NIH initiates pilot grant program for innovative neurological research

Friday, January 27, 2017

The first 30 recipients of the new R35 Research Program Award (RPA), a pilot program designed to encourage creative research by enhancing funding stability, have been announced by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH. NINDS-supported investigators who secure an RPA will have their research funded for a period of five years, with the potential to have that funding extended for up to an additional three years. This funding initiative was developed to provide support for a grantee’s overall research program, not just individual projects. 

“NINDS created this pilot program to improve the value of the research it funds by enabling proven investigators to pursue long-range, innovative research instead of continually writing and submitting grant applications,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., the NINDS director.

Traditionally, the R01 Research Project Grant has been the primary source of NIH funding for laboratories. However, R01 awards provide support for up to five years for a specific set of experiments, and multiple R01s are often necessary to fund a laboratory’s body of work. The RPA, which uses the R35 award mechanism differs in that it enhances funding stability by providing longer, consolidated support for a grantee’s overall research program, rather than for individual projects.

The RPA will support the entirety of an investigator’s program of NINDS mission-related research. The grantee’s current NINDS funding will be consolidated into the RPA and extended over a longer period. During the fifth year of the award, progress will be reviewed to ensure that the research program is staying on course. NINDS anticipates that most RPA awardees will be given the option to continue receiving funding for three additional years.

Applications for the R35 RPA were reviewed according to NIH peer review standards, which include an assessment of investigators’ track records and the significance and relevance of their proposed research programs. The 30 awardees include principal investigators at a variety of career stages and a range of topics that include the use of models such as fruit flies and yeast to better understand neurodegenerative disease; how the human brain forms and grows during development; the molecular and cellular changes that give rise to memory; whole-genome studies to determine how to promote neural repair; mechanisms of pain; and diseases of the brain.

“Our goal with the R35 Research Program Award is to fund the research of both well-established investigators who already have multiple grants, as well as earlier stage researchers with single R01s and a track record of significant impact in their field of study,” said Dr. Robert Finkelstein, Ph.D., director of the Division of Extramural Activities, NINDS, “These grants are aimed at enabling them to focus their creativity and time on performing groundbreaking research.”

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