NIAID Funding News - February 1, 2017

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities


Feature Articles

NIAID Strives To Maintain Speedy Time To Award

Several factors impact how quickly an application progresses from receipt date to summary statement to award, most significantly the institute to which and the Council round for which you apply.

We’re happy to report that among NIH’s institutes and centers, NIAID has one of the fastest average times to award.

Moreover, at NIAID, there is no significant correlation between Council round and time to award. We issue awards at the same pace, regardless of application cycle.

What You Can Do To Help Speed Things Along

While it’s nice to know that our Institute is moving quickly, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to speed the award process along.

One time-consuming procedural step is completing the just-in-time information. By submitting a prompt response when NIAID staff request your just-in-time information, you can hasten your time to award. That process is explained in Respond to Pre-Award Requests (“Just-in-Time”). Find additional information in our Just-in-Time SOP and Sample Just-in-Time Email From NIH.

Keep in mind, you want to wait for a request from NIAID staff rather than responding to the automated NIH email that goes out to all applicants scoring in the 40 percentile or better, as explained in If and When You Should Submit Just-in-Time Information.

Other Reasons NIAID Is Fast

A few other practices and procedures help accelerate NIAID’s award process.

First, we set interim paylines early in the fiscal year (FY), which provides a straightforward metric for making funding decisions.

Then, in part because we use interim paylines, NIAID is assiduous about issuing awards in the first quarter of the fiscal year. In fact, as of December 21, 2016, NIAID had already issued more than twice as many competing grants in FY 2017 as any other institute.

Finally, we owe tremendous credit to the diligence and dedication of our grants management and program staff. NIAID supports a wide array of award mechanisms, issues many international grants, and must frequently resolve human subjects and animal welfare concerns. It’s a credit to our staff’s hard work that these do not impede to our ability to issue awards in a timely manner.


Opportunities and Resources

Study Immune Response Role of Natural Killer Cells in HIV-1 Vaccine Design

Through a new R01 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), NIAID seeks novel approaches to harness natural killer (NK) cell immunoregulatory functions in HIV-1 vaccine design and enhance protective HIV-1 specific adaptive immune responses.

Research Objectives

The FOA’s primary objective is to support multidisciplinary research on NK cells, leading to the discovery of pathways relevant to early immune responses and immune regulation and to improving the sought-for protective immunity induced by HIV vaccination. Secondary objectives include developing technologies to allow for more systematic and robust studies of human innate system monitoring in vaccine clinical trials and to aid in recruiting innate immunologists to the HIV vaccine field.

Areas of research interest include the following; for other examples, see the FOA linked below.

  • Early mechanisms by which vectored or adjuvanted vaccines drive NK cells toward either immunomodulatory or effector functions
  • Receptor–ligand interactions relevant for antiviral or immunoregulatory functions of NK cells
  • Regulatory mechanisms by which NK cells shape innate and adaptive immunity
  • HIV antigens recognized by NK cells that drive or inhibit NK cell-mediated killing of HIV-infected cells
  • Immunoregulatory or effector roles of NK cells induced by licensed antiviral vaccines or clinically tested viral vectors used to deliver HIV antigens

Note that the FOA will not support the following:

  • Clinical trials
  • Studies evaluating antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity
  • Projects that:
    • Exclusively apply existing immunological tools to the study of HIV
    • Use non-mammalian systems
    • Focus primarily on technology, reagent, or animal model development. However, these may be included as necessary parts of the project if well justified by the research aims and preliminary data.
  • Studies of NK-mediated immunological memory in non-humanized mouse models
Application Information

Your application budget is not limited but must reflect the actual needs of your proposed project. The maximum project period is five years.

Follow NIH’s standard AIDS and AIDS-Related Due Dates. This opportunity opens on April 7, 2017, so the first due date is May 8.

The number of awards NIAID will make is contingent on appropriations and meritorious applications.

Read the January 9, 2017 Guide announcement for complete details. Direct questions to Dr. Cesar Boggiano, NIAID’s scientific/research contact for the FOA.


HIV Vaccine Researchers: A Funding Opportunity for Your Consideration

Gaining a deeper understanding of the underlying immune mechanism of vaccine protection is vital to improving the efficacy of vaccines, the most promising long-term method of controlling the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

With this in mind, a reissued R01 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) seeks applications that propose novel research on how vaccine-elicited antibodies protect against viral acquisition through Fc receptor (FcR)-mediated mechanisms.

The FOA will support basic research that investigates FcR-dependent effector function or analyzes clinical samples to evaluate parameters critical for FcR antibody effector function.

Research areas of interest include:

  • Identifying FcR binding profiles that correlate with protective antibody responses.
  • Investigating host factors and other influences on modulating antibody glycan composition and FcR-mediated activity and function
  • Examining:
    • Adjuvants in both modulating the elicited antibody's Fc phenotype and receptor binding profiles, and in their influence on immune effector function and antibody effector function.
    • FcR binding and effector function of vaccine-elicited Immunoglobulin A antibodies.

For additional examples, research topics that the FOA does not support, and other key information, read the January 9, 2017 Guide announcement.

Note that the opportunity uses NIH's standard AIDS and AIDS-Related Due Dates. Since the FOA opens for applications on April 7, 2017, the first due date is May 8, 2017.

If you have questions, direct them to Dr. Patricia D’Souza, the FOA’s scientific/research contact.


Study HIV-1 Infection of the Central Nervous System

Get up to five years of R01 funds to study pathogenic mechanisms involved in HIV-1 induced central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction.

Through study of viral suppression and antiretroviral therapy, your research may identify therapeutic targets to prevent the neurobehavioral and neurological comorbidities in HIV-1 infected people.

NIAID and several other NIH institutes cosponsor this funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Applications are welcome from domestic and foreign institutions for basic and translational research. Multidisciplinary research teams and collaborative alliances are encouraged but not required.

The Areas of Research Interest section of the FOA gives many examples of pertinent research topics within the following areas:

  • Pathogenesis of HIV-1 induced CNS dysfunction
  • Viral and host genetics
  • Neuroimaging studies
  • Aging, comorbidities, co-infections, and HIV-1 induced CNS dysfunction
  • Therapeutics

This opportunity encourages you to use animal models and develop novel in vitro, ex vivo, or in vivo models. Large NIH-funded HIV-related studies such as the following also offer human specimen resources:

If you plan research that qualifies as human subjects, your application must address protections and consent as described in the FOA. Learn more at NIAID's Research Using Human Subjects. The FOA does not support clinical trials.

The opportunity uses NIH's standard AIDS and AIDS-Related Due Dates. The first due date is May 8, 2017.

Read the January 5, 2017 Guide announcement for complete details. Direct your NIAID-related questions to Dr. Diane Lawrence. For contacts at other NIH institutes, see Section VII. Agency Contacts.


In The News

Notes on Implementation of Final-RPPR

We first told you about the new Final Research Performance Progress Report (F-RPPR) in our December 7, 2016 article “NIH To Enhance the Grant Closeout Process Next Month.” We want to emphasize a few details about implementation of the new policy.

First, the new F-RPPR includes a section titled “Project Outcomes” which will be posted publicly. Do not include private information in this section. Think of it as a summary you are writing for the public domain.

Second, if  you are considering applying for a renewal at the conclusion of your current award, use the following chart to determine which type of progress report you should submit:

Status of Competing Renewal Application Workflow Process
Not Submitted Submit a Final-RPPR no later than 120 calendar days from the period of performance end date.
Submitted Submit an Interim-RPPR no later than 120 calendar days from the period of performance end date. If the competing renewal is funded, NIH will treat the Interim-RPPR as the annual performance report for the final year of the previous competitive segment.
Submitted but not funded Submit an Interim-RPPR no later than 120 calendar days from the period of performance end date. If the competing renewal is not funded, NIH will treat the Interim-RPPR as the institution's Final-RPPR. To reduce burden, NIH will not require recipients to submit an additional Final-RPPR if the renewal application is not funded.

Read the January 19, 2017 Guide notice to learn more about renewal applications and Interim-RPPRs.

For additional information, go to NIH’s RPPR Frequently Asked Questions.


News Briefs

NIAID To Co-Host Workshop on Antibiotic Discovery for Gram-Negative Bacteria

Explore barriers to successful antibiotic development at “Challenges in the Discovery of Gram-Negative Antibacterials: The Entry & Efflux Problem,” a workshop co-sponsored by NIAID and Pew Charitable Trusts. Though meeting space is limited, you can attend through a webinar on February 6, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST and February 7 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST. Read the workshop details and Register now!

Attend International Grants Policy Training Workshops in China or Spain

Investigators, research administrators, and business officials: Plan ahead for upcoming NIAID training on NIH and U.S. government funding policy and regulations. Learn how to successfully manage your NIAID award, prepare project progress and financial status reports, and comply with human subjects and other administrative requirements. Watch your email for registration and other details about our April 5 to 7, 2017, workshop in Beijing, China, and mid-June training in Barcelona, Spain.

Pamela Guerrerio Receives Presidential Honor

Congratulations to Dr. Pamela Guerrerio on receiving the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the U.S. government’s highest honor for science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research career. Dr. Guerrerio is chief of the Food Allergy Research Unit in NIAID’s Division of Intramural Research.


Advice Corner

Caution: Roles Determine Eligibility and Other Requirements

The scientific community uses many terms to describe different roles on a project. However, some terms aren’t used by NIH or are terms that cause confusion. The terminology you use might affect your eligibility for a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), as well as the information required in a grant application and to make an award.

As you discuss the roles your colleagues can play in support of your planned research, use the guide below to ensure you have a shared understanding.

Here we cover five role-related terms that have caused confusion: co-PI, co-investigator, collaborator, consultant, and other significant contributor. At the end of the article, we offer advice on how to maximize clarity for reviewers.

Co-PI

Do not use the term co-PI. Because NIH doesn't recognize it as a role, it causes confusion since it’s unclear whether you mean PI on a multiple-PI award or co-investigator. And that confusion could affect your application; some FOAs have eligibility or level of effort requirements that affect only PIs.

Note that assigning someone the role of "Co-PD/PI" will not identify the application as a multiple PD/PI application. Colloquially, we sometimes hear the term co-PI used to indicate your fellow PIs on a multiple PI grant. But in that case, they should still be called PIs, not co-PIs.

You may have noticed that co-PI is one of the options listed on the SF 424 forms (standard grant application form). That's because other agencies use that role, but we don't.

Co-Investigator

Co-investigator is a term commonly used by the scientific community and in grant applications. For NIH’s official definition, go to Glossary & Acronym List.

This role describes those involved with the PI in the scientific development or execution of the project, but they just don’t quite rise to the level of being principal investigators. They should be listed as key personnel.

Do not use “co-investigator” when you mean a PI on a multiple-PI application.

When deciding whether your application should have multiple PIs or a single PI with one or more co-investigators, there are no rules or percentages to go by. The decision should be based on the research proposed to ensure optimal management of the project. Assuming your chosen funding opportunity allows either option, we suggest discussing this with your colleagues and business officials.

Collaborator

Collaborators always play an active role in the research, and the position is sometimes defined interchangeably with co-investigator. As a loose guideline, think of a collaborator as a scientist whose distinct expertise complements your own while a co-investigator shares your area of expertise and therefore contributes in guiding the scientific direction of the overall project. One provides unique expertise, the other umbrella expertise.

Still, many areas of science have their own expectations for each of these roles. So long as the role of each contributor is thoroughly explained in your Personnel Justification and the Letters of Support, your choice between the titles of "co-investigator" and "collaborator" won't be a point of contention for reviewers.

Collaborators are typically listed as key personnel. They may get part of their salary paid from the grant in person months. Collaborators at other institutions could have their salary paid through a consortium agreement (also called a subaward).

Some senior-level collaborators may choose to work part-time for credit (e.g., the potential of future publications), rather than pay.

Consultant

A consultant provides advice or services and may participate significantly in the research. For NIH’s official definition, go to Glossary & Acronym List.

Often he or she helps fill in smaller gaps by, for example, supplying software, providing technical assistance or training, or setting up equipment.

List consultants as key personnel only if they contribute substantively and measurably to the scientific development or execution of a project.

Consultants do not receive a salary from your grant but may receive a fee as a transaction for their service.

Other Significant Contributors

When you have people who commit to contributing to the scientific development or execution of the project but do not commit any measurable effort (i.e., person months) to the project, their role would be other significant contributor (OSC).

OSCs are typically presented at effort of “zero person months” or "as needed." If their effort is measurable, you may not list them as OSCs.

Biosketches are required for all personnel identified in the application as OSCs. However, other support information is not required. Consultants should be included as OSCs if they meet the definition.

In Conclusion

To maximize clarity for your reviewers when you apply, make sure your Personnel Justification and Letters of Support thoroughly describe what each person will be doing. Your reviewers need to be able to judge whether there is sufficient expertise to conduct the project.

Too often, we see Letters of Support that are enthusiastic and indicate a willingness “to collaborate” but don't provide enough details about the exact role of the person in the project. When that happens, we have to request additional information from you before we can make an award.

For more on the roles people can play in your project, check out Consultants, Collaborators, & Subawards.

You could also discuss how to address gaps in expertise with your program officer or local mentors.


Reader Questions

You can ask us a question at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov. After responding, we may ask your permission to include your question in the newsletter.

“What factors are used to evaluate a contract proposal?”—anonymous reader

That depends on the solicitation. Potential offerors should check Section M of the solicitation for the evaluation factors and their relative importance.

For R&D contracts, technical merit is usually the most important evaluation factor. Most NIAID contracts are awarded to the proposal that represents the best value to the government, so cost and past performance are also evaluated in a best value determination.

Still, review criteria are solicitation-specific. To learn more, read “Evaluation” at NIAID Contract Solicitations.

“For investigators with R01 funding, are there limits on the salaries of postdoctoral assistants and technicians?”—anonymous reader

There is no specific cap on R01 postdocs or technicians as long as the salary is consistently applied based on the grantee institution’s organizational policy for those employee types. Many institutions try to align their R01-supported postdoctoral salaries with the salary rates paid by NIH fellowship awards, depending on the post-graduate year status of the employee. Keep in mind, the overall salary cap applies as well. See Salary Cap & Stipends.

For more information, see Salaries and Wages and related entries in Section 7.9.1 Selected Items of Cost in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.


New Funding Opportunities

See other announcements at Opportunities & Announcements.

See other announcements at Opportunities & Announcements.

Content last reviewed on May 11, 2017