January 2019 Trans-Divisional Council-Approved Concepts

Concepts represent early planning stages for program announcements, requests for applications, or solicitations for Council's input. If NIAID publishes an initiative from one of these concepts, we link to it below. To find initiatives, go to Opportunities & Announcements.

NB: Council approval does not guarantee that a concept will become an initiative.

Table of Contents

NIAID New Innovator Awards

Request for Applications—proposed FY 2021 initiative

Contact: Ken Santora

Objective: In the May 18, 2018 issue of Science, several of America’s most respected scientists wrote an essay about improving support for young biomedical scientists and discuss the conservative constraints imposed on the applications of new investigators. The authors argue that in competing with established investigators, early-stage investigators (ESIs) are forced to demonstrate a track record of successful research and to accumulate substantial preliminary data to support their first R01 application. As a result, young investigators have an incentive to prolong their postdoctoral fellowships and to write their first application in an area that is often a derivative of their mentor’s research. In the authors’ opinion, this is not a prescription for encouraging young, dynamic investigators to seek independence by developing bold, creative ideas of their own. The authors conclude by arguing that NIH should expand its use of the DP2 mechanism to fund additional ESIs through the Common Fund and that the individual institutes should develop their own DP2 programs. The DP2 mechanism encourages bold, creative ideas from ESIs, does not require preliminary data, and uses a separate review panel whose members are aware of their unique charge to identify especially creative young scientists.

Description: NIAID has debated the challenges posed in the Science article and concluded that the Institute would like to initiate its own pilot program to fund approximately 10 DP2 awards each year beyond that of the existing Common Fund program. The Institute would issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) describing NIAID’s scientific areas of interest and indicate that applications would be reviewed by an NIAID special emphasis panel specially developed for this purpose. Applicants responding to the NIAID FOA could simultaneously submit to the Common Fund program if they meet eligibility criteria for both programs.

NIAID seeks to incorporate two modifications into its NIAID DP2 program:

  1. Modified Eligibility Criteria

    The NIAID DP2 program would be available to U.S. citizens as well as non-U.S. citizens and would not require that the applicant already hold a faculty position. Currently, the NIH DP2 program is available to U.S. citizens with faculty appointments at U.S. institutions. In contrast, K99 awards do not require U.S. citizenship, and K22 award applicants can be postdoctoral fellows without a faculty appointment when they apply (although their award is not activated until they obtain a faculty position in this country). Similarly, NIAID believes that its pilot DP2 program should be available only to U.S. institutions, but open to non-U.S. citizen program directors/principal investigators and those who are still in their fellowship training.

    Regarding citizenship, it is not our purpose in this initiative to develop a creative, scientific workforce for other countries. However, we believe that a non-citizen who successfully competes for a DP2 award and obtains a U.S. faculty position will be a highly valuable addition to the U.S. scientific enterprise.

    Regarding the NIH Common Fund requirement that DP2 applicants already have a faculty appointment, we believe that this defeats one of the major purposes of this initiative: to encourage shorter postdoctoral fellowships and get creative young scientists started earlier on their independent careers. We believe that creative investigators should have the opportunity to break out on their own whenever they can convince a peer review panel that they have the ideas and the skills to be successful. NIAID would also allow ESIs with a faculty appointment to apply to its DP2 program.

  2.  Modified Funding Stream

    The NIAID DP2 awards would consist of $300,000 per year for five years. Currently, the NIH Common Fund DP2 program provides the entire five-year $1.5 million in directs costs at the time of the DP2 award. This funding strategy has the advantage of enabling large equipment purchases for new investigators early in the award period. It also avoids outyear commitments for NIH, which is helpful to the Common Fund since it has large annual budget fluctuations. Historically, however, the spending pattern of DP2 recipients starts slowly in the first two years and then, not surprisingly, picks up with time. In addition, NIAID funding for its research project grant awards is more consistent than for the Common Fund, and outyear commitments are built into our planning mechanisms. Thus, there is no advantage for NIAID to fund the entire award on day one. The disadvantage with this approach is that any funds not spent within the five years of the award must be returned to the U.S. Treasury at the end of that time. As a result, there is no possibility for a no-cost extension on a DP2 award. Periodically, NIAID has found that this restriction has limited the flexibility of DP2 investigators whose future funding may not always be available before the end of their DP2 award. NIAID would therefore prefer to fund its DP2 recipients with $300,000 per year for five years.

NIAID Clinical Trial Planning Grants

Program Announcement With Special Receipt, Referral, and or Review Considerations—proposed FY 2021 initiative

Contact: Ken Santora

Objective: Although clinical research infrastructure is crucial to furthering the Institute’s research, NIAID recognizes that additional models of clinical research may be important to advancing its research mission. Therefore, NIAID has established the investigator-initiated clinical trial program for clinical trials that cannot or will not be conducted through existing NIAID-supported clinical trial infrastructure.

Description: This program consists of support for the NIAID Clinical Trial Planning Grant (R34), which supports planning activities associated with either high- or non-high-risk clinical trials. However, the NIAID Clinical Trial Planning Grant (R34) (PAR-16-272) is not a prerequisite for either NIAID implementation award. If a clinical trial is ready for implementation, and readiness is adequately supported by appropriate documentation, the R01 or U01 application may be submitted to the appropriate funding opportunity announcement.

Content last reviewed on February 11, 2019