National Centers for Systems Biology Funding Opportunity

You may be interested in the following funding opportunity announcement:

NIGMS National Centers for Systems Biology (P50)

Purpose: Promote pioneering research, research training, education and outreach programs focused on systems-level inquiries of biomedical phenomena within the NIGMS mission
Letter of intent due dates: September 23, 2012; September 23, 2013; September 23, 2014
Application due dates: October 23, 2012; October 23, 2013; October 23, 2014
NIGMS contacts: Paul Brazhnik and Peter Lyster, 301-451-6446

Explaining the 4-Year Duration of Most Research Project Grants

NIGMS program directors are often asked why most of our grants are made for 4 years. We’ve just posted this brief explanation on our Web site:

NIH is required by Congressional mandate to keep the average research project grant (RPG) length to 4 years. Since NIGMS primarily uses the R01 mechanism for RPGs and participates in few short-term mechanisms (such as the R21), it limits most R01 awards to 4 years.

NIGMS does award some grants for 5 years, including research program projects and centers. The Institute also funds 5-year R01s to most new and early stage investigators to provide extra time for getting their projects under way.

The limitation on the average length of RPGs has been in effect at NIH for more than 10 years, and it helps ensure that funds are available to support new competing awards.

What does it mean for you? Keep applying for project periods that are adequate for the proposed work and are for a maximum of 5 years. But be aware that unless you fall under the exceptions mentioned above, your award will most likely be limited to 4 years of funding.

Save the Date for a Special Symposium

NIGMS 50th Anniversary Scientific Symposium“Investigate, Innovate, Inspire” is the theme of a special scientific symposium marking our 50th anniversary.  The event will be held at NIH on Wednesday, October 17, starting at 1:00 p.m.

Please join us in person or by videocast to hear these speakers talk about their NIGMS-supported research, how they recognize and develop exciting ideas, and how they train and mentor the next generation of biomedical scientists:

Carlos Daniel Bustamante, Ph.D. Exit icon
Professor of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology and Statistical Sciences and Associate Director, Center for Population and Comparative Genomics
Stanford University

“Population Genetics in the Personal Genome Era: Genomics for the World”

Kathleen Giacomini, Ph.D. Exit icon
Professor of Biopharmaceutical Sciences, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology and Co-chair, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences
University of California, San Francisco

“Shifting Paradigms for Pharmacologic Research”

Timothy Mitchison, Ph.D. Exit icon
Hassib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology and Deputy Chair of Systems Biology
Harvard Medical School

“Microtubules: From Basic Biology to Cancer Drugs and Back Again”

The symposium, part of the DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Lecture series we started on our 20th anniversary, will also feature student poster presentations selected in competitions at a number of scientific meetings.

For more information about the event, e-mail me or Janna Wehrle.

Guidance for Implementing NIGMS’ Training Strategic Plan

Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research TrainingEarlier this year, we issued a Blueprint for Implementation of our Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training. Since then, we’ve developed guidance to help the academic community implement the plan. This includes several short documents on the topics below:

All the links above are available on our Optimizing the Research Training Partnership page, which also includes links to these two statements of NIGMS principles:

As always, we welcome your input and comments—on these particular documents as well as on research training in general. We particularly encourage you to share suggestions based on your own training experiences. Send your comments to me or post a comment on the Feedback Loop to share them with other readers.

Biomedical Technology Resources for the Research Community

Roughly two-thirds of the biomedical technology research and development programs formerly in the National Center for Research Resources are now part of NIGMS. Housed in the Biomedical Technology Branch of our Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology, the programs meet the needs of biomedical researchers by supporting cutting-edge research and development activities through a variety of award mechanisms.

In this post, I will focus on the Biomedical Technology Research Centers (BTRC) program, which supports the development and advancement of technologies needed to address today’s compelling biomedical research questions.

Find a BTRC:


The 65 national resource centers—34 are funded by NIGMS and 31 by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering—are available to scientists doing basic, translational and clinical biomedical research, providing them access to instruments, methods, software, expertise and hands-on training. With priority given to NIH-funded investigators, scientists have the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with experts at the centers to:

  • Adapt BTRC tools to further the specific aims of their projects.
  • Contribute to the generation of pioneering technologies that can open up new research paths.

The BTRC program has been developing and providing access to state-of-the-art resources for 50 years, and it is directly responsible for such milestone innovations as:

  • The introduction of the computer into the laboratory setting.
  • The evolution of magnetic spin resonance from an observed scientific phenomenon to an analytical research tool to a clinical imaging technique.
  • The development of technologies for harnessing synchrotron radiation for biomedical research.
  • The creation of informatics approaches that allow for secure access to and sharing of huge volumes of dissimilar data.

At the half-century mark, the BTRC program remains vital and responsive to the scientific community. Ongoing centers continue to evolve and create innovative technologies, while new centers form as needs emerge.

We encourage you to take advantage of these valuable research resources. For more information about the NIGMS-funded BTRCs or other biomedical technology programs, please feel free to call 301-435-0755 or e-mail one of the following program directors:

Introducing the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program

As Judith Greenberg reported earlier this year, NIH has moved the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program to NIGMS from the now-dissolved National Center for Research Resources. For those who may not be familiar with this program, here’s an overview.

Established by Congressional mandate in 1993, the IDeA program’s goal is to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding. It supports faculty development and institutional research infrastructure enhancement in states that have historically received low levels of support from NIH. In addition to enhancing the competitiveness of investigators and the research capacities of institutions in these 23 states plus Puerto Rico, the program serves their unique populations, such as rural and medically underserved communities.

The IDeA program has two main components:

The IDeA program currently supports 87 COBREs and 24 INBREs.

An example of how the IDeA program has built competitive research capacity is the Rhode Island INBRE. Over the past 10 years of support, Rhode Island IDeA investigators have received 21 R- and K-series awards from NIH and 28 awards from NSF and other funding agencies.

Similarly, investigators at the Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology Exit icon, a COBRE based at the University of New Mexico that has been supported for 8 years, submitted 20 grant applications to federal and non-federal agencies in the past year, 10 of which were funded.

Funding Opportunity for Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH)

You may be interested in the following funding opportunity announcement:

Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH)

Purpose: Support partnerships between American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities and research-intensive institutions to conduct research and research training to meet the needs of AI/AN communities
Letter of intent due date: June 10, 2012
Application due date: July 10, 2012
NIGMS contact: Sheila Caldwell, 301-435-0760

National Big Data Initiative: First Funding Opportunity Is for Core Techniques and Technologies

You may have seen the announcement from the Office of Science and Technology Policy on the new National Big Data Research and Development Initiative. We hope you did!

This initiative is the result of a year-long, interagency effort to identify challenges and goals in extracting the most information and value from massive data sets. As co-chair of the initiative’s senior steering committee, I’m particularly excited about the potential of this collaboration to speed biomedical discoveries and innovations as well as to create educational and infrastructure resources. These are all areas that will benefit from the initiative’s first funding opportunity: Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering (BIGDATA) Exit icon.

This solicitation, issued jointly by the National Science Foundation and NIH, aims to accelerate improvements in scientific and technological approaches for managing, analyzing, visualizing and extracting useful information from large, diverse, distributed and heterogeneous data sets. Specifically, it will support the development and evaluation of technologies, tools and practices for data collection and management, data analytics and/or e-science collaborations.

BIGDATA will be administered by NSF, with NIH participating as a partner in the review process and selection of applications. Note that there are two different project options, each with different application deadlines: “Mid-scale” proposals of up to $1 million total costs per year for 5 years are due June 13, 2012; and “small-project” proposals of up to $250,000 total costs per year for up to 3 years are due July 11, 2012.

If you have an idea that may fit within the goals of this program, please see the frequently asked questions Exit icon and/or contact one of the program officers listed in the solicitation. You might also consider attending a webinar at 11 a.m. EDT on May 8 that NSF and NIH are hosting to help potential applicants better understand the scope of the solicitation. You can register and submit questions in advance.

The broader initiative will ultimately include several other interagency programs to complement the core techniques and technologies solicitation, touching on domain-specific science challenges, workforce development and community challenges. So stay tuned for more funding opportunities in this arena!