First Awards Issued in MIRA Pilot Program

We have begun making grant awards resulting from responses to RFA-GM-16-002 (R35), the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) pilot program. Out of the 179 applications we received, we have so far authorized 123 awards. The median yearly direct costs for these grants is $399,842, and the mean is $405,884. For comparison, the median yearly direct costs for an NIGMS R01 in Fiscal Year 2015 was $210,000, and the mean was $237,254.  On average, the budgets of these MIRAs to established investigators were reduced by 12% relative to the investigators’ recent NIGMS funding history. As described in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA), the budget reductions were in exchange for the benefits of the program: a 5-year award instead of the standard 4-year one, increased flexibility to follow new research directions, increased funding stability and decreased administrative burden. We will use the funds freed up through this trade-off to support other investigators and improve the distribution of NIGMS funding. It will take time for the full benefits of the program to individual investigators and the research community to become clear.

You can find more information about these awards on NIH RePORTER by entering RFA-GM-16-002 in the FOA field; however, the record of funded grants will not be complete until the end of Fiscal Year 2016. Because merging an investigator’s previous funding into a single award presents a variety of complications, in some cases the first-year budget of the MIRA is lower than the eventual funding level will be. This is frequently the case when the principal investigator (PI) was part of multi-PI grants that will be allowed to end before all NIGMS funding for the investigator is put on the MIRA or when the PI had already received funds from NIGMS in the current fiscal year.

We will begin making awards for the new and early stage investigators MIRA (RFA-GM-16-003) after the May 19-20 meeting of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council.

You can find additional information about the program on our MIRA web page.

5 comments on “First Awards Issued in MIRA Pilot Program

  1. The problem isn’t that a few investigators have more than 1 R01. It is that many of the institutions with the highest numbers of funded investigators have the highest overheads (in excess of 90%). Slash those down to a flat, universal 50% (or lower) and the funding rates will increase substantially.

    • A full analysis of all MIRA awards, including gender/demographic data, will be posted at the end of the fiscal year after all awards have been made.

      • Meanwhile, a search of NIH RePORTER provides some interesting information on the distribution of the 75 MIRA awards listed so far (“states” includes DC and PR):

        • Nearly half of all MIRA awards were allocated to 3 states.
        • About half of all MIRA dollars were allocated to 3 states.
        • About half of all MIRA awards were allocated to 17 institutions.
        • About half of all MIRA dollars were allocated to 14 institutions.

        Looking at the data another way:

        • About 84% of MIRA awards were allocated to one quarter of the states.
        • About 87% of MIRA dollars were allocated to one quarter of the states.

        MIRA funding is (so far) highly concentrated in a minority of institutions and states. This validates concerns raised by Joseph Haywood, President of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, in an open letter to Jon Lorsch, Director of the NIGMS.

        The fact that three quarters of the states have received—in aggregate—only about 13% of MIRA dollars serves as a clarion call that there are major flaws in the way that MIRA awards are being allocated.

        Looking forward, the NIGMS should establish a more equitable distribution of MIRA awards that reflects, and takes advantage of, the scientific talent and capacity found throughout the United States.

        • The data in NIH RePORTER are not yet complete. Once all the awards are reflected (following the end of the fiscal year on September 30), we can provide a full accounting of the MIRA program. As you may remember, this was a pilot with a limited pool of eligible applicants to test the mechanism, so the applicant and award distributions are not reflective of those of NIGMS as a whole. We are working on plans to expand the MIRA program to allow all NIGMS-funded investigators to apply.

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