NIH Establishes Urgent Award Mechanism for Public Health Crises

Funding News Edition: October 17, 2018
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NIAID relies on several funding strategies to quickly address research needs in the face of an outbreak or crisis, as discussed in our July 15, 2015 article “Responding to Emerging Health Threats.”

NIH’s new Urgent Competitive Revision to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Urgent Supplement, Clinical Trial Optional) gives us another tool for rapidly mobilizing research in response to crises.

How It Will Work

NIH issued the competitive revisions (Type 3) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to accept urgent award applications. This FOA is unique in that it does not identify a research scope; instead, an NIH institute or center (IC) will publish an Urgent Award Notice to define an urgent need and provide specific dates for submitting competitive revision applications through NIH’s urgent supplement FOA.

Again, there must first be an Urgent Award Notice related to this FOA before you can apply for an urgent supplement. You cannot submit an unsolicited request for additional funds through the FOA.

A competitive revision is defined as a request for additional funds during a current project period to support new or additional activities that are not identified in the current award. This request reflects an expansion of the scope of the grant-approved activities.

When an IC identifies an urgent need, it will publish an Urgent Award Notice providing the clear and concise public health crisis justification to support the scientific need for urgent awards. The notice will also list specific research aims and objectives, submission deadlines, special submission requirements, review criteria based on the parent award, reporting requirements, and any award conditions, as applicable.

You can then apply to expand the scope of your current award through the urgent supplement FOA, citing the IC’s notice in your cover letter. Thus, if your current award is focused on one pathogen, but the Urgent Award Notice seeks applications relevant to a different pathogen, you can still apply. Similarly, if your current award does not include vertebrate animal studies, your new proposed activities can include vertebrate animals or human subjects.

Applicants must electronically submit an SF 424 (R&R) application, with page limits corresponding to the current award mechanism, but in most cases your narrative will be much shorter as it needs to describe only the new proposed activities.

Rather than undergoing formal peer review, as is required for competitive revision applications, urgent supplement submissions will instead be reviewed internally by the IC. The IC’s Council will perform second-level review in an expedited fashion. Overall, the accelerated review process should shorten the time from Urgent Award Notice to award to less than 60 days.

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