Collaborate on Early Life Immune Development Research Through IDEaL Program

Funding News Edition: February 03, 2021
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The immune system in children is distinct from that of adults and is characterized by a suboptimal response to infections and vaccines predominantly in the first two to three years of life.

To gain a better understanding of immune system development and maintenance in children from birth to adolescence, including the impact of pathogenic or non-pathogenic microbes or vaccination, NIAID is requesting applications through the following pair of funding opportunity announcements (FOAs):

The IDEaL research program will facilitate collaborative effort with shared resources to address knowledge gaps and expand understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of immune maturation, function, and regulation beyond the first year of life through adolescence.

The program’s goal is to expand knowledge of immune development and functionality in children from birth to less than 18 years of age and provide foundational information to improve immune health and vaccine efficacy in this vulnerable population.

Research Areas of Interest

The IDEaL initiatives support mechanistic, hypothesis-driven studies that focus on defining fundamental aspects of immune development and function in response to microbes, allergens, environmental pollutants, and vaccines and other prevention strategies.

Below are some examples of areas of research interest; refer to the FOAs linked above for complete lists.

  • Mechanisms regulating the generation and maintenance of T and B cell memory
  • Molecular mechanisms of innate immunity, including trained immunity
  • Effect of the microbiota on host immune development and response
  • Mechanisms of tissue-specific and mucosal immunity
  • Role and mechanisms of action of adjuvants/immune-potentiating molecules or compounds for improving protective immune responses in children
  • HIV:
    • Key factors impacting the pediatric immune response and efficacy of HIV vaccine candidates and other HIV-prevention strategies
    • Broadly neutralizing antibody development during pediatric immune maturation
    • Longitudinal imaging of immune cell dynamics and immune responses to vaccines or other prevention strategies in the pediatric population
    • Development of mucosal immunity in the context of vaccine/prevention strategies
    • Studies testing or proposing development of drugs/vaccines to prevent infection specific to the pediatric population

Ultimately, understanding HIV-related immunological mechanisms in children could inform the design and development of improved vaccine strategies that contribute to durable immune responses and maintaining immunological memory in children and adolescent populations.

Nonresponsive Research Areas

Applications proposing studies on the following topics will be considered nonresponsive and will not be reviewed. See the FOAs for a longer list of nonresponsive research topics.

  • Studies in children with known genetic abnormalities, including primary immunodeficiencies; children undergoing cancer chemotherapy; children who are undergoing transplantation procedures; or children with autoimmune diseases or receiving immunosuppressive therapy
  • HIV studies focused on animal model development and animal models other than nonhuman primates
  • Studies, other than HIV research, testing or proposing drug or vaccine development to treat or prevent an infection
  • Studies that focus on individuals 18 years or older. However, individuals 18 years or older may be included as a comparator for younger age groups

U01 or U19: Which One Should You Use?

IDEaL uses the U01 and U19 cooperative agreement mechanisms because the program involves substantial federal scientific or programmatic involvement from NIH scientific or program staff in project activities.

The U19 mechanism supports a research program of multiple projects directed toward a specific major program goal that requires a broadly based, multidisciplinary, long-term approach. Each research project is usually under the leadership of an established investigator in an area representing his or her special interest. Further, each project supported through this mechanism should contribute to or directly relate to the total research effort.

The U01 mechanism is narrower. It supports a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by an investigator in an area representing his or her specific interest and competencies. Refer to the Cooperative Agreements (U) page for more guidance including how to apply for cooperative agreements.

Deadline and Budget

NIAID plans to fund three or four awards for the U01. The budgets are limited to $500,000 in annual direct costs and the maximum project period is five years.

For the U19, NIAID plans to fund two or three awards. Application budgets are limited to $1.0 million in annual direct costs and must reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. The maximum project period is five years.

The application due date for both FOAs is June 4, 2021.

Contact Information

If you have questions about the IDEaL research program, reach out to the following NIAID scientific contacts:

Contact Us

Email us at for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

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