NIAID Funding News February 10, 2016

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Feature Articles

Why You May Want to Consider a Contract

If you're unfamiliar with the world of research and development (R&D) contracts, a little context may build your enthusiasm when you see solicitations well-suited to your scientific strengths.

We support many academic investigators under R&D contracts, and most large research institutions should have experience with federal government contracts as well.

Read on for what contracts are, how they differ from grants, and how to analyze whether a solicitation is right for you.

What Are Contracts and When Are They Used?

Contracts describe a defined government requirement for a product or service with specific deliverables and deadlines, and work done under a contract requires programmatic guidance by NIAID staff.

For example, we use R&D contracts to address specific programmatic needs, such as clinical trials under networks, product development, statistical and data coordinating centers, and development of animal models and product testing.

While “research” can be acquired under a contract, the research goals and objectives are clearly stated up front in the request for proposals (RFP).

NIAID also uses broad agency announcements (BAAs) to solicit contracted research. An RFP focuses on a specific requirement while a BAA focuses on scientific study and experimentation directed toward advancing the state of the art or increasing knowledge or understanding. Further, NIAID defines the statement of work for an RFP whereas the applicant (officially referred to as the offeror) develops the statement of work for a BAA.

In contrast, grants are more free-form than either contract type because they allow you to go where the science leads you within your terms of award.

When we choose whether an opportunity should be a contract solicitation or a grant opportunity, we consider the scientific need and legal requirements.

Contracts, Grants—What's the Difference?

The table below covers the major contrast points between contracts and grants. Here are some reference links that may come in handy as you review the table:

Opportunity Stage
Factor Contract Solicitation Grant Opportunity
NIAID's goal Acquisition Assistance
Science type Mostly applied and translational research Mostly basic and preclinical research
Scope Specific goals or objectives, and we may also specify approaches General or specific program areas
Opportunity type


Request for applications (RFA) or program announcement (PA)

Proposal or Application Stage
Factor Contract Proposal Grant Application
What your organization sends No fixed template or format, but the proposal must comply with the solicitation’s instructions Grant application package
What you describe Your plan to accomplish the solicitation's stated requirements Your choice of aims, objectives, and approaches
Initial Review Stage
Factor Contract Proposal Grant Application
Review criteria


Standard five review criteria, though some RFAs have additional criteria
After Initial Review Stage
Factor Contract Proposal Grant Application
Negotiations For most R&D acquisitions, we negotiate with the offerors who submitted the most highly rated proposals. Those offerors are given the opportunity to address deficiencies, significant weaknesses, and adverse past performance information to which they have not yet had an opportunity to respond. Also, we may provide offerors an opportunity to address other aspects of their proposal that could, in the opinion of the contracting officer, be altered or explained to enhance materially the proposal's potential for award. (The term "offeror" is equivalent to the term "applicant" for grants.) Applications go to NIAID's advisory Council. If necessary, program staff advise applicants on revisions to address special issues, e.g., reduced funding or removal of Specific Aims
Funding decisions Based on a comparative assessment of proposals against all source selection criteria in the solicitation Based mostly on overall impact/priority score or percentile rank, program priorities, and availability of funds
Funded Stage
Factor Contract Grant
During the project period Contracts are legally binding, so follow specified deadlines and provide agreed-upon deliverables. Pursue your Specific Aims. Follow new leads as they arise and stay within your scope and terms of award.
NIAID program involvement Greater programmatic oversight and monitoring to assure adherence to milestones and timelines Typically no substantial program involvement (except for cooperative agreements)
Prior approvals Contracting officer and contracting officer's representative are much more involved in prior approvals than program staff are for grants, respectively. See Prior Approvals for Post-Award Grant Actions SOP
Rights and uses

The contractor usually has the right to data first produced in the performance of the contract.

NIAID generally also has unlimited rights in data delivered under the contract and data generated in the performance of the contract.

You have primary rights to your data and NIAID has the right to access that data.
Renewal When the contract is over, it's over; depending on the need, NIAID may decide to recompete the requirement or post similar solicitations in the future. Some grant types are renewable. Others are not.


How to Decide if a Solicitation Is for You


If you're viewing the Extramural R&D Solicitations list and spot a solicitation relevant to your interests, weigh these factors:

  • How closely does the opportunity map to your area of expertise?
  • Do your capabilities match the requirements? Could you take on subcontractors or collaborators to fill gaps?
  • Are you comfortable with the greater NIAID oversight for contracts compared with grants?
  • Do you feel confident you can provide the deliverables required within the solicitation's deadlines—and at a competitive price?

If you aren't sure or want more advice, check with your business office. Your organization has probably handled contracts before and may have special rules for you to follow.

Also, you may be able to find a colleague who can share insights based on his or her experiences with R&D contracts.

Or if you have questions regarding a specific solicitation, you can ask the NIAID Office of Acquisitions' contract specialist listed in the solicitation.

Note that unlike the list of contacts for a grant opportunity, you should not contact anyone in our program divisions for advice before the award stage. There are regulations that dictate who can communicate with offerors or potential offerors.

Also, unlike a grant, you enter into a legally binding contractual agreement to deliver a product or service at a certain time at a certain cost. You're expected to give us a defined, tangible output, not ​a biomedical research discovery.

Even if you end up deciding a solicitation is not for you, knowing how your organization handles contracts and what factors to watch for when considering future opportunities will benefit you in the long run.

Find current R&D contract opportunities at Extramural R&D Solicitations. You may also want to see a preview of potential future solicitations at Concepts: Potential Opportunities.

Continue reading about other funding sources at Approaches for Staying Funded.

Opportunities and Resources

New Funding Initiative Encourages Collaboration With Brazilian Researchers

NIH and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) have signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage collaborative international research between investigators in the U.S. and the State of São Paulo, Brazil.

To be eligible for FAPESP funding, you will apply for an investigator-initiated R01 award through the NIH Parent R01 funding opportunity announcement and do the following:

  1. Prepare a multiple PI application in which at least one PI is from the U.S. and is eligible for NIH funding and one PI is from an institution in the state of São Paulo, Brazil.
  2. At least four weeks before you submit your application, email a summary of the proposed project to FAPESP Science Manager Dr. Simone Godoi to confirm your eligibility. Either PI can complete this step.
  3. Add the text "We would like this application to be considered under the NIH-FAPESP Funding Initiative. FAPESP has confirmed that the São Paulo PD/PI is eligible for this initiative." at the end of your Specific Aims.
  4. Within one week of receiving your summary statement, forward your NIH summary statement and full application to Dr. Simone Godoi at FAPESP.

Follow our standard guidance for your NIH application, including the rules regarding foreign applications and applications with foreign components. Note that the foreign collaborating site does not require a subcontract. Also, your application can include additional collaborators, regardless of where they are from, so long as you fulfill the first requirement listed above.

When an application is chosen for parallel support, the U.S. PI and his or her institution will become the contact for NIH and the São Paulo PI will become the contact for FAPESP. Be aware that we will reduce your requested budget given that FAPESP already covers a significant amount of overhead for São Paulo institutions.

NIAID’s point of contact for inquiries about this initiative is Margarita Ossorio Goldman.

For more information, read the January 12, 2016 Guide notice.

Supplements Available to Support Research on Sex and Gender Differences

NIH is offering administrative supplements to support research highlighting the impact of sex and gender differences, similarities, and factors in human health and illness. Consider applying if this topic aligns with your current grant's research aims and you want to add funds to the existing grant.

Proposed research should address at least one objective under the three goals listed in NIH’s Strategic Plan for Women's Health Research, which are:

  • Increase sex differences research in basic science studies
  • Incorporate findings of sex and gender in the design and development of new technologies, medical devices, and therapeutic drugs
  • Actualize personalized prevention, diagnostics, and therapeutics for girls and women

Studies of special interest include: understanding the significance of biological sex on cells; comparative studies of male and female tissues, organ systems, and physiological systems; sex-based comparisons of pathophysiology, biomarkers, gene expression, and clinical presentation; and prevention and treatment of diseases.

Additionally, the following approaches are considered responsive for the purpose of this supplement:

  • Add the opposite sex—the addition of animal or human subjects, tissues, or cells of the opposite sex to those used in the parent grant to allow sex-based comparisons.
  • Increase sample size—the addition of more animal or human subjects, tissues, or cells to a sample which already includes both males and females in order to increase the power of a study to analyze for a sex or gender difference.
  • Conduct new comparative analyses—sex and gender comparative analyses of existing samples or datasets.

Application Information

Application budgets are limited to $100,000 total costs. You can use the funds to cover cost increases that are associated with achieving the objectives listed above or for unanticipated expenses within the original scope of the project.

The supplemental funding instrument (e.g., grant, cooperative agreement) will be the same as the parent award. Project and budget periods must be within the currently approved project period for the existing parent award.

Applications are due by March 4, 2016. Apply early to allow adequate time to correct any errors found in your application during the submission process.

For complete details, read the January 5, 2016 Guide announcement. Contact Jane Lockmuller if you have any questions.

Funding for Ethics Education in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

A recently reissued funding opportunity announcement (FOA) could help establish sustainable, graduate-level research ethics training at your research-intensive, Low- or Middle-Income Country (LMIC) institution. The program’s overarching goal is to foster a better understanding of biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research and their implications by expanding advanced education in research ethics to more LMIC research-intensive institutions.

Using NIAID funds, grantees will establish ethics education programs by developing curriculum, creating courses for skills development, and providing mentoring activities.

The maximum project period for this award is five years. Within one year of award, the LMIC institution should begin to implement components of the program, with the full program implemented by the end of the project period.

You may request up to $230,000 in direct costs per year. If your institution is already receiving federal support for research training and education, the educational experiences proposed under this FOA must be distinct from preexisting ones.

Funding is not limited to LMIC institutions; we encourage collaboration between experts from any country to contribute in developing innovative, comprehensive masters level socio-culturally relevant ethics education programs. Institutions in the U.S. and other high-income countries are welcome to apply, so long as the application includes a collaborating LMIC institution.

See the January 13, 2016 Guide announcement for complete details. Pay special attention to Section II. Award Information subsection Other Award Budget Information as well as Section III. Eligibility Information.

The next application due date is May 18, 2016.

In the News

Zika Virus Research Is a High Priority

NIAID is highly interested in funding research and product development for Zika virus (ZIKV).

We do not currently have a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) specifically targeting ZIKV, so we encourage investigators to initiate research projects using our parent FOAs:

We will support basic research to understand ZIKV infection, replication, pathogenesis, and transmission; sensitive, specific, and rapid clinical diagnostic tests for ZIKV; animal models to study ZIKV pathogenesis and evaluate candidate therapeutics and vaccines; and several other ZIKV research topics listed in the January 22, 2016 and February 5, 2016 Guide notices.

Contact Dr. Patricia Repik for grant-related inquiries.

Finally, investigators already studying ZIKV should consider leveraging NIAID's Preclinical and Clinical Research Resources. If you have questions, contact Dr. Paula Bryant for more information on our vaccines/immunotherapeutics services, Dr. Ann Eakin for therapeutics services, or Dr. Randall Kincaid for diagnostics services.

Mine Immunology Data on New ImmuneSpace Website

You can now access and analyze data from the Human Immunology Project Consortium (HIPC) online through ImmuneSpace. Registration is free and access will let you to use software modules designed for data integration and visualization.

The ImmuneSpace database is currently composed of 21 studies covering 10 types of assays and 2,500 total participants. Gene Expression, Flow Cytometry, and CyTOF are among the included assay types; participants include children, adults, and elderly after vaccination or infection, as well as healthy controls.

Approximately 75 studies will be made available to the public by Spring 2016. These studies will include previously published and unpublished results. While the majority of the current studies focus on immune responses generated during influenza infection and vaccination, data for immune responses to other infectious diseases such as malaria, herpes, and dengue will soon follow.

To mine the data, you can export a filtered subset or use one of the following modules:

  • Data Explorer—quickly plot a selected immunological response variable across multiple analytes.
  • Gene Expression Explorer—plot the expression level of one or more genes against a selected immunological response variable.
  • Gene Set Enrichment Analysis—perform a gene set enrichment analysis across time or across a prespecified contrast.
  • Immune Response Predictor—automatically select a group of genes whose expression at a given time point best predicts a given immunological response at a later time point.

Posted video tutorials demonstrate how to use ImmuneSpace's tools and resources. You can also follow the Twitter handle@ImmuneSpace for tips and updates.

To learn about applying for research funding in conjunction with HIPC, read our December 9, 2015 Funding News article "Participate in the Human Immunology Project Consortium" and the November 18, 2015 Guide announcement. The application deadline is March 17, 2016.

NIH Reissues Parent K99/R00 With Clarified Instructions

If you plan to apply for the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00), be sure to use the reissued funding opportunity announcement (FOA).

It clarifies key features of the K99/R00 program, giving guidance to applicants about career stage and application timing, differentiating between independence in clinical responsibilities and independence in research, as well as explaining institutional commitment to the awardee during the R00 phase of the award and beyond.

Read the January 8, 2016 Guide notice for complete details on the changes in the reissued FOA. The next application deadline is February 12, 2016.

On a related note, physician-scientists should also consider two other opportunities exclusively for clinicians conducting research: TheMentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (Parent K08) and the Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (Parent K23) programs. In a January 20, 2016 Guide notice, NIH announced that the career development awardee's salary support for K08 and K23 grants is now set at a base level of $100,000.

If you have questions or want more information about research career development programs, contact Dr. Shawn Gaillard, NIAID's training officer.

News Briefs

Late Application Policy Following Winter Storm Jonas. 

NIH's late application policy is based on whether your institution closed due to weather, not whether NIH was closed. The lateness of your application should not exceed the number of days your organization was officially closed. See the January 25, 2016 Guide notice for details.

Clarifying SBIR Direct-to-Phase II Eligibility Criteria. 

Applicants interested in the Direct Phase II SBIR Grants to Support Biomedical Technology Development funding opportunity announcement: You are eligible to apply regardless of the funding source of the proof-of-principle work on which your proposed Phase II research is based. Read the January 12, 2016 Guide notice to learn more.

Advice Corner

Initiate the Investigator-Initiated Clinical Trial Process Soon

Researchers who are considering an investigator-initiated clinical trial (IICT) should know that May 13, 2016, is the next deadline for IICT applications. Keep in mind, IICT applications require a prior consultation process that begins 10 weeks before the submission deadline, in this case March 4, 2016. More on that below.

Note: If you are thinking about applying to a later receipt date, NIAID is planning to reissue the IICT funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) immediately after the others expire, which is on May 14, 2016.

The FOAs

Before we get to the consultation process, here's a look at the IICT FOAs and a few key points.

Do not submit clinical trial applications in response to NIH's parent R01 and R21 announcements and request assignment to NIAID. This is not allowed, and your application will be transferred to another IC or withdrawn. The rule of thumb here for NIAID is that unless the FOA explicitly states that clinical trials are allowed, do not propose a trial in your application. Talk to a program official well before applying.

NIAID accepts IICT applications through the following FOAs:

If you need support to get ready for the launch of an IICT, such as planning, designing, and preparing the documentation necessary for implementing an IICT, consider applying first for a Clinical Trial Planning Grant (R34).

Keep in mind that an IICT application should include sufficient details to describe all the support services that would be required for successfully implementing the proposed clinical trial. This includes but is not limited to regulatory submission, clinical site monitoring, safety monitoring, and quality management. Conversely, support services do not extend to investigational new drug/investigational device exemption (IND/IDE)-enabling studies for clinical trial interventions with drugs or medical devices that the FDA has not already approved.

Also remember to include a sufficient and appropriate budget to support these activities. Funding depends on several factors, including technical merit, relative program priority, sufficiency of proposed budget, and available funds.

We frequently issue FOAs, e.g., request for applications, that permit clinical trials, using a variety of grant and contract mechanisms. Be sure that your proposed clinical trial is consistent with what is requested in the FOA. In addition, pay attention to the Related Notices section in the FOA for clarification on whether NIAID allows trials.

*The NIAID definition of a high-risk clinical trial is included in the FOAs.

**Foreign institutions are not eligible to apply for the U44 announcement.

Prior Consultation: Give Yourself at Least 10 Weeks Before Applying

A prior consultation is vital to your success, so we strongly encourage  Requesting Prior Consultation to Discuss Submission of a Clinical Trial Planning (R34) or Implementation (R01, U01, or U44) Application at least 10 weeks before the application due date. Applicants interested in the Clinical Trial Planning Grant for Interventions and Services to Improve Treatment and Prevention of HIV/AIDS (R34) should also complete prior consultation.

Prior consultation allows you to closely interact with program staff who can help you optimize your application idea, ensure you meet any unique programmatic requirements, explain additional considerations for setting your milestones and budget, and advise you to apply for the right activity code. In the past, we’ve seen applications come in as R01s when they should have been U01 applications.

And remember, if you plan a big grant application ($500,000 or more in direct costs for any year) you’re required to request big grant preapproval as well, which we recommend completing during the prior consultation process.

Related Resources

For information on the IICT process:

For information on big grants:

Reader Questions

Feel free to send us a question at After responding to you, we may ask your permission to include your question in the newsletter, incorporate it into the Find a Funding Opportunity site, or both.

“Is there an NIAID “travel support” award that funds non-U.S. investigator travel to scientific meetings, conferences, and workshops?”—anonymous reader

No, NIAID does not offer that type of travel award. However, you might consider the programs and opportunities listed at Non-NIH Funding Opportunities for Travel Support.

“What is the proper way of authenticating reagents? Is a sample of the new Authentication Plan for Key Biological/Chemical Resources available online?”—anonymous reader

We do not yet have any examples of the Authentication Plan posted online. Still, consider the following guidance from NIH:

The methods used for authentication will depend on the key resource type, and methods may vary by research field. For instance, key cell lines might be authenticated by chromosomal analysis or short tandem repeat (STR) profiling. Key antibodies might be validated by Western blot, ELISA, immunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence, or flow cytometry using knockdown cells and positive and negative controls, depending on the assay proposed. Key chemicals might be validated by liquid or gas chromatography or mass spectrometry. Authentication plans should be based on accepted practices in the applicable field of science.

Remember, you do not need to include authentication data in the plan itself; reviewers will assess the adequacy of the plans you propose for authenticating key resources. For more information, read the Open Mike blog post Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources in NIH Grant Applications.

To learn more about the new reproducibility policy requirements, see Section V. Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources on NIH's Rigor and Transparency—Frequently Asked Questions. You can also email directly.

New Funding Opportunities

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Content last reviewed on February 10, 2016