NIH Announces 79 Awards to Encourage Creative Ideas in Science

The National Institutes of Health recently announced that it is awarding $143.8 million to challenge the status quo with innovative ideas that have the potential to propel fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health for the American public.

These awards are granted under three innovative research programs supported by the NIH Common Fund: the NIH Director’s Pioneer, New Innovator, and Transformative Research Projects Awards. The Common Fund, enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act, supports trans-NIH programs with a particular emphasis on innovation and risk taking.

NIH award programs

Recovery Act Drives Record Number of NIH Grant Applications

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) was signed into law by President Obama on February 17th, 2009. It included significant support for biomedical research. As part of the Recovery Act, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designated at least $200 million for a new initiative in fiscal year 2009 – 2010 called the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research (RC1). The initiative is designed to fund approximately 200 grants. Earlier this week, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that the NIH has received approximately 20,000 Challenge Grant applications through the Recovery Act [1].


By way of comparison, the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) reviewed 27,360 Research Project Grants (R01s) and 9,483 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grants (R21s) for the entire year of 2008 [2]. Over the next few months, the CSR will check the submitted Challenge Grant applications for compliance and then review them in a two-phase process. Reviewers with expertise in the specific Challenge Areas (listed below) will do the first phase reviews, followed by a study section comprised of researchers who will focus on each application’s overall significance and impact. The earliest anticipated start date for those grants funded is September 30th, 2009.

NIH Increases Support for High-risk Large-impact Biomedical Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced last week that it has increased support for high-risk, large-impact research by awarding 16 investigators the Pioneer Award; 2.5 million for each investigator over five years to pursue research in a variety of areas, including embroyonic development, autism, prions (responsible for the formation of amyloid plaques that lead to neurodegeneration) and malaria [1].

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award is a high-risk research initiative desiged to [2]:

… support individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering — and possibly transforming approaches — to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research.

First announced in 2004, 9 awards were presented in September 2004, 13 awards each were made in 2005 and 2006, and 12 awards were presented last year.