significant progress in the basic sciences, clinical and translational research in IDeA states has, for the most part, remained underdeveloped. To spur greater clinical and translational research in these states, NIH issued the IDeA Program Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR) funding opportunity announcement last year.

We have just awarded the first grants, to the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute Exit icon (lead institution: West Virginia University) and the Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science Center Exit icon (lead institution: Louisiana State University Pennington Biomedical Research Center).

Among the activities these centers will pursue are partnerships and collaborations within and across IDeA states; clinical and translational pilot grants; clinical research education, mentoring and career development; clinical research design, epidemiology and biostatistics; and projects related to the specific health and research needs of their states.

For more information on the IDeA-CTR initiative, please contact me by
e-mail or call 301-435-0832.