Release Date:  December 21, 1999

RFA:  RR-00-003 (Limited competition for competing continuation applications, see 

National Center for Research Resources

Letter of Intent Receipt Date: February 10, 2000  
Application Receipt Date: March 8, 2000


The purpose of the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program is to foster 
health-related research and increase the competitiveness of investigators 
through support for faculty development and enhancement of the research 
infrastructure of institutions located in states with historically low 
aggregate success rates for grant awards from the National Institutes of 
Health (NIH).  In FY 1998, investigators from the 23 eligible IDeA states and 
Puerto Rico accounted for only 8 percent of the total number of NIH research 
grant applications, most likely reflecting that there are too few 
investigators trained to conduct biomedical research in those states.  To 
address this need, the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) of the 
National Institutes of Health invites applications for Centers of Biomedical 
Research Excellence (COBRE) from investigators at independent biomedical 
research institutions or biomedical research institutions that award doctoral 
degrees in the health sciences or sciences related to health within IDeA 
eligible states.  Collaboration with other non-doctoral degree granting and 
research performing institutes or institutions is encouraged.

The purpose of this Request for Applications is to augment and strengthen the 
institutional biomedical research capabilities by providing support to expand 
and develop biomedical faculty research capability through support of a multi-
disciplinary center, led by a peer-reviewed, NIH-funded investigator with 
expertise central to the grant proposal. The application is to have a thematic 
science focus in one research area – such as neuroscience, cancer, structural 
biology, immunology, or bioengineering – that may use basic, clinical or both 
research approaches to attain the goals of the proposed center.  The 
scientific leadership provided by one or more established biomedical research 
faculty is critical to the success of this initiative, especially for the 
mentoring of promising junior investigators.  The center is intended to 
support investigators from several different disciplines and to enable the 
institution to develop the critical mass of investigators and enhance their 
competitiveness in a research area that accelerates the rate at which those 
investigators compete for other complementary NIH research grant support.  It 
is also anticipated that, in some instances, the support through this 
initiative will facilitate the development of new disease specific research 
centers or augment the capability of existing centers. 

NCRR held a workshop on December 16,1999, to provide information and 
assistance to potential COBRE applicants.  A summary of the presentations and 
issues discussed will be available on-line at or provided upon request 
for those unable to attend.


The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health promotion 
and disease prevention objectives of “Healthy People 2000,” a PHS-led national 
activity for setting priority areas.  This Request for Applications (RFA), 
priority areas.  Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy People 
2000" at


In making its assessment for eligibility, NCRR included all states with a 
success rate for obtaining NIH grant awards (number of applications awarded 
vs. number of applications approved) of less than 20 percent over the period 
of 1994-1998.  Also included are those states which had higher success rates, 
but had less than $60 million average NIH funding over the five year period.  
Under these criteria, the following states are eligible:

Alaska         Kentucky          Nevada          Rhode Island
Arkansas       Louisiana         New Hampshire   South Carolina
Delaware       Maine             New Mexico      South Dakota
Hawaii         Mississippi       North Dakota    Vermont
Idaho          Montana           Oklahoma        West Virginia
Kansas         Nebraska          Puerto Rico     Wyoming

As noted above, Puerto Rico is included in these eligibility criteria.  Up to 
two applications may be submitted from each IDeA eligible state.  The 
applicant organization must be a domestic, public or private, non-profit 
independent biomedical research institution or biomedical research institution 
that awards doctoral degrees in the health sciences or sciences related to 
health within IDeA eligible states.  A coordinating committee must be 
established by the eligible institutions in order to determine the lead 
applicants.  Those states with Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive 
Research (EPSCOR) committees are encouraged to use them.  If an EPSCoR 
Committee is not available in an IDeA-eligible state, a comparable Committee 
is to determine priorities for proposal submission.  Collaboration between the 
eligible institutions is encouraged. 

The Principal Investigator must be an established research scientist with the 
ability to ensure high quality research and the experience to administer 
effectively and integrate all components of the program.  A minimum time 
commitment of 25 percent is expected for this individual, however, up to 50 
percent effort will be supported.  An award pursuant to this RFA will not be 
made until and unless the institution has appointed a COBRE Director who is an 
established biomedical scientist with an active research program that is 
supported by peer-reviewed NIH and/or NSF investigator-initiated research 
support in the scientific area of the Center and has the professional skills 
needed to direct the Program.  If this individual is not in place at the 
institution at the time of review or award, a plan to recruit such an 
individual must be included in the application.  The administrative and 
leadership skills of the established investigator, research productivity, and 
capacity to obtain and effectively use the resources will be assessed.  (See 


This RFA will use the exploratory grant award mechanism (P20).  Responsibility 
for the planning, directing and execution of the proposed project will be 
solely that of the applicant.  All current policies and requirements that 
govern the research grant programs of the NIH will apply to grants awarded 
under this RFA.  The anticipated award date is September 30, 2000.


The NCRR plans to make up to 15 awards in Fiscal Year 2000.  An applicant may 
request a project period of five or fewer years and a budget for direct costs 
of up to $1,500,000 per year, excluding F&A costs on consortium arrangements. 
Funds will not be provided for renovation of research facilities through this 
RFA.  Because the nature and scope of the research proposed may vary, it is 
anticipated that the size of each award will also vary.  Although the NCRR 
financial plans provide support for this program, awards pursuant to this RFA 
are contingent upon the availability of funds and the receipt of applications 
of outstanding scientific and technical merit.  At this time, it is not known 
if competing renewal applications will be accepted and/or if this RFA will be 

Consortium Arrangements

When a grant application includes research activities that involve 
institutions other than the grantee institution, it is considered a consortium 
effort.  Such activities may be included in the COBRE grant application, but 
it is imperative that a consortium application be prepared so that the 
programmatic, fiscal, and administrative considerations are explained fully.  
In addition, the COBRE thematic science focus must be evident in the 
application, which includes consortia arrangements.  Applicants for COBRE 
grants should exercise great diligence in preserving the interactions of the 
participants and the integration of the consortium project(s) with those of 
the parent institution, because synergism and cohesiveness can be diminished 
when projects are located outside of the group at the parent institution.  For 
the purposes of this RFA, F&A costs for the consortium organization(s) are 
excluded from the limit on the amount of direct costs that can be requested 
for the entire application.  Applicants are encouraged to review the NIH 
policy and procedures applicable to consortium agreements, which are published 
as part of the NIH Grants Policy Statement, Part III, available on the NIH 
homepage at  Questions may be 
directed to the fiscal contact identified below under Inquiries.  


This program seeks to promote the initiation and development or expansion of 
unique, innovative state-of-the-art biomedical and behavioral research at 
institutions in IDeA eligible states.  The research focus of this program cuts 
across the full spectrum of the basic and clinical sciences and also includes 
cellular and molecular biology, biophysics and biotechnology, genetics and 
developmental biology, pharmacology and others. The NIH recognizes that the 
contributions that the institutions in IDeA eligible states can make are 
important and essential in fulfilling the promise of the NIH research agenda. 
The intent of this RFA is to help these institutions develop and use the 
technologies and other resources needed to conduct state-of-the-art biomedical 
research with the ultimate goal of their competing independently for NIH 
research grants. 

Prime objectives of this program will be accomplished by providing support to 
a magnet investigator as well as support of three to five research projects 
with a thematic science focus.  With respect to the former, the principal 
investigator will enhance the institution(s) ability to compete for 
complementary NIH individual research grant support as well as serve as a 
mentor for more junior faculty at the institution(s).   

Describe an overall research plan that is sufficiently long term (5 years) to 
justify support of a multi-disciplinary COBRE Program.  The research plan of 
an application must contain the description of at least three and up to five 
multidisciplinary, collaborative research projects.

Describe the Specific Aims in the selected area of research and the goals for 
the first year and for the long term.  Delineate the design principle(s) 
supporting the research or the hypothesis(es) to be tested.  Preliminary 
studies are not required for COBRE applications, but applicants with 
preliminary results should describe them.  In the absence of preliminary 
results, applicants should describe the rationale and scientific basis for the 
proposed research.

Describe the area of multi-disciplinary research that is the focus of the 
COBRE.  Critically assess existing knowledge and approaches that have been or 
are being directed in the area, and specifically describe how the multi-
disciplinary COBRE approach will advance the field.  State concisely the 
importance and health relevance of the proposed research to the Specific Aims.

Clearly indicate what unique research opportunities will be provided by the 
proposed COBRE.  If the proposed COBRE research is closely related to ongoing 
research or an existing Center, explain how the research activities of the 
COBRE will complement but not overlap with existing research.  Describe the 
efforts of each member of the multi-disciplinary research team and how they 
will be integrated and organized to accomplish the specific aims of the 
project.  Provide a tentative sequence or timetable for the project.  Include 
how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.  Describe how the 
data and technological advances will be disseminated to other investigators.

Clearly describe the qualifications of the COBRE director selected for this 
effort.  If that individual is not a member of the faculty at the time of 
review of the application, include a detailed plan that will result in having 
that individual on the full time faculty within one year from the date of 
peer-review of the institution’s application.  

Although no non-federal matching funds are required for these applications, 
clear evidence of institutional commitment should be included with the 
application.  The level of institutional commitment will differ among 
applicant institutions because of the variability of resources available among 
institutions.  At a minimum, a letter of support from a senior institutional 
official (e.g., President or Dean) should outline the commitment for resources 
and facilities to sustain and support the COBRE throughout the period of 

The institutional environment and resources that are available to 
investigators must be briefly described.  As appropriate, available resources 
(e.g., laboratory facilities, patient populations, geographic distributions of 
space and personnel) and collaborative resources should be described.  If core 
facilities are included for support, the relationship of each component 
project to the core should be described. 

Finally, a plan should be presented detailing the long-term goals as to how 
the institution intends to transition the research support of the multi-
disciplinary COBRE to competitive grant support through applications submitted 
by its faculty members to relevant NIH institutes and centers.  This must 
include both formative and summary evaluation strategies with specific 


For the Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator(s), and non Co-Investigator 
Senior Personnel, provide a brief biographical sketch or curriculum vitae 
which includes a list of the five most recent or significant publications. 
This section must not exceed two pages per person.


Provide a complete listing of current and pending support for the Principal 
Investigator, Co-Investigator(s), and non Co-Investigator Senior Personnel 
only using the format suggested in the PHS 398 (revised 4/98).


Facilities and Equipment.  Describe the equipment and facilities available to 
the proposed COBRE.


The COBRE Director should budget for an annual two-day meeting in Bethesda, 
Maryland with NCRR staff.  

Each COBRE application must include an Advisory Committee, comprised of at 
least three scientists, with national scientific reputations in their field, 
their expertise must be directly relevant to the scientific theme of the 
COBRE.  The Advisory Committee critiques scientific progress of the COBRE and 
also offers advice on scientific matters to the COBRE Director who will share 
that advice and critique with center-based investigators.  The Committee must 
meet at least twice per year on average.  Minutes are to be recorded and 
available for review by NCRR program staff who are responsible for COBRE.


It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups and 
their sub-populations must be included in all NIH-supported biomedical and 
behavioral research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and 
compelling rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is 
inappropriate with respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of the 
research.  Adequate plans to include both genders and minorities and their 
subgroups as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research must be 
included.  Plans for recruitment and retention of subjects will be evaluated. 
This policy results from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of 
Public Law 103-43).

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the 
NIH Guidelines for Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical 
Research, which have been published in the Federal Register of March 28, 1994 
(FR 59 14508-14513) and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23, 
Number 11, March 18, 1994 available on the web at the following URL address:

Investigators also may obtain copies of the policy from the program staff 
listed under INQUIRIES.  Program staff may also provide additional relevant 
information concerning the policy.


It is the policy of NIH that children (i.e., individuals under the age of 21) 
must be included in all human subjects research, conducted or supported by the 
NIH, unless there is scientific or ethical reasons not to include them.  This 
applies to all initial (Type 1) applications submitted for receipt dates after 
October 1, 1998.

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the 
"NIH Policy and Guidelines on the inclusion of Children as Participants in 
Research Involving Human Subjects" that was published in the NIH Guide for 
Grants and Contracts, March 6, 1998, and is available at the following URL 


Prospective applicants are asked to submit, by February 10, 2000, a letter of 
intent that includes a descriptive title of the proposed research, the name, 
address, and telephone number of the principal investigator, the identities of 
other key personnel and participating institutions, and the number and title 
of the RFA in response to which the application may be submitted.  Although a 
letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the 
review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows 
NCRR staff to estimate the potential review workload and avoid conflict of 
interest in the review.

The letter of intent is to be sent to:

Dr. Sybil Wellstood
Office of Review
National Center for Research Resources
National Institutes of Health
6705 Rockledge Drive, Room 6104
Bethesda, MD  20892-7965
Telephone: (301) 435-0811
FAX:   (301) 480-3660


The research grant application form PHS 398 (rev. 4/98) is to be used in 
applying for these grants.  These forms are available at most institutional 
offices of sponsored research and may be obtained from the Division of 
Extramural Outreach and Information Resources, National Institutes of Health, 
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, telephone (301) 710-0267, Email:, and from the NIH program administrator listed 

An application for a COBRE award must include the following:

o  The application must clearly define the nature and extent of research 
collaboration, such that they fully explain the necessary administrative, 
fiscal, and scientific aspects of the proposed COBRE,

o  A research plan for up to five years that includes the proposed 
organization and component functions of the COBRE.  The plan should 
demonstrate the applicant"s knowledge, ingenuity, practicality, and commitment 
to developing a significant, productive, research program,

o  A description of and justification for the proposed individual research 
projects (a ten-page limitation for the Research Plan Section for each 
project) and core service facilities that collectively will contribute to the 
Center.  Applicants are required to propose at least three and up to five 
meritorious research projects, and must describe the nature and scope of any 
scientific research collaborations,

o  A description of the research and research training or career development 
goals and capabilities of the proposed COBRE.  The Principal Investigator must 
establish a time line for supported applicant investigators to prepare and 
submit proposals for traditional research grant review during the performance 
period of the COBRE award, and

o  A description of the infrastructure for conducting studies aimed at 
developing a nationally competitive biomedical research program.

The RFA label, available in the PHS 398 (rev. 4/98) application kit, must be 
affixed to the bottom of the face page of the application.  Failure to use 
this label could result in delayed processing of the application such that it 
may not reach the review committee in time for review.  In addition, the RFA 
number and title must be typed on line 2 of the face page of the application 
form and the "YES" box must be marked.  The RFA number must be typed on the 
label as well.

The sample RFA label available at: has been modified 
to allow for this change.  Please note this is in pdf format.

Submit a signed, typewritten original of the application, including the 
Checklist, and three signed photocopies, in one package to:

BETHESDA, MD  20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD  20817 (for express/courier service)

At the time of submission, two additional copies of the application must be 
sent to:

Dr. Sybil Wellstood
Office of Review
National Center for Research Resources
6705 Rockledge Drive, Room 6104
Bethesda, MD  20892
Telephone: (301) 435-0811
FAX: (301) 480-3660


Letter of Intent Receipt Date:    February 10, 2000 
Application Receipt Date:         March 8, 2000
Council Review:                   September 15, 2000
Earliest Award Date:              September 29, 2000

Applications must be received by March 8, 2000.  If an application is received 
after that date, it will be returned to the applicant without review.  The 
Center for Scientific Review (CSR) will not accept an application in response 
to this RFA that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial 
review, unless the applicant withdraws the pending application.  The CSR will 
not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already 
reviewed.  This does not preclude the submission of substantial revisions of 
applications already reviewed, but such applications must include an 
introduction addressing the previous critique.


Upon receipt, applications will be reviewed for completeness by CSR and 
responsiveness by NCRR staff.  Applications that are incomplete and/or non-
responsive to this RFA, or exceed the maximum first year direct cost limit of 
$1,500,000, excluding F&A costs for consortium budgets, will be returned to 
the applicant without further consideration. 

Applications that are complete and responsive to the RFA will be evaluated for 
scientific and technical merit by a Special Emphasis Panel convened by NCRR in 
accordance with the review criteria stated below.  As part of the initial 
review, all applications will receive a written critique and may undergo a 
process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific 
merit, generally the top one half of applications under review, will be 
discussed, assigned a priority score, and receive a second level of review by 
the National Advisory Research Resources Council.  Applications determined to 
be of low scientific merit will be withdrawn from further competition and the 
principal investigator and the official signing for the applicant organization 
will be notified.

The review of the COBRE application is based not only on the traditional 
review criteria for research projects, but also considers the qualification 
and stature of the Principal Investigator to provide leadership, both 
scientific and administrative, and the feasibility and potential for 
investigators to gain scientific independence.  The following criteria will be 
used to evaluate the 1) administration and the overall potential for enriching 
the intellectual milieu for doing research, and 2) scientific merit of the 
individual biomedical research projects.

Administration of the Center

o  The qualifications of the Principal Investigator to provide scientific and 
administrative leadership in developing and directing the COBRE, and 
establishing thematic collaborative research efforts,

o  The significance, approach, and innovation of the proposed research 
projects and of the COBRE as a whole,

o  The nature, scope, and effectiveness of the plans for coordination and 
cooperation among research project investigators,

o  The strengths of the applicant investigators and the collaborating 
researchers, if involved, particularly the academic qualifications, experience 
with biomedical , expertise and research productivity,

o  The level of institutional commitment with regard to commitment of 
resources and facilities to sustain the COBRE program, including, but not 
restricted to existing relevant equipment, animal, and/or computer resources, 
and departmental or interdepartmental cooperation,

o  The need for the proposed core facilities and the effectiveness of these 
facilities to enhance the research effort.

Scientific Merit of the individual proposals will be evaluated using the 
following review criteria:

(1) Significance:  Does this project address an important biomedical research 
question?  If the aims of the application are achieved, how will scientific 
knowledge be advanced?  What will be the effect of these studies on the 
concepts or methods that drive this field?

(2) Approach:  Are the conceptual framework, design, methods, and analyses 
adequately developed, well-integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the 
research project?  Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and 
consider alternative tactics?

(3) Innovation:  Does the research project employ novel concepts, approaches 
or methods?  Are the aims original and innovative?  Does the project challenge 
existing paradigms or develop new methodologies or technologies?

(4) Investigator:  Is the investigator appropriately trained and well suited 
to carry out this research project?  Is the work proposed appropriate to the 
experience level of the principal investigator and other researchers (if any)?

(5) Environment:  Does the scientific environment in which the research 
project will be performed contribute to the probability of success?  Do the 
proposed experiments take advantage of unique features of the scientific 
environment or employ useful collaborative arrangements?  Is there evidence of 
institutional support?

Overall Evaluation:  A research project does not need to be strong in all 
categories to be judged likely to have a major scientific impact and thus 
deserve a high priority score.  For example, an investigator may propose to 
carry out important work that by its nature is not innovative, but is 
essential to move a field forward.  An assessment of the merit of the COBRE’s 
evaluation plans, including formative and summary evaluation strategies, will 
be taken into account in the overall evaluation of the proposal.

In addition to the above criteria:
o  For research projects involving human subjects, the adequacy of plans to 
include both genders and minorities and their subgroups as appropriate for the 
scientific goals of the research.  Plans for the recruitment and retention of 
subjects will also be evaluated.  The age-appropriate inclusion or exclusion 
of children in the research project and evaluate the plans for conducting the 
research in accord with the NIH guidelines on the inclusion of children as 
participants in research involving human subjects will be evaluated,

o  For research projects that use animals, the adequacy of the proposed plan 
for animal welfare and biohazard safety in the research environment, and

o  The appropriateness of the proposed budget and duration, including the 
justification for requested items in terms of the aims and methods of the 
proposed research studies will be evaluated.


Funding decisions will be based on scientific and technical merit as 
determined by the Initial Review Group, the National Advisory Research 
Resources Council, geographic distribution, program balance, the enhancement 
of the research competitiveness of the institution, and the availability of 


Inquiries concerning this RFA are encouraged.  The opportunity to clarify any 
issues or questions from potential applicants is welcome.

Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues to:

Dr. Sidney A. McNairy, Jr.
Associate Director, Research Infrastructure
National Center for Research Resources
National Institutes of Health
6705 Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD  20892-7965
Telephone:  (301) 435-0788 
FAX:  (301) 480-3770

For information on budget and fiscal matters, contact:

Mr. Paul Karadbil
Office of Grants Management 
National Center for Research Resources 
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD  20892
Telephone:  (301) 435-0844
FAX: (301) 480-3777


This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance No. 
93.854.  Awards are made under authorization of the Public Health Service Act, 
Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410, as amended by Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 
241 and 285) and administered under NIH grants policies and Federal 
Regulations 42 CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74 and 92.  This program is not subject 
to the intergovernmental review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or 
Health Systems Agency review.

The PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to provide a 
smoke- free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco products.  In 
addition, Public Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking 
in certain facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which 
regular or routine education, library, day care, health care or early 
childhood development services are provided to children.  This is consistent 
with the PHS mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of 
the American people.

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