Funding News Edition: September 21, 2022 See more articles in this edition
NIAID is preparing to launch the NIH Medical Scientist Partnership Program (MSPP), a trans-NIH effort to support combined degree candidates by providing them an option to conduct doctoral research in an NIH intramural laboratory. Our Advisory Council approved the novel concept at last week’s meeting, and we expect to publish a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) early in 2023.
MSPP’s purpose is to broaden the pool of physician-scientists entering careers in biomedical research. Ideal applicants will be students in their final year of an undergraduate degree program, postbacs, or students starting their first year of medical, dental, or veterinary school. Because these candidates are unlikely to be familiar with NIH grants and applications, mentors and offices of sponsored programs will have a key role to play in connecting candidates to this opportunity.
How It Works
NIAID (or another NIH institute or center) will provide stipend and tuition support for successful applicants’ remaining years of medical, dental, or veterinary school. After completing the second year, candidates will take an extended leave of absence to join an NIH Intramural laboratory, hired as an Intramural Research Training Award fellow to conduct their Ph.D. research. Following the research period, candidates will return to complete their clinical degree programs, still with NIH support.
MSPP will offer two tracks. For Track 1, the applicant should be a postbac or undergraduate student in his or her final year of study and will receive 4 years of clinical degree support. For Track 2, the applicant will already be a first-year medical, dental, or veterinary school student and receive 3 years of clinical degree support.
The Program will be structured such that NIAID is technically the applicant organization for Track 1 students. Candidates will submit an abridged application package to NIAID and NIAID will complete the application process on their behalf. For Track 2 students, the candidate’s current institution will be the applicant organization. Once a candidate is selected for a fellowship, the award will be made to the student’s medical, dental, or veterinary school. During the period of doctoral research at an NIH Intramural laboratory, the candidate will receive direct support from NIH.
MSPP will use a novel non-National Research Service Award fellowship award mechanism, the FM1 grant. Unlike other NIH fellowship programs, applicants do not need to propose a specific research project. Instead, candidates will be evaluated based on their academic record, research experience, personal statement, and letters of recommendation. These materials should demonstrate the candidate’s commitment to pursuing a professional degree and engaging in independent biomedical research.
Candidates do not need to identify a preferred NIH Intramural laboratory or mentor at the time of application; it’s sufficient to articulate a general field of research interest. NIH will help place successful candidates into an appropriate laboratory nearer to their leaves of absence to conduct research.
How Mentors Can Help
This newsletter’s readership doesn’t include many undergraduate or medical school students; so mentors, we need your help bringing this opportunity to the attention of strong candidates. Since MSPP will not require that a candidate’s professional school have a dual-degree program, it represents a great opportunity for students from institutions without a physician-scientist training program to pursue a combined degree.
Further, mentors can help candidates assemble well-constructed applications. Applying for NIH support is complicated, and undergraduate students especially will benefit from help navigating the application process as well as grant-writing instruction to create strong personal statements and sharp descriptions of past research experiences.
For More Information
We will discuss MSPP again in this newsletter once the planned FOA publishes, and at that time we will provide additional application details like page limits and submission deadlines. Until then, if you’d like to know more about the Program, contact NIAID’s Office of Research Training and Special Programs by emailing AITrainingHelpDesk@mail.nih.gov.