NIAID Funding News June 15, 2016

Feature Articles

Opportunities and Resources

In The News

Advice Corner

New Funding Opportunities

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 well worth your while. Here's a look at why that's the case.

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 (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 benefit yourself since the insights you gain as a reviewer will likely aide 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.

Finally, serving as a peer reviewer will keep you at the cutting edge of your field since you’ll be immersed in the newest science and technology, especially when assessing innovation as a review criterion of the applications you review.

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 participate as a reviewer without missing your next application deadline.

To learn more, go to NIH's Continuous Submission website, which includes a newly posted set of Frequently Asked Questions.

Some Meetings Allow Remote Participation

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

Early in Your Career? We Have an Opportunity for You

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 learn the basics, like how to determine overall impact scores and write a critique of a research proposal. To qualify you must meet eligibility Qualifications such as being a full-time faculty member (or researcher in a similar role) and having 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.

CSR Versus NIAID Peer Review

The peer review processes at CSR and NIAID are essentially equivalent. The two differ primarily in which applications they receive.

CSR oversees initial peer review for most investigator-initiated applications, including R01s, small business applications, and applications responding to most program announcements, whereas NIAID reviews:

  • Applications responding to a program announcement with set-aside funds (PAS)
  • Applications responding to a program announcement with special receipt, referral, and/or review considerations (PAR)
  • Applications responding to a request for applications (RFA)
  • Cooperative agreement or research center grant applications
  • Investigator-initiated applications for program projects, training grants, career development awards, and clinical trials
  • Contract proposals responding to solicitations

Put simply, CSR primarily relies on standing study sections and often recruits non-permanent (ad hoc) reviewers while NIAID mostly uses special emphasis panels that meet one time only.

Serving on a review panel for one does not preclude you from serving on a review panel for the other.

Enlisting in Review Service

NIH recruits for both temporary and regular reviewers. 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 How to Become a Peer Reviewer.
  • 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 to Be Chartered Reviewers for details on eligibility and the nomination process.
  • You may be able to serve occasionally as an ad hoc 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 How to Become a Peer Reviewer.

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

Opportunities and Resources

Develop Novel Immunogens for Vaccine Development

Consider applying to a new R01 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) if you can propose to do the following: Use innovative, structure-based vaccine design approaches to develop novel vaccine immunogens against current and emerging infectious disease pathogens of clinical concern.

The ultimate goal is to generate candidate vaccines that have demonstrated efficacy in appropriate models and are suitable for moving on to the product development pathway.

You will need to assemble a multidisciplinary team composed of experts in those disciplines (e.g., structural biology, computational biology, immunology, infectious diseases, vaccine technology) appropriate to achieve your proposed target immunogen design and subsequent development.

Your project should focus on developing a candidate vaccine against a current (e.g., influenza, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and malaria) or emerging (e.g., highly pathogenic coronaviruses, Filoviruses, Chikungunya virus, and Zika virus) infectious disease pathogen. For other examples, see NIAID Emerging Infectious Diseases/Pathogens.

Responsive applications will include preliminary data that establish proof-of-concept for the role of defined, broadly protective antibodies and/or antigens in the protective response against the targeted pathogen.

NIAID will give priority to projects that use innovative, state-of-the-art, structure-based vaccine design approaches such as:

  • Creating epitope scaffold immunogens with flexible backbones
  • Novel computational methods for protein design
  • Novel technologies to package and/or display structurally defined epitopes in high copy number, such as novel virus-like particles or self-assembling nano-particles/nano-cages
  • Using structural information to modify the sequence of an antigen to make it a more effective immunogen

Read the May 18, 2016 Guide announcement for complete details on research objectives and scope as well as types of projects that will be considered nonresponsive.

Submit an optional letter of intent by September 3, 2016. The application deadline is October 3, 2016.

If you have questions, direct them to Dr. Michael Schaefer, the FOA's scientific/research contact.

Strengthening HIV Prevention Through Epidemiology and Technology

A new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) could be for you if you can propose innovative technology approaches to enroll large cohorts to study HIV transmission risk in U.S. populations at highest risk of HIV infection.

To generate information needed to develop U.S. public health prevention interventions, study teams must develop technology-focused approaches, demonstrating the capacity to enroll sufficient numbers of HIV-negative high-risk groups in the U.S. and document targeted HIV seroconversion rates.

Research must be focused in at least one of the following populations:

  • Black/African American women
  • Transgender women
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly those MSM at highest risk of seroconversion (black, Hispanic, or mixed race MSM, as well as those age 13 to 34 years, with an emphasis on age 18 or younger)

Large cohorts are necessary to conduct research that will improve knowledge of HIV risk and optimize prevention approaches. Areas of interest include:

  • Identifying micro-epidemics in high HIV transmission areas (hot spots) and of key sub-populations where HIV prevention efforts are most needed
  • Characterizing subgroups of black women, transgender women, and MSMs who could be targeted for HIV prevention strategies
  • Monitoring HIV PrEP awareness, uptake, and adherence and identifying associated determinants
  • Analyzing individual and social contextual determinants of HIV risk behavior or seroconversion in the U.S.

Read the FOA, linked below, for additional examples as well as the types of studies that will be considered nonresponsive and therefore not reviewed.

The FOA's Activity Code

The activity code for this FOA is the UG3/UH3 Exploratory/Developmental Phased Award Cooperative Agreement, which has two phases:

UG3 (Phase 1)—a two-year award to enroll large enough cohorts of high-risk HIV sero-negatives so that the study observes sufficient HIV seroconversions to study HIV transmission risk. Applicants must propose a target enrollment and HIV seroconversion rate Transition Milestone to determine eligibility to transition to the next phase. Grantees that meet the Transition Milestone will be administratively considered for UH3 awards.

UH3 (Phase 2)—a three-year award to conduct epidemiologic research using the established risk cohort.

Note: Funding of the UG3 (Phase 1) does not guarantee support of the UH3 (Phase 2) award for research implementation. The institutes participating in this FOA (NIAID and National Institute of Mental Health) anticipate that not all funded UG3 projects will transition to the UH3 phase.

Learn more about "The Path to Phase II: Understanding Phased Awards" from our May 4, 2016 issue.

Deadline and Other Information

Optional letters of intent are due November 5, 2016. The application deadline is a month later on December 5, 2016.

For complete details, read the May 26, 2016 Guide announcement.

The scientific/research contact for the FOA is Dr. Gerald Sharp. Touch base with him if you have questions.

An Opportunity Renewed: Sustained Release of Antivirals for Treatment or Prevention of HIV

Are you interested in developing innovative strategies that may prevent and treat HIV? If so, we have just the opportunity for you!

NIH is soliciting applications for a reissued R01 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) that seeks to stimulate high-risk research necessary to develop new and innovative sustained release antiviral strategies for treating HIV disease or preventing HIV acquisition and transmission.

Consider applying if you can propose HIV treatment or prevention products delivered using sustained release platforms (oral, injection, implant, or direct delivery to HIV target mucosa) that will provide a minimum of one week for oral treatment or a minimum of once a month for all other drug delivery systems for prevention and treatment protection or efficacies.

Specific research topics of interest for NIAID include:

  • Developing sustained release formulations for HIV treatment—oral therapy strategies must have a window of effectiveness of at least one week from a single dose while other treatment approaches must have a window of protection of at least one month from a single dose (injection) or continuous dosing regimen (implant, transdermal patch)
  • Developing sustained release formulations for HIV prevention with the potential for administration once per month or less frequently
  • Studies that incorporate investigating the pharmacology of proposed formulations in animals to confirm that proposed delivery systems are providing effective drug levels in plasma and target tissues (e.g., semen, genital and gastrointestinal tract mucosa, lymph nodes)
  • Projects that include assessments of the attributes of the proposed formulations

Read the FOA for additional information on research topics of interest, as well as those that will be not be supported.

Also note that applications may focus on more than one research topic. Additionally, we encourage applicants to specify milestones and timelines for their proposed research.

Application Information

Application budgets are not limited but should reflect the actual needs of the proposed project and abide by the maximum project period of five years.

This FOA has multiple due dates: January 4, 2017, January 4, 2018, and January 4, 2019. We strongly recommend that you apply early to allow adequate time to correct any errors found in your application during the submission process.

Read the May 17, 2016 Guide announcement for complete details. Direct questions to Dr. Jim Turpin or Daniella Livnat, the scientific/research contacts for the FOA.

Explore Immune Response Dynamics Through Cooperative Agreement FOA

Now's your chance to identify previously unappreciated key immune regulatory genes, signaling pathways, or mechanisms. You'll do so by combining forward genetic screens of mutant (e.g., generated using CRISPR/Cas9, ENU) or genetically diverse (e.g., Collaborative Cross, Diversity Outbred) mice with systems immunology analyses, then validating results in human cells and tissues.

NIAID is especially interested in funding applications that propose to:

  • Determine the functions of novel immune genes or proteins that are triggered in the primary or secondary response to infectious pathogens, adjuvants, or vaccines.
  • Identify new functions for known genes and proteins in regulating or contributing to the generation and maintenance of protective or pathogenic immunity.
  • Dissect the molecules and pathways involved in regulating the innate or adaptive immune system.
  • Regulate mucosal immunity triggered in response to infectious pathogens, adjuvants, or vaccines.
  • Determine the mechanisms of transcriptional or translational regulation of the innate or adaptive immune system.
  • Understand genomic regulation of immune response genes and the impact on immunity.
  • Understand interacting cell types and spatial or temporal relationships during immune responses.
  • Identify the signal transduction mechanisms or networks activated in cells of the innate or adaptive immune system.

The network of programs supported by this initiative will rapidly disseminate data, protocols, and animal models to the broader research community using public portals, such as ImmPort. They will also provide new mouse strains or other animal models to repositories, such as the Mutant Mouse Resource Research Centers.

Ultimately, the initiative will advance our understanding of immune response dynamics following infection with a pathogen or administration of an adjuvant or vaccine. The research outcomes will inform the development of novel translational approaches, including vaccine production and immune-based therapeutics.

Key Aspects of the Initiative

This initiative is a cooperative agreement research program (U19 activity code), which means there will be substantial NIAID staff involvement. There are several other features of the initiative you'll want to keep in mind.

  1. The majority of the animal work will be conducted using mouse models, although other animal models have proven to be valuable models for the study of immune responses to human infectious disease for some pathogens. Thus, you may include an additional animal model in your application. Be sure to justify the additional model with compelling rationale.
  2. Each program within the initiative must include correlation studies to analyze, in human cell or tissue samples, a subset of the immune regulatory genes, pathways, or mechanisms identified in the screens of mouse models. You can include the human correlation studies as a Specific Aim within each research project or as a distinct research project. Note that while NIAID will support clinical research in this funding opportunity announcement (FOA), we will not support clinical trials.
  3. The FOA will support the development of novel bioinformatic, analytical, or computational tools and models for systems-level analyses. You will need to make available to the wider scientific community all scientific data, new techniques and protocols, research tools, and animal models in a timely fashion.
  4. Each program within the initiative will sustain its own pilot project program, used to support small-scale studies that extensively characterize immune gene candidates or pathways.
  5. A steering committee will promote scientific collaboration and exchange of scientific findings among the network's programs, as well as coordinate data dissemination to the broader scientific community.

Overall, NIAID plans to commit $6.3 million in FY 2017 to fund two or three awards.

Application Requirements

Your proposed budget cannot exceed $1.5 million in annual direct costs. The maximum project period is five years. For the pilot project program—the aspect within your overall program mentioned above—you should propose between $100,000 and $200,000 in annual direct costs for the second through fifth years of the project.

Your application must include an administrative core, a data management and bioinformatics core (DMBC), and multiple research projects, as well as optional service cores.

The DMBC should provide central data storage, data management, and information security services to all the researchers within your program. You will also use it to ensure the timely submission of data and data analyses to ImmPort. Use the optional service cores to provide standard assays, reagents, technologies, repositories, or other services to at least two projects within your overall program. The service cores should not be used to develop new technologies.

Finally, be aware there are several research areas that, if proposed, will render your application nonresponsive. For example, you cannot:

  • Focus on understanding the biology or pathogenesis of infectious agents.
  • Conduct studies involving cancer models.
  • Focus solely on immune-mediated diseases.
  • Conduct clinical trials.

For the complete funding opportunity announcement, read the May 26, 2016 Guide announcement.

This program is complex and the requirements for your application are complicated. If you have any questions, contact Dr. Kentner Singleton.

In the News

Know When NIH Will Fund Chimpanzee Research

Effective immediately, NIH will fund new or competing applications proposing chimpanzee research only if the research is noninvasive, as defined in the “Standards of Care for Chimpanzees Held in the Federally Supported Chimpanzee Sanctuary System” at 42 CFR part 9. This policy change follows NIH’s reassessment and decision to no longer maintain a chimpanzee colony for research, as announced in the February 9, 2016 Federal Register notice.

Examples of noninvasive chimpanzee medical studies that may be considered for funding include:

  • Observational studies and collection of biomaterial in the wild without interfering with the chimpanzee.
  • Collecting biological materials, including saliva, urine, feces, and hair, obtained voluntarily from a chimpanzee that has been trained to cooperate in the collection, but excluding venipuncture and other invasive methods.
  • Medical examinations as deemed necessary to oversee the health of chimpanzees, in the least invasive manner possible. Collecting samples routinely obtained during a physical examination for processing is also considered noninvasive.
  • Actions taken to provide essential medical treatment to an individual chimpanzee exhibiting symptoms of illness. This applies only to serious illness that cannot be treated while the chimpanzee remains within the colony.

NIH will administer the policy by sending an email notification from the Chimpanzee Research Use Reporting System to investigators whose applications have been flagged automatically as including chimpanzee research and are being considered for funding following second-level peer review by Council (this would be during the just-in-time phase of the funding process).

If you believe you received the notification in error—a false positive—inform NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) that your project does not involve the use of chimpanzees or chimpanzee biomaterials.

If your application does include chimpanzee research, you will need to provide OLAW with a justification that your research is consistent with the definition of noninvasive chimpanzee research, linked above. You cannot receive NIH funding for any components of your research proposal that are ultimately deemed invasive.

For complete details, read the May 26, 2016 Guide notice.

News Briefs

The Transition to FORMS-D Is Complete.

The window for late and continuous submission using FORMS-C application guides and form set is now closed. Going forward, any application you submit must follow the FORMS-D application guides and form sets. Find the FORMS-D Application Guide at How to Apply—Application Guide, keeping in mind that Policy Changes Accompany the FORMS-D Changeover.

You May Need to Restart Your Fellowship Application.

If you began working on a fellowship application before last Wednesday, June 8, you need to return to the funding opportunity announcement and start again. A posting issue that has since been corrected will cause submission errors otherwise. See the June 10, 2016 Guide notice for more information.

The SBIR Road Tour Rides Again.

Small businesses, make plans to check out the SBIR Road Tour when it visits a city near you. The West Central Tour is fast approaching, with an event scheduled in Laramie, Wyoming, on Monday, June 27, 2016. Look through the Dates/Locations to find your opportunity to meet federal and state program managers who sponsor a wide spectrum of innovative ideas.

Check Out a Set of HIV-Related FOAs From FIC.

NIH's Fogarty International Center (FIC) issued three new funding opportunity announcements, all with the goal of developing HIV research training programs at institutions in low- and middle-income countries. To learn more, check out the Fogarty HIV Research Training Program, which provides a program overview, frequently asked questions, and eligibility information.

Answer RFI for ME/CFS Research Strategies.

The NIH Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) Working Group seeks input on challenges or barriers to progress, emerging needs and opportunities, and gaps and opportunities in research on ME/CFS. Read the May 24, 2016 Guide notice to see all of the information requested and respond by emailing by next Friday, June 24.

OAR Welcomes a New Director.

Congratulations to Maureen M. Goodenow, Ph.D., NIH's new associate director for AIDS research and director of the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR). Most recently, Dr. Goodenow was a professor of pathology, immunology, and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She previously served on the AIDS Research Advisory Committee for NIAID. To learn more about Dr. Goodenow, read the Appointment Announcement from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Advice Corner

What to Do After You Apply, Before Your Application's Peer Review

If you think your work is done once you submit your application, think again. Even after the viewing window closes, you can still improve your chances of success.

Use this checklist to make sure you're covering all your bases.

1. Check Your Study Section Assignment

If you requested a study section assignment, log in to the eRA Commons to check whether your application was assigned to your preferred study section.

NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) inputs your assignment as soon as it assigns your application to a study section. However, it may take as long as 10 days, so keep checking should you not immediately see your assignment.

If you did not get the study section you requested, check carefully that you are assigned to one that has the expertise needed to understand your application. CSR may have more than one study section with the expertise you require and sometimes creates ad hoc groups to fill in gaps. You might also be assigned to an ad hoc group because there are too many conflicts with the standing study section panel—note that these ad hoc groups are labeled “ZRG” followed by a number. Find out more from the scientific review officer (SRO) assigned to your application.

You may still feel your application was not assigned to an appropriate study section, in which case you can request a change. For instructions on how to do so, read Request a Change of Study Section in Application Assigned to a Review Group.

2. Check Your Institute Assignment

When you check your study section assignment, also check your institute assignment, assuming you requested one.

If you didn't get the assignment you expected or are otherwise unhappy with your application's institute assignment, contact your program officer. Keep in mind that NIAID must participate in the funding opportunity for the application to be assigned here.

Your application stands the best chance of getting funded by going to an institute that considers your research high-priority, and program officers are in the best position to make that assessment and advise you what to do.

When you speak to your program officer, you may want to ask for dual assignment with NIAID and another institute (if you haven't already requested dual assignment). Read our Dual Assignments SOP for additional details.

3. Send Additional Information as Needed

Keep track of changes in your budget, equipment, and personnel, or new professional accomplishments for you or your key personnel.

Should anything change, you may notify your SRO until 30 days before your review date. NIH accepts the following items after you apply:

  • Revised budget page(s) (e.g., change in budget request due to new funding or institutional acquisition of equipment)
  • Biographical sketches (e.g., change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator)
  • Letters of support or collaboration resulting from a change in senior/key personnel due to the hiring, replacement, or loss of an investigator
  • Adjustments resulting from natural disasters (e.g., loss of an animal colony)
  • Adjustments resulting from change of institution (e.g., PI moves to another university)
  • Letter of acceptance that a manuscript has been accepted for publication (a copy of the article should not be sent)
  • News of a professional promotion or positive tenure decision for any PIs or key personnel

Keep in mind that the parenthetical examples are usually the only items NIH will accept, and your SRO has the final authority over what to accept.

For training grants, you may send other items, e.g., enrollment data and changes in the applicant pool.

For a full list of information you're allowed to send late and instructions on how to do so, read Late Applications and Post-Submission Materials and NIH's Post Submission Application Materials.

Some words of caution:

  • Check your funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for any limitations or deviations from this policy. Your FOA trumps all other instructions or guidance.
  • NIH cannot accept anything you send with fewer than 30 days before the review meeting.

4. Check for Changes in Your Study Section's Roster

Continue to review your study section roster to make sure it still has the expertise necessary to understand your application.

Compositions of study sections vary somewhat from one review round to another as standing members finish their terms and SROs add new, sometimes temporary members to fill in gaps in expertise.

During this time, address any concerns to your SRO. He or she may be able to address your concerns, but if not, you'll have to decide whether to proceed with peer review or withdraw your application.

Note: In your PHS Assignment Request Form when you apply, you should identify competitors and note all expertise necessary to understand your application, but we recommend that you do not suggest specific reviewers. For this checklist, we're just talking about double-checking that your study section still suits your application.

5. Give Your Application a Fresh Look

Review all parts of your application again, not just your Research Plan. Do you see any flaws? Data errors? Problems with your presentation? Are any attachments missing? Have you verified that your application is complete?

When you step back and look at your application without the pressure of an application deadline and when not thinking about every detail, you may see new problems or opportunities to make significant improvements.

Since you cannot amend or correct your Research Plan, you may find it advantageous to withdraw your application and try again for a later receipt date. For more on that, see the next item on our list.

6. Withdraw if You Must

You want to do everything you can to convince reviewers your work is significant, high-impact, and able to drive knowledge in your field to a higher level.

Withdrawing your application—with the intention to apply at a later date—may get you the best review result if you see serious flaws or spot opportunities to incorporate new scientific discoveries that elevate the significance of your work.

7. Read More About These Topics

For additional information and advice, read the following:

Related SOPs

NIH Resources

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 site, or both.

“Can an SBIR or STTR budget include a consulting fee for an expert who helps prepare the grant application?”—anonymous reader

Not exactly. As a small business, you may request and receive a fee of up to seven percent of your total costs (direct plus indirect) for the project. The fee is intended to be a reasonable profit factor available to for-profit organizations, consistent with normal profit margins provided to profit-making firms for research and development work.

You can use that fee for any purpose, including expenses not allowed in the grant budget like foreign consultants, marketing research, and patent applications. Thus, you can't include the consulting fee in the application's project budget, but there is a path to pay the expert if your application is funded.

To learn more about this fee, read "Please explain what is meant by the 'fee.' Is this a direct cost or an indirect cost?" on NIH's SBIR/STTR Frequently Asked Questions page.

“Can PIs get support for postdocs who are taking care of children or ailing family members?”—anonymous reader

Yes. By applying for Primary Caregiver Technical Assistance Supplements, PIs can obtain technical support for postdocs who are taking care of children or ailing family members.

New Funding Opportunities

See other announcements at NIAID Funding Opportunities List.​​

Content last reviewed on June 15, 2016