Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): NIEHS Support for Understanding the Impact of Environmental Exposures on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Notice Number: NOT-ES-20-015

Key Dates
Release Date: April 9, 2020
First Available Due Date: May 01, 2020
Expiration Date: May 04, 2021

Related Announcements

PA-20-135 Emergency Competitive Revision to Existing NIH Awards (Emergency Supplement - Clinical Trial Optional)

RFA-ES-19-011 Mechanism for Time-Sensitive Research Opportunities in Environmental Health Sciences (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NOT-OD-21-104- Reminder: Required use of FORMS-F application forms for application submission

Issued by
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)


NIEHS is issuing this Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) to address the urgent need for mission-relevant research to understand the impact of environmental exposures on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and its causative agent, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). NIEHS is particularly interested in applications that will provide insight into the role of environmental exposures in pathogenicity, transmission, individual susceptibility, or prevention and intervention strategies.


The rapid global spread of SARS-Cov-2 and the prevalence of COVID-19 disease has raised concern from the public, health professionals, and the research community. Information on the pandemic is changing daily with the latest public health information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and latest research information available from the National Institutes of Health ( There are compelling research questions regarding the role of environmental exposures in the spread of the virus, individual susceptibility to infection, and the severity and progression of disease. Exposure to environmental chemicals or other pollutants can contribute to compromised function of diverse systems (pulmonary, cardiovascular, neuronal) and may impact host immune function. Individuals whose environmental exposures are disproportionately high, reflecting lower socioeconomic status or other health disparities, may have an elevated risk of COVID-19. Studying the role of environmental exposures and susceptibility factors will aid in gaining comprehensive understanding in combating spread as well as severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Objectives

NIEHS seeks to promote rapid understanding of the potential contributions of current and past exposure to environmental agents that may exacerbate COVID-19 susceptibility, disease severity, and progression. Examples of environmental exposures relevant to the NIEHS mission include: toxic chemicals, air pollutants, second hand tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapors, metals, and other environmental chemical exposures that may impact health outcomes. In addition, some health outcomes that are linked to environmental exposures (asthma, diabetes, and other pulmonary, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases) are also risk factors for COVID-19. NIEHS is accepting applications addressing COVID-19 through the urgent competitive revision, and time-sensitive mechanisms (see Application Information below).

Possible research interests include but are not limited to the following:

  • Examine the role of environmental exposures in impacting individual susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection, or the development and severity of COVID-19 disease.
  • Investigate the role of lifestyle factors (e.g. diet, physical activity) as modifiers of the effects of environmental exposures on the development or severity of COVID-19 disease.
  • Leverage existing biological samples or data from human or animal research studies to test hypotheses examining the impact of environmental exposures on susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection and COVID-19 disease severity or progression (e.g. detection of SARS-Cov-2 infection in an existing environmental epidemiology study).
  • Utilize previously developed research tools or technology platforms that can be applied to understand how environmental exposures impact COVID-19 spread, or disease progression and severity (e.g. personal exposure monitoring, geospatial mapping, risk modeling tools, biomarkers to detect infection).
  • Apply multi-omics approaches that can accelerate identification of biomarkers/metabolic signatures of infection or disease progression using animal models as well as in study participants of existing environmental health studies.
  • Understand the role of exposure-induced perturbations in respiratory microbiome and its contributions to COVID-19 susceptibility and disease progression.
  • Assess the impact of COVID-19-related interventions (including social or physical distancing or public health messaging) on changes in the spread of COVID-19 as well as environmental exposures and related human health outcomes.
  • Determine the potential health effects of increased personal/community use of disinfection products for COVID-19 control.
  • Develop or apply educational, community-based, or other public health strategies that address the intersection between environmental exposures and COVID-19.
  • Identify climate or weather-related factors that influence population susceptibility to SARS-Cov-2 infection and COVID-19 disease.
  • Examine the potential impact of environmental health disparities on the spread of COVID-19 disease.

Application and Submission Information

To better understand the role of environmental exposures in SARS-Cov-2 transmission and COVID-19 disease incidence and progression, NIEHS encourages applications to be submitted using the following opportunities:

  • PA-20-135; Emergency Competitive Revision to Existing NIH Awards (Emergency Supplement - Clinical Trial Optional), which is intended to provide funds for NIH grantees applying to expand the scope of their active grant.
  • NIEHS considers the COVID-19 pandemic to be an unpredictable event that provides a limited window of opportunity to collect human biological samples or environmental exposure data (e.g measuring levels of pollutants in air or water during a long period of social distancing due to COVID-19). If you are applying for a new R21 grant that does not build off of an existing NIEHS grant, apply to RFA-ES-19-011 “Mechanism for Time-Sensitive Research Opportunities in Environmental Health Sciences (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)”, provided the time-sensitive criteria described therein are met.

The use of each mechanism described should carefully be considered in the context of the support needed to meet goals of the research question, and the purpose of the mechanism. Applicants are encouraged to contact the Program Officer of the parent grant, or the program contacts listed on this NOSI for guidance. More details about recommendations and other funding opportunities can be found on the NIH Office of Extramural Research Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Information for NIH Applicants and Recipients of NIH Funding webpage (

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and PA-20-135 or RFA-ES-19-011 must be followed, with the following additions:

  • Application Due Dates for all programs: May 1, 2020; June 1, 2020; July 1, 2020; August 3, 2020; September 1, 2020; October 1, 2020; November 2, 2020; December 1, 2020; January 4, 2021; February 1, 2021; March 1, 2021; April 1, 2021; May 3, 2021, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. This NOSI expires May 4, 2021.
  • For funding consideration, applicants must include "NOT-ES-20-015" (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (Box 4b) of the SF424 (R&R) Form. Applications without this information in Box 4b will not be considered for this initiative.
  • Competitive revision applications to PA-20-135 must use an application form package with the Competition ID containing “NOT-ES-20-015".
  • Requests may be for only one year of support for supplements, and up to two years for RFA-ES-19-011.
  • The Research Strategy section of the application is limited to 6 pages for PA-18-591 and PA-18-935. See RFA-ES-19-011 for page limits.



Please direct all inquiries to:

Scientific/Research Contacts:

Anika Dzierlenga, Ph.D.

Genes, Environment, and Health Branch

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Telephone: (984) 287-3125


Heather Henry, Ph.D.

Hazardous Substances Research Branch

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Telephone: (984) 287-3268


Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D.

Population Health Branch

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Telephone: (984) 287-3276


Sri Nadadur, Ph.D.

Exposure, Research, and Technology Branch

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Telephone: (984) 287-3296