NIAID Funding News June 04, 2014

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

Header: Feature Articles.

The Benefits of Being a Peer Reviewer

It's been said that we learn by doing, and that certainly applies to the peer review of grant applications. Though serving as a reviewer is a lot of work, it may be worth your while. Here's a look at why that's the case.

Reviewers Reap Rewards

Make no mistake, being a reviewer takes time and effort, but it also has its rewards.

Serve others, help yourself

For one, you provide a valuable service by helping to identify the best science, thus being pivotal to the Center for Scientific Review's (CSR) mission: to see that NIH grant applications receive fair, independent, expert, and timely reviews “free from inappropriate influences” so NIH can fund the most promising research.

While helping others, you also help yourself since the insights you gain as a reviewer will likely help you as an applicant. From the vantage point of a reviewer, you get a look at what your peers want to see in an outstanding and well-written application.

This can be a tremendous asset when it comes time to write your own application. You'll know how to meet reviewers' expectations by including elements that are likely to spell success and leaving out those that may lead to failure.

Serving as a reviewer also offers career development opportunities. Not only will you gain practical experience, but you will be working with highly respected investigators in your field. It's an incredibly valuable networking opportunity.

Flexible submission for standard receipt dates

As a reviewer, you'll benefit from NIH's continuous submission policy, which lets you apply any time for an R01, R21, or R34 funding opportunity that uses standard receipt dates. Your application will be reviewed by the time the next study section with relevant expertise meets.

What does that mean for you? Continuous submission shortens the time from application to review by up to two months (one month for AIDS-related applications) and allows you to pick up a review assignment without missing your next application deadline.

To learn more, go to NIH's Continuous Submission Web site, and see our Continuous Submission questions and answers.

No Experience, No NIH Grant? No Problem

You may think that to be a reviewer, you have to be an experienced investigator and have NIH funding. Not so, thanks to NIH's Early Career Reviewer (ECR) Program.

Through the Program, you can get your reviewing feet wet, as long as you meet eligibility requirements, such as being a full-time faculty member (or researcher in a similar role) and have recent senior-authored publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Find out more at the Early Career Reviewer (ECR) Program. You may also want to watch the video Jumpstart Your Research Career with CSR’s Early Career Reviewer Program to hear how participants have benefited.

It's Okay To Stay Home

Travel is a major obstacle for many reviewers. To address that challenge, CSR is continually improving Internet and Video Assisted Meetings. These tools allow you to participate in meetings from the comfort of your own workspace.

Enlisting in Review Service

If you're not a reviewer but want to become one, you have a few options (in addition to the ECR Program):

  • Volunteer for an NIAID peer review group, which reviews applications where NIAID is the locus of review. Read more at Serving on a Peer Review Committee.
  • If you have some review experience or you're an experienced investigator, you may qualify for membership on a standing study section. Go to CSR's How Scientists Are Selected for Study Section Service for details on eligibility and the nomination process.
  • You may be able to serve occasionally as a non-permanent reviewer. Check out CSR's Integrated Review Groups. Choose the study section that interests you, and contact its scientific review officer to see if there's an opportunity to participate. NIAID also allows temporary reviewers to serve on the committees listed in Serving on a Peer Review Committee.

We hope you'll consider serving as a peer reviewer and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Header: Opportunities and Resources.

Several New FOAs Related to HIV

Winter may be behind us, but mid-May brought a flurry of HIV-related funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) that might be of interest.

We cover five of the FOAs here and another, more complex one in the next article. As always, carefully read the Guidenotices for complete details.

Note: Application deadlines for the following opportunities follow NIH's standard AIDS dates.

Fc Receptor (FcR) and Antibody Effector Function in HIV Vaccine Discovery (R01)

This FOA may be for you if you can propose novel research on how vaccine-elicited antibodies protect against viral acquisition through Fc receptor-mediated mechanisms.

Your project may involve either conducting basic or preclinical research investigating FcR-dependent effector function and/or analyzing clinical samples to evaluate parameters critical for FcR antibody effector function. Proposed projects should clearly describe how the research will inform HIV vaccine design.

  • Research areas of interest include:
    • Identifying FcR binding profiles that correlate with protective antibody responses.
    • Investigating antibody glycosylation and FcR-mediated activity and function.
    • Performing passive administration studies of broadly neutralizing antibodies or non-neutralizing antibodies in preclinical animal models to understand Fc-related mechanisms of immune protection.
    • Examining:
      • Adjuvants in both modulating FcR binding profiles and their influence on immune effector function and antibody effector function.
      • FcR binding and effector function of vaccine-elicited IgA antibodies.

For other examples and more information, read the May 12, 2014, Guide notice.

HIV Vaccine Vector-Host Interactions: Understanding the Biology and Immunology (R01) and (R21)

With these FOAs, NIAID seeks to meet two objectives:

  1. Increase understanding of the biology and immune response to live attenuated or replication-defective viral vectors developed from Adenoviridae, Poxviridae, Adeno-associated viruses, and Herpesviridae families in humans and nonhuman primates (NHPs).
  2. Advance the development of animal models (e.g., NHPs, humanized mouse models) that can better evaluate the potential for increased HIV acquisition following vaccination.

To help meet them, propose projects such as:

  • State-of-the-art immunological and systems biology approaches (e.g., biomics, genomics, epigenomics) to investigate the pathogenesis and immune responses to natural viral infection and vaccines in humans and NHPs.
  • Establishing the similarities and differences in the biology (e.g., target tissues, receptor uses, cytokine profiles) and immune responses to vaccine virus vectors compared to analogous natural viral infections.
  • Examining the role of preexisting natural and vaccine-induced immunity in subsequent HIV vaccine viral vector responses.

We encourage applications that include human subjects or subject samples (e.g., from mucosal sites, tissues) from a "parent" clinical trial for evaluating immunologic and other relevant parameters to study and define the underlying immunological and biologic mechanisms of vaccines and human immunologic function. The parent clinical trial must have independent financial support since it will not receive any through this FOA.

Find complete details in the May 13, 2014, R01 and R21 Guide notices.

B Cell Help Immunology Program for AIDS Vaccine Strategies (R01)

The BCHIP for HIV-1 Vaccine Design supports multidisciplinary and innovative studies that 1) identify new immunization strategies to induce protective persistent antibody and 2) increase fundamental knowledge of the immunological mechanisms involved in inducing and regulating B cell immune responses leading to protective HIV-1 antibody responses, both systemically and in the mucosa.

Since engineering ways to generate protective humoral responses to HIV-1 is quite complex, we encourage applications that leverage multidisciplinary collaborations in synergistic basic discovery research in immunology, virology, and host genetics.

The FOA has several areas of research interest, including: the role of innate immune mechanisms in shaping B cell responses and memory to HIV-1 antigens, mechanisms for generating high-affinity broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1, and the relationship between the type of B cell help provided during vaccination and the durability of the anti-HIV-1 antibody response.

For a list of others and additional information about the FOA, read the May 12, 2014, Guide notice.

NK Cells to Induce Immunological Memory to Prevent HIV Infection (R01)

This opportunity might be worth pursuing if you're interested in studying the immunomodulatory or effector roles of natural killer (NK) cells in facilitating or regulating the antiviral adaptive immune responses in the context of HIV-1 vaccines.

As you think about your research project, keep in mind the primary objective of the FOA: to support multidisciplinary, hypothesis-driven research on NK cells, leading to the discovery of pathways relevant to early immune responses and immune regulation impacting the sought-for protective immunity induced by HIV vaccination.

Examples of study areas are:

  • Early mechanisms by which vectored or adjuvanted vaccines drive NK cells towards either immunomodulatory or effector functions.
  • Receptor—ligand interactions relevant for antiviral and/or immunoregulatory functions of NK cells.
  • Regulatory mechanisms by which NK cells shape innate and adaptive immunity.

The outcome of your research study should provide novel approaches to harness NK cell immunoregulatory function in HIV-1 vaccine design, as well as enhance protective HIV-1 specific adaptive immune responses.

Learn more in the May 12, 2014, Guide notice.

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Help Prevent or Treat HIV Through Sustained-Release Products and Strategies

The same week NIH published the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) highlighted above, it also released one for the Sustained Release for Antiretroviral Treatment or Prevention (SRATP) of HIV Infection program.

If your interest is piqued, note that there's much to know about this FOA, which uses the activity code UM1-Research Project with Complex Structure Cooperative Agreement. That should give you some idea of how involved the opportunity is and why it's particularly important to carefully read the May 14, 2014, Guide notice.

Note: NIH also issued an R01 FOA for the SRATP program last year. If you'd rather apply for that, read the September 11, 2013, Guide notice and our October 23, 2013, article "An R01 Funding Opportunity for HIV Researchers." The next application deadline is January 7, 2015.

About the Program

Consider applying if your research can help meet the objectives of SRATP, which are to:

  • Improve the outcomes of HIV disease treatment through the discovery and evaluation of sustained-release products to treat HIV disease, leading to significant and durable improvements in therapy.
  • Halt the spread of HIV infection by developing sustained-release prevention strategies, which provide for more durable protection from infection in HIV target tissues.

To achieve these objectives, the SRATP will comprise required and optional sections that when combined result in a coherent and integrated program that advances treatment or prevention strategies to Phase I clinical testing.

Areas of Research Interest

Research areas of interest for NIAID fall under two broad categories:

  1. Development of Sustained-Release Formulations for HIV Treatments—should provide a minimum of one week efficacy.
  2. Development of Sustained-Release Formulations for HIV Prevention—should provide a minimum of one month protection.

For examples of projects for each category, see the Responsive Areas of Research section of the FOA.

Application Essentials

You may propose developing either treatment or prevention products containing antiretroviral agents delivered using sustained release delivery platforms (oral, injection, implant, transdermal, or direct delivery to HIV target mucosa) with the objective of Phase I clinical testing before the end of the award.

Your application must contain the following sections:

  • Sustained-Release Strategy (SRS)—must propose developing an HIV treatment or prevention sustained-release product or strategy. You may include up to three SRSs.
  • Administrative Coordination Section (ACS)—provides overall management, coordination, and supervision of the SRATP program.
  • Program Operation Section (POS)—oversees the scientific operations and product selection efforts of the SRATP.
  • Clinical Trial Section (CTS)—supports the proposed Phase I clinical trial to be conducted on the sustained-release product derived from the SRSs.
  • IND-Enabling Section (IND-ES)—supports performance of the nonclinical safety studies needed to obtain regulatory approval to conduct the Phase I clinical trial.

A private sector for-profit or not-for-profit company must participate in the proposed SRATP program. The company is expected to contribute in a positive and significant way to the overall scientific agenda of the Program.

Deadlines and Contacts

Optional letters of intent are due October 18, 2014. The deadline for applications is November 18, 2014.

If you have questions about this or the R01 FOA, direct them to NIAID's scientific/research contacts: Dr. Steven Turk (for treatment) and Dr. Jim Turpin (for prevention).

Header: Other News. 

Date Set for Switch in Progress Reports to RPPR

The Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) will become mandatory for all Type 5 non-streamlined noncompeting award process (non-SNAP) progress reports (e.g., P01, P30, U01, U19, UM1, T32) on October 17, 2014.

We notified you in March that there were "Changes to Progress Reporting on the Horizon" and provided tips on how to prepare for the switch. Take a look back if you aren’t already familiar with the RPPR format for a non-SNAP progress report.

Does this affect me?

Probably. Any ongoing grant with an award contingent on regular submission of progress reports (noncompeting, in other words) will now use RPPR.

There are only a few remaining exceptions, such as final progress reports and administrative extensions (e.g., Type 4 investigator-initiated clinical trial extension, MERIT extension, SBIR/STTR Fast-Track Phase II application). In time, NIH will require RPPR for these as well.

See the May 16, 2014, Guide notice for more details.

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Registration Open for NIAID's SBIR/STTR Workshop

Meet us in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the NIAID Small Business Workshop on September 4-5, 2014.

By coming together, we can better communicate and discuss what federal and nonfederal resources are available to small businesses, with a special emphasis on the commercialization and development of technologies related to infectious, immunologic, and allergic diseases.

We will provide instruction on new policies, procedures, and regulations, give guidance on writing successful proposals, and host opportunities for networking and discussions with NIAID program officers.

Registration is open now.

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News Briefs

Second Round of Pilots for New Biosketch Format. The NIH Biographical Sketch is being modified to allow investigators to better explain their accomplishments. While NIAID is not participating in the new round of pilot testing, we will switch to the updated format in the spring of 2015. For additional coverage, check out Changes to the Biosketch on the Rock Talk blog.

Domestic Noncompeting Awards Will Move to Payment Management System. NIH will transition all award payments to PMS subaccounts by the end of FY 2015. In the coming year, NIH will issue Type 5 and Type 8 (noncompeting continuation) awards as Type 4 (funded extension) awards in FY 2015, which will allow a shift in award funding from PMS G accounts to PMS P subaccounts. Read the May 16, 2014, Guide notice for full details.

Additional Educational Information Required for NRSA Fellowship Applications. NIH has posted clarifications to the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Fellowship (F) Announcements. Applicants must now include a document named "Additional Educational Information" to provide further details about their academic background. There is an explanatory Guide notice specific to each of the F30F31F31-Diversity, and F32 award applications.

NIH to Host SBIR/STTR Booth at MedTech Conference. NIAID, alongside NCINHLBININDS, and NIBIB, will provide 12 SBIR/STTR companies the opportunity to present and network with senior business development executives, investors, and other strategic partners at the AdvaMed 2014 MedTech Conference. The conference runs from October 6 to 8, in Chicago, Illinois.

Upcoming Grants Management Workshop in London. Don’t miss the NIAID Grants Policy and Management Training Workshop in London, U.K., from July 14 to 16, 2014. These workshops are held twice annually in different parts of the world and are designed to help non-U.S. grantee institutions and investigators learn how to meet their NIH post-award reporting and compliance requirements. See the Agenda and sign up at Registration. The other training workshop is taking place inDar es Salaam, Tanzania, from June 23 to 25, 2014.

Header: Advice Corner.

Don't Get Caught Behind a Bar to Award if You Want Your Grant Money

A code 44 on your summary statement indicating a bar to award should signal a code red for you. That is, you're in danger of not getting funded if you don't resolve scientific review concerns about the protection of human subjects or animal welfare in your application.

To make sure you get your grant money, act immediately by addressing the problems and submitting all material that NIAID requests.

You'll send the information to your program officer, who will:

  • Check to see that it is complete and an acceptable response to the human subjects or animal concern.
  • Forward your response—if he or she finds it adequate—to NIH staff, who will ultimately determine whether you've sufficiently cleared up the concern in question, and if so, will lift your bar.

Note that the "lifting" process can take weeks, depending on the workload of NIH staff involved.

If NIH doesn't approve the response to a human subjects or animal concern you submit during July and August at our request, we may have to leave your application unfunded in the case of animal concerns or give you a restricted award that prevents you from spending some or all of your money.

Contact your program officer immediately if you're delayed (or anticipate delays) in getting any information to us.

For more information, see the following SOPs:

Header: Reader Questions.

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

"I am filling out the SBIR/STTR Financial Management form. Is an established line of credit with a major credit card company an accepted form of credit?"—anonymous reader

Yes. For the Financial Questionnaire: Evaluation of Financial Management Systems, that is an accepted line of credit and counts toward your financial capability.

"Is the R03 a good stepping stone to a future R01 for new PIs?"—anonymous reader

No. The R03 provides a maximum of only $50,000 a year in direct costs for two years. Many investigators find that this is inadequate to gather sufficient data for a future R01 application.

You are usually better off applying for an R01 from the start if you have sufficient preliminary data. To inform your decision, read the Information for New Investigators. You may find that applying for a fellowship (F), training (T), or career development (K) award is the right option for you.

Header: New Funding Opportunities.

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.

Content last reviewed on June 4, 2014