Request for Information (RFI): Soliciting Input on the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) New Innovator Awards (DP2 Clinical Trials Optional)

Notice Number: NOT-AI-19-013

Key Dates
Release Date: November 5, 2018
Response Date: December 31, 2018

Related Announcements
None

Issued by
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Purpose

The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to invite comments and suggestions on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) proposal to develop a new DP2 Program.  The NIAID is publishing this Notice to solicit input on topics under consideration for this program from its stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, and professional societies, as well as other interested members of the public.

Background

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, which discusses the conservative constraints imposed on the applications of new investigators.  The authors argue that in competing with established investigators for R01 funding, 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, these young investigators have an incentive to prolong their post-doctoral fellowships and to write their first application in an area that is often derivative of their mentor’s research.  In the opinion of these authors, 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 individual NIH 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 (see https://commonfund.nih.gov/newinnovator for more information on the DP2 NIH Director's New Innovator Award).

NIAID to Develop Its Own DP2 Program:

NIAID has debated the challenges posed in the Science article and concluded that the Institute would like to initiate its own pilot DP2 program.  The purpose of this new program would be to fund applications proposing bold new ideas from Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and those currently in their post-doctoral years.  Through this program, NIAID wants to encourage shorter post-doctoral fellowships and get creative scientists started earlier on their independent careers.  Although a good model, the NIH DP2 Program includes some features that NIAID would like to modify or expand to better meet this goal.  For example, while the NIH Program is restricted to U.S. citizens with faculty appointments at U.S. institutions, the NIAID DP2 program would be available to non-U.S. citizens and to applicants who are still in their fellowship training at U.S. institutions, although the award would not be activated until the applicant obtained a U.S. faculty position.  In addition, NIH provides the entire five-year $1.5 million in direct costs at the time of the DP2 award.  NIAID would fund its DP2 recipients with $300K in direct costs per year for five years, thus potentially allowing for a no-cost extension at the end of the award period. 

The NIAID DP2 award program would be an addition to the current K22 and K99/R00 programs. The primary focus of the NIAID DP2 award would be to support investigators with bold new ideas yet little preliminary data.  The NIAID Career Transition Award (K22) provides two years of support to post-docs to conduct biomedical research at an extramural institution at which the individual has accepted a tenure-track full-time assistant professor position (or equivalent), thus allowing the individual to work toward establishing an independent research program.  The NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) is designed to help outstanding post-doctoral researchers complete mentored training (up to two years) and transition to an independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty position (up to three years).  While recipients of NIAID K22 and K99 awards have been successful in obtaining high quality faculty positions and in acquiring subsequent NIH funding, neither of these mechanisms accomplishes the stated goals of the DP2 program. 

The Institute plans to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) describing the scientific areas of interest to NIAID and indicate that applications would be reviewed by an NIAID special emphasis panel specially developed for this purpose. 

Information Requested

This RFI seeks input from stakeholders throughout the scientific research community and the general public regarding the above proposal by NIAID to develop its own pilot DP2 program.

The NIAID seeks comments on any of the following topics:

  • Appropriateness of the DP2 mechanism:  The DP2 mechanism was developed by the NIH to support highly innovative research projects by new investigators in all areas of biomedical and behavioral research.  The NIAD proposes to use this ‘high risk, high reward’ mechanism to fund ESIs or post-docs with bold new and innovative ideas with little preliminary data requirement;
  • Appropriateness of the expansion of eligibility criteria:  NIAID’s proposed DP2 program would be available for applications only from U.S. institutions.  However, NIAID would not require that the PD/PI be a U.S. citizen.  By the time of award, the individual must be a citizen or a non-citizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.  NIAID would accept applications from ESI investigators who already hold a faculty position or from post-doctoral fellows, in which case the award would be activated after they obtain a faculty position. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply for this support.
  • Appropriateness of the program funding:  NIAID plans to incrementally fund awardees with $300K direct costs per year for up to five years.  The applications would be reviewed by a specific Special Emphasis Panel convened by NIAID.
  • Any other topic the respondent feels is relevant for NIAID to consider in developing this program.

How to Submit a Response

Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically at: NIAIDDP2Program@niaid.nih.gov  

Responses must be received by December 31, 2018.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary.  Do not include any proprietary, classified, confidential, trade secret, or sensitive information in your response. The responses will be reviewed by NIAID staff, and individual feedback will not be provided to any responder. The Government will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion. The Government reserves the right to use any submitted information on public NIH websites, in reports, in summaries of the state of the science, in any possible resultant solicitation(s), grant(s), or cooperative agreement(s), or in the development of future funding opportunity announcements.

This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and shall not be construed as a solicitation, grant, or cooperative agreement, or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the NIH, or individual NIH Institutes and Centers to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. The Government will not pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information. No basis for claims against the U.S. Government shall arise as a result of a response to this request for information or from the Government’s use of such information.

NIAID looks forward to your input and we hope that you will share this RFI document with your colleagues.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Kenneth Santora, PhD
National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Email:  ksantora@niaid.nih.gov