Dr. Peter Preusch

About Dr. Peter Preusch

Peter handles grants on the structural biology of nucleic acids, proteins, and their complexes, and computational studies of nucleic acid and protein interactions with ligands. An advocate for membrane protein structure determination efforts and a long-time leader in administering training programs—he currently manages the Medical Scientist Training Program, Peter also is chair of the NIGMS committee for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program.

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.

MIRA Program Continues with New FOA

UPDATE: The March 21 MIRA webinar slides and video have been posted.

We just issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the second year of our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. This FOA continues pilot testing of the MIRA concept with a small cohort of investigators. For this reason, the current FOA is for established investigators, although we’re working on plans to expand the program to allow all NIGMS-funded investigators to apply. Applications are due by May 20, 2016. The earliest start date is April 2017.

We have made a number of modifications to the FOA based on what we learned in the first round. In particular, we have clarified the text in a number of places to avoid confusion by applicants and their institutions. We have also broadened the MIRA eligibility window to include later R01 renewal dates to enable more investigators to apply and for more of them to have the possibility of submitting renewal applications for their R01s if their MIRA application is unsuccessful or if they choose to decline an award. Therefore, please read the new FOA carefully if you are considering applying for this opportunity.

We’ll hold a webinar on Monday, March 21, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. EDT to discuss this FOA, the status of the first group of awards and our future plans for the program. You’ll be able to access the webinar at https://face2face.nih.gov/anthony.eam/JGQLDQ9J and submit questions via the chat function.

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Clarifying the Due Date for MIRA Applications from New and Early Stage Investigators

The September 9 receipt date for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for New and Early Stage Investigators (R35) is just one week away! We recommend that applicants submit a few days early to give themselves time to check that their applications as received by NIH are complete and correct.

A few points of clarification about the deadline:

  • If you’re planning to submit an AIDS or AIDS-related application for the later receipt date of November 19, 2015, please contact me immediately to discuss whether the MIRA grant mechanism is appropriate. It may not be when only part of the research is AIDS-related.
  • The expiration date for the funding opportunity announcement is listed as November 20, 2015. This is not the receipt date. Do not be misled by this or any reference to a closing date on forms downloaded from Grants.gov.

MIRA Webinar, Other Resources for New and Early Stage Investigators

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, the MIRA webinar was not recorded. We have posted the slides on the MIRA Web page, where we’ll also post a summary of the webinar questions and answers.

NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch and I will field questions about the recently announced Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for New and Early Stage Investigators (R35) during a webinar on Tuesday, June 30, from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Participants will be able to submit questions using the chat feature. We’ll post the archived webinar and slides on the MIRA Web page.

The most common questions we’re getting about the new MIRA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) have concerned eligibility, so we created a new flowchart to help determine this. Another common question has related to research areas appropriate for support by a MIRA. These and other topics are covered in our answers to frequently asked questions about the second MIRA FOA.

If you have colleagues who may be eligible to apply but may not know about the FOA or may have questions about it, please share this post with them.

As with the first MIRA FOA, this competition is an experiment and is intentionally limited to a small group of eligible applicants. If the pilot is successful, we plan to issue future FOAs covering additional groups of investigators.

For more information about the MIRA program, e-mail me or call me at 301-594-0828.

MIRA Pilot Adds New and Early Stage Investigators

We have just expanded the pilot of our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to include new and early stage investigators. The application due date is September 9, and we request—but do not require—letters of intent by August 9.

MIRA supports investigators’ overall research programs through a single, unified grant rather than individual project grants. The goals include increasing investigators’ funding stability, ability to take on ambitious challenges and approach problems creatively, and flexibility to follow important new research directions as opportunities arise.

Awards will provide all of the support from NIGMS for research related to its mission in an investigator’s laboratory. [Editor’s note: Awards will be for 5 years, similar to the current average length of an NIGMS R01 award to new investigators.]

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MIRA Webinar and Other Resources

NIGMS MIRA WebinarNIGMS Director Jon Lorsch and I will field your questions about the recently announced Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) (R35) during a webinar on Thursday, Feb. 19, from 2-3 p.m. EST. You’ll be able to access the webinar at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/nigmsmira/. During the event, you can submit questions by calling 301-451-4301 or e-mailing me. You also can send questions to me ahead of time.

Since announcing this new funding opportunity, we’ve received many inquiries. The most common questions have concerned eligibility, so we created a flowchart to help you determine this. Our MIRA Answers to Frequently Asked Questions offer additional details about eligibility, the submission and review processes, award administration and other aspects of the program. The earliest start date is April 2016, not December 2016 as originally indicated in the funding opportunity announcement.

As stated in earlier posts, this first MIRA competition is an experiment and is intentionally limited to a small group of eligible applicants. If this pilot is successful, we plan to issue future funding opportunity announcements covering additional groups of investigators.

UPDATE: The Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) (R35) Web page also includes links to the MIRA webinar and slides, MIRA-specific instructions for listing current and pending support, and a sample NIH biosketch.

MIRA Program Launches with First FOA

We have just issued the first funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in the pilot of our new Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. The development of this program was greatly informed by responses to our request for information, which I summarized in a previous Feedback Loop post.

The goal of this FOA is to test the MIRA concept under well-controlled conditions with a small group of investigators. We’re initially targeting established investigators who have received two or more R01-equivalent awards or a single award of $400,000 or more in direct costs from NIGMS in Fiscal Year 2013 or 2014, and who have at least one grant expected to end in Fiscal Year 2016 or 2017. We think that this approach will help these investigators transition smoothly from their current grants to MIRA support. In the future, we plan to issue MIRA FOAs for additional groups of investigators, and if the pilot is successful we will open the program to any investigator working on research questions related to the mission of NIGMS.

If you’re eligible for this FOA and on the fence about applying, consider that MIRA awards:

  • Will be for 5 years instead of the current NIGMS average of 4 years,
  • Will continue support for other research currently funded by NIGMS without requiring a separate renewal application,
  • Will provide flexibility to pursue new ideas and opportunities as they arise,
  • Will increase funding stability, and
  • Will reduce time spent managing multiple grant awards and writing grant applications.

We’ll post additional information, including answers to frequently asked questions, on the NIGMS MIRA Web page.

NOTE: The FOA lists the earliest award date as December 2016. This is an error. The earliest award date is actually April 2016.

Update on Proposed Pilot to Support NIGMS Investigators’ Overall Research Programs

NIGMS Advisory Council meetingAt last week’s Advisory Council meeting, I presented a report on the comments we received in response to our request for information (RFI) on a potential new program for research funding.

As described in the blog post announcing the RFI, the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program would provide a single award in support of all of the projects in an investigator’s lab that are relevant to the NIGMS mission. A MIRA would be longer and larger than the current average NIGMS R01 award.

We received more than 290 responses through the official RFI comment site. We heard from individual investigators as well as several scientific organizations. Most of the responses were positive, and both established and early stage investigators indicated that they were very likely to apply.

The respondents identified the most valuable aspects of the proposed program as:

  • Increased flexibility to follow new research directions as opportunities and ideas arise,
  • Savings of time and effort currently spent on writing and reviewing applications, and
  • Enhanced stability of research support.

However, some responses expressed concerns, which we are taking into consideration. Despite the intention of the program to optimize the distribution of NIGMS resources, some respondents thought that it could lead to funds becoming concentrated in fewer labs at the most elite institutions. This was in part a reflection of the phased implementation plan, which would focus initially on investigators with more than one NIGMS grant. Respondents urged NIGMS to broaden the eligibility criteria as quickly as possible following the initial pilot phase. Other concerns that were raised related to peer review and program evaluation.

For more about the RFI results, including a breakdown of responses by question, watch my presentation, which begins at 2:18 on the archived videocast.

The Advisory Council discussed the MIRA proposal and then approved plans to proceed with developing the program. We plan to issue a funding opportunity announcement in early 2015, with the first awards being made in Fiscal Year 2016. We intend to evaluate the MIRA program and if it is successful, will broaden it.

Attend or Watch Online: Medical Scientist Training Program 50th Anniversary Symposium

NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) 50th anniversary symposiumThis year is the 50th anniversary of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which supports research training leading to the combined M.D.-Ph.D. (or other dual) degree. Starting with only three institutions and a handful of supported students, the program has grown to 45 institutions and more than 900 trainees per year.

We’re marking this milestone year with a symposium on Thursday, July 17, from 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The event will feature remarks by NIH Director Francis Collins and Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell Kirch as well as talks by seven current and former MSTP trainees.

Although the symposium is free, we would like participants to register to attend. If you can’t join us in person, you can watch the event live online.

Plans for a scholarly article highlighting the history of the MSTP are under way. If you have comments, anecdotes, historical data, photos or other relevant images, please let us know by writing a note in the comments box on the meeting registration site or by sending me an e-mail message.

NIGMS Glue Grant Assessment Report

Last November, I announced that NIGMS was conducting an assessment of its Large-Scale Collaborative Project Awards (glue grant) program and solicited your input.

We have now posted the report of this assessment, which is based on an analysis of input from six different sources, including comments we received from the scientific community.

The assessment’s conclusion is that the glue grant program has had mixed results. All of the projects accomplished some of their goals, and some of the projects had a substantial impact in their fields. However, the assessment also found that the program as a whole had not achieved outcomes commensurate with the scope of the awards and the overall investment in them.

The panel members felt that “the successes and challenges of the Glue Grant Awards Program provide a useful guide for the development of future programs.” While they recommended discontinuing the program as it currently exists, they did not recommend abandoning all support for collaborative research, even in the face of tighter budgets. Rather, they suggested a number of ways to improve support for larger-scale projects and indicated that these projects cannot be accomplished with R01 grant support alone.

Last week, I presented the outcomes of the assessment to our Advisory Council, which embraced the recommendations of the assessment panel and encouraged NIGMS to develop alternative mechanisms to support the varied accomplishments that were supported through the glue grant program. We will take the report and Council’s advice into consideration as we develop future plans for funding collaborative research.