Have Big, Bold Ideas? This Program May Be for You!


I wanted to let you know about a relatively new program. The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Awards fund big, bold, paradigm-shifting science. Investigators from any discipline that supports the NIH mission can apply. Total annual costs can be as high as $25 million.

Because these types of projects tend to be inherently risky, they typically don’t fare as well in traditional NIH review. So we are piloting new approaches in the instructions to applicants and reviewers. If you apply, you will be asked to focus your research strategy on the significance and innovation of the idea, and there is no expectation for providing preliminary data. Reviews will be conducted using a multi-phase, editorial board style review process, and if you review, you will be instructed to maintain the emphasis on significance and innovation.

Do you have an idea that would transform the view on a particular topic? Check out the awardees from 2011, browse the website, and read the funding opportunity announcement for more information. The deadline for submitting applications is January 12, 2012, with letters of intent (not required but strongly encouraged) due by December 12, 2011.


    1. Yes you may. In general, principal investigators and other personnel supported by NIH research grants are not required to be U.S. citizens. However, some NIH programs have a citizenship requirement. Any citizenship requirement will be stated in the funding opportunity announcement.

  1. This program, in my opinion is the funding-source for break-through discoveries. However, the real question for this type program is where are you going to get reviewers with the same sort of ‘out of the box’ thinking. Based on my own career experiences, I doubt it possible to find these open minded scientists; and perhaps a larger issue is to not have the reviewers take good ideas into their laboratories as if their own. It is an experience I had years ago.

    1. Yes, but, unfortunately, more important is good political connections/skills. My experience with reviewers of anything scientific, e.g. papers & grant applications, is that they are highly unlikely to approve anything that: 1. could negatively impact their career, 2. does not give them “proper credit/recognition”, and/or 3. comes from someone they either don’t know or dislike. Unfortunately, human nature plays the decisive role in the progress of science and it simply shouldn’t. All aspects of science are supposed to be unbiased and objective; I dream of a day when this is true for NIH grant reviews.

  2. I have bold ideas and have submitted them many times in SBIR phase I applications only to get back trivial and contradictory comments and rejections. I have given away so many well founded and theoretically supported ideas only for the benefit of academicians who take them back to their labs for their own benefit and justify their narrow existence doing only basic research and writing RO1 applications with zero productivity and accountability to society about their results of their basic research. The new funding-for break-through discoveries will not go anywhere as long as the corrupted review system is not changed. Academicians are the worst reviewers because they only follow their interests and eliminate any potential competition to justify their existence. Academicians are the only ones who decide which companies get the grants; the majority of applications submitted by small businesses are not read and reviews are superficial. Academicians have no business experience to think outside their basic research box; they know nothing about business, product development, innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship, and have no idea of what it takes an entrepreneur and a small company to move ahead a product from lab bench to the production floor to regulatory to clinical to marketing and sales. I am disappointed that new programs keep coming without looking at the review system which is the real problem and it is the one stopping innovation. Small businesses will not benefit because the applications will follow the same pathway: eliminated due to lack of preliminary data. This continued attitude by academicians completely defeats the purpose of this new program like it is the case of the SBIR Phase I program which does not require preliminary data but academicians reject applications without preliminary data. I am really tired of all these nonsense and corrupted system; until someone speaks really loud and can change the system, I will never again disclose and give away for the benefit of other my great ideas. My only consolation is that no one can steal them because they have national and international patent protection. Having said all that, I wish good luck to those who still think they will great a grant for their ‘BOLD’ ideas. If you do that protect them and not just give them away for free.

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