Does your application fit the scientific mission of NIGMS?

Prospective applicants frequently ask us whether their application ideas fit within our mission. NIGMS supports basic research that increases our understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We also support research in some specific clinical areas that affect multiple organ systems, including anesthesia, sepsis, wound healing, and trauma. In addition, we’re committed to training the next generation of scientists, enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and developing research capacity throughout the country.

Not all applications for fundamental biomedical research projects will ultimately be assigned to NIGMS.  Other NIH institutes and centers (ICs) also have strong commitments to basic research that underlie an understanding of their own particular organ systems, diseases, or treatments. Each NIH IC is different and supports distinct research areas, so it’s wise to seek advice from the program where your science best fits. Before submitting an application to NIGMS, we strongly recommend that you contact the program director whose portfolio most closely matches your area of research.

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NIGMS-Managed HIV/AIDS Research Transitioning to NIAID

For the past few months, NIGMS has been reviewing its HIV/AIDS grant portfolio. As the HIV/AIDS field has matured and the necessary research directions have become clearer, the HIV/AIDS-related grants we’ve supported have, appropriately, become more narrowly focused. Because of this, and after close consultation with leadership at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), we’ve concluded that it’s in the best interest of the research to transition NIGMS’ HIV/AIDS portfolio to NIAID to allow improved scientific coordination, prioritization, and efficiency of management.

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Change in NIGMS Phone System

UPDATE: If you are looking for the program director of a specific NIGMS research portfolio, please see our Contacts by Research Area page.

Like most organizations, NIGMS has been modernizing many of its systems. One recent change is our phone system. To increase efficiency and to enable our support staff to handle higher-level responsibilities, we want you to know that the best way to now reach a program director or scientific review administrator is to send him or her an email. If you want the person to call you back, please provide your contact information and grant or application number. If you don’t know the email address of the NIGMS staff member, it can be found easily by entering the name in our Staff Directory. This directory also provides direct phone numbers of each staff member where you can leave a voicemail message.

The NIGMS website provides information that you may find helpful in determining the staff member you want to contact. If you are still uncertain about whom to contact, you may call the main NIGMS phone number (301-496-7301) and leave a message.

NIGMS’ program staff are, as always, interested in hearing from you, answering your questions, and addressing your concerns.

Planning for Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) Renewals

As we work on issuing a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the established investigator (EI) MIRA program, we thought it would be useful to address a few common questions we’ve been hearing. The new FOA will allow applications from NIGMS grantees who have one or more single-Principal Investigator (PI) R01-equivalent awards, just as the current FOA does. In addition, the new FOA (to be published by Fall 2019) will allow renewal applications from PIs who already have MIRA grants.

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Update on NIH’s Efforts to Address Sexual Harassment in Science

I’d like to draw your attention to a very important statement issued yesterday outlining actions NIH is taking to address the issue of sexual harassment in science. The full statement is also available below. For additional information, please visit NIH’s webpage: Anti-Sexual Harassment: for NIH Awardee Organizations and Those Who Work There.

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NIH Statement: Changing the Culture of Science to End Sexual Harassment

Last week, NIH Director Francis S. Collins issued a statement about the pervasive problem of sexual harassment in science and reaffirmed NIH’s commitment to address it. He noted that NIH is working to bolster its policies and practices to foster a culture of respect wherever NIH research activities are conducted, and to ensure that sexual harassment is not tolerated or ignored.

NIH has launched a new website on anti-sexual harassment activities. I encourage you to explore the site and become familiar with NIH’s policies, practices, and initiatives.

Consistent with NIGMS’ strong commitment to research training, the Institute recently announced that applications for our predoctoral T32 training programs must include in their required institutional support letters information about the institution’s policies and procedures to prevent discriminatory harassment and respond appropriately to allegations or findings of discriminatory harassment. Moving forward, NIGMS will require this information in institutional support letters for applications for all of our training programs.

Analysis of NIGMS Support of Research Organisms

NIGMS is committed to supporting a wide-ranging portfolio of biomedically relevant fundamental research. As we discussed in a previous Feedback Loop post, we see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life. For many years, one important dimension of diversity in our scientific portfolio—the organisms scientists use to conduct their research—was limited by technical considerations. However, recent advances such as the decreasing cost of genome sequencing and the development of the CRISPR system for genetic modification now make it possible to use an expanded range of research organisms.

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NIGMS Transitions AREA Support to Undergraduate-Focused Institutions

NIGMS is realigning its support of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program to focus on providing research experiences to undergraduate students in scientific areas within its mission. Accordingly, we’ve published a new undergraduate research-focused AREA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and are discontinuing our participation in the NIH Parent AREA FOA. The undergraduate research-focused AREA FOA will allow us to continue to: 1) support small-scale meritorious research projects at institutions that do not receive substantial NIH funding (less than $6 million in total costs in 4 of the last 7 years), 2) enhance the research environment at eligible institutions, and 3) expose students to scientific research so that they consider careers in biomedical sciences. Unlike the Parent FOA, the new announcement allows NIGMS to place its emphasis specifically on undergraduate research.

This new AREA FOA limits eligibility to undergraduate student-focused institutions or academic components within an institution (e.g., School of Arts and Sciences) in which the undergraduate student enrollment is greater than the graduate student enrollment, and it excludes all types of health professional schools. Additionally, the research team must be composed primarily of undergraduate students. This FOA aligns the application instructions and review criteria with the goals of the AREA program. We expect that these clarifications will lead to applications that better fit the goals of the program and provide reviewers the tools they need to evaluate the program as designed.
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Planning to Apply for an NIGMS Established Investigator MIRA? Points to Consider

When NIGMS issued PAR-17-094, Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35), in December 2016, we opened the established investigator MIRA mechanism to all NIGMS grantees whose single-PI R01-equivalent grants were set to terminate in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the MIRA application. The purpose of this post is to remind you of important points to keep in mind if you are eligible to apply for a MIRA. Before applying, we strongly encourage you to contact your program director, who can advise you on whether MIRA is the best funding program for you and can help estimate a project budget if your application does well in peer review.

Some key points to know if you are considering applying for a MIRA grant:

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Proposed Reorganization of NIGMS Scientific Divisions

UPDATE: The NIGMS reorganization became official in January 2018. Please see our Overview for more information. 

I’d like to make you aware of a proposed reorganization of the Institute’s scientific divisions that we are considering.

Currently, NIGMS has four scientific divisions: Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology (BBCB); Cell Biology and Biophysics (CBB); Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB); and Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC). We would like to shift to a structure in which there are only three scientific divisions: Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences (BBCB); Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (GMCDB); and Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry.

In broad strokes, the current CBB cell biology branch and most of the grants it manages would move to the new Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology division, and the CBB biophysics branch would move to the new Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences division. A few grant portfolios from CBB would be transferred to the existing Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry.

This proposed reorganization does not reflect any change in scientific emphasis or interests by the Institute. Rather, it is an attempt to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our support for fundamental biomedical research, consistent with two goals outlined in our strategic plan [PDF, 702KB]: enhance the effectiveness of our support for fundamental biomedical research and improve the efficiency of our internal operations.

The proposed restructuring also includes establishing the Center for Research Capacity Building as a full division, consistent with its unique place in the Institute. In addition, based on a recommendation from the Steering Committee of the Office of Emergency Care Research (OECR), we plan to transfer the office to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Because of NINDS’ strong expertise in and support for clinical research related to emergency medicine, it is extremely well-suited to promoting the mission of OECR.

You might wonder what the proposed reorganization will mean for your current or future funding. Our commitment to funding fundamental biomedical research and research capacity building programs remains the same, so the amount of money allocated to these areas will not change as a result of the proposed reorganization. We also expect that most grantees will continue working with their current program directors and grants management specialists.

Soliciting input from the community is among the steps that need to occur before any changes can be implemented. We invite you to share your thoughts on these plans by commenting here or by email. Input will be received through December 4, 2017.