Major Research Project Grant Types That NIGMS Supports and Where to Apply

This post is part of a series outlining NIGMS research priorities, funding opportunities, and the grant application process. You can read more posts in this series and sign up to receive all future posts delivered straight to your inbox.

The first post in this series introduced our Institute’s research priorities. This post outlines the major types of research project grants that NIGMS supports and where to find notices of funding opportunities (NOFOs) to which you can apply.

Most NIGMS-supported research receives funding from four award types: the Institute’s R35 program, the R16 SuRE program, the AREA R15, and NIH R01 grants. NIGMS also uses the R21 activity code only in specific cases, such as our technology development program (which includes both R21 and NIH R01 grants). We summarize these programs in this post, but be sure to check the appropriate NOFO, as each one includes detailed organization and principal investigator (PI) eligibility information. You can also consult the NIGMS interactive decision tree Which Research Grant Is Right for Me? for more information.  Applicants must meet all eligibility criteria to qualify. The NIH grants and funding webpage is NIH’s official publication and includes all the NOFOs for these awards. 

Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA; R35)

The MIRA program provides support for research within the NIGMS mission in the laboratories of investigators at domestic/U.S. institutions. Within the scope of MIRA, investigators have the freedom to explore new avenues of inquiry that arise during the course of their research, as long as they remain within NIGMS’ mission. There are two types of MIRA grants that have distinct NOFOs: one for early stage investigators and one for established and new investigators. You can read more about the application requirements for each on the MIRA program webpage.

Support for Research Excellence (SuRE; R16)

The SuRE program supports research capacity building at eligible higher education institutions through funding investigator-initiated research in the biomed​ical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences that falls in the NIH mission areas. There are two active NOFOs: SuRE research awards and SuRE-First research awards.

Eligible institutions must meet the following requirements:

  • Award undergraduate (B.S. or B.A.) and/or graduate degrees in biomedical sciences
  • At the time of the application, have received no more than $6 million per year (total costs) from NIH research project grants in each of the preceding 2 fiscal years
  • Enroll at least 25% of undergraduate students supported by Pell grants based on the most recent 2 years of data, or be an accredited medical/health professional school with a historical mission statement that explicitly states that it was founded to educate students from nationally underrepresented backgrounds

Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA; R15)

The AREA program supports small-scale research projects at domestic educational institutions that have not been major recipients of NIH support. Eligible applicants may request support for up to a total of $300,000 in direct costs for up to 3 years.

Eligible institutions or components cannot have received support from NIH totaling more than $6 million per year in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years (more information including some exceptions on this webpage), and the PI may not be the PI of an active NIH research grant at time of award.

Note that NIGMS does not participate in the related Research Enhancement Award Program for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools.

NIH Research Project Grant (R01)

The NIH Research Project Grant is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism that NIH uses. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the NIH mission.

NIGMS supports research relevant to our mission. R01 grants are generally for discrete, specified, circumscribed projects representing an investigator’s specific interest and competencies. They’re awarded for 4 to 5 years, and NIGMS modular budget direct costs average $200,000. Most NIGMS R01 awards are to investigator-initiated applications rather than a specific request for applications. 

In Summary

Visit the links throughout this post for additional information on each of the major research project grant types NIGMS supports. And read the relevant NOFO carefully before deciding which opportunity may be the right one for you. Check and doublecheck all instructions as you prepare your application and before submitting. Ask colleagues and mentors to read your application to catch anything you’ve missed.

If you submit earlier than the official due date, you can also withdraw and resubmit an updated application as necessary—another reason to start preparing early.

Finally, keeping up to date with the NIH Guide is crucial to identifying funding opportunities you may want to apply for. The simplest way to do that is to subscribe to the weekly table of contents. You’ll get an email each Friday listing all the new NOFOs and notices that NIH has published that week.

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