Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21) Program Guidelines

Application Receipt Dates: February 16, June 16, October 16 (New, Type 1 applications)

NIH Program Announcement

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) participates in the NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award. Applicants must follow instructions in the parent program announcement when preparing an application. In addition, applicants to the NINDS Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) must be responsive to the "Guidelines for the NINDS R21 Program" (see below).

NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21): PA-16-161

Guidelines for the NINDS R21 Program

The NINDS uses the Exploratory/Developmental (R21) Grant to provide research support for new research projects in areas of high relevance to the mission of the NINDS. Applicants may request a project period of up to two years with a combined budget for direct costs of up $275,000 for the two year period. For example, the applicant may request $100,000 in the first year and $175,000 in the second year. The request should be tailored to the needs of the project. Normally, no more than $200,000 may be requested in any single year (see also full program announcement).

As an Exploratory/Developmental mechanism, the R21 Grant is intended to support projects that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. the project assesses the feasibility of a novel avenue of investigation; or
  2. the project involves experiments that could lead to a breakthrough in a particular field; or
  3. the project develops novel techniques, agents, methodologies, models, or applications that could have a major impact in biomedical research.

As stated in the parent announcement, to be eligible for consideration, proposals must be distinct from those traditionally submitted through the R01 mechanism. For example, projects designed to produce incremental advances in knowledge in a well-established area will not be considered.


It is important to note that analyses of new investigator applications to NINDS indicate that the success rate for R21 applicants is lower than for R01 applicants (FY 2009 success rates for NINDS R21 New Investigators: 11% vs. NINDS R01 New Investigators: 19%). Given the current policy of the NIH to support New Investigator R01s at success rates equivalent to those of established investigators submitting new (Type 1) applications (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not-od-09-013.html), the NINDS encourages New Investigators, and in particular Early Stage Investigators (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-08-121.html), to apply for R01 grants when seeking first-time funding from the NIH.


NINDS will not accept unsolicited R21 applications that include clinical trials or other clinical studies of potential therapies. NINDS places a high priority on the development and evaluation of such clinical interventions and has established specific mechanisms for supporting these types of proposals. See Clinical Research funding opportunities

R21 applications that involve human subjects may be submitted to NINDS if the proposals do not include any clinical intervention AND if safety monitoring of study participants can be performed appropriately within the budgetary and time constraints of an R21. Any R21 proposal that does not meet the above criteria or does not provide adequate plans for the protection of the safety, privacy and confidentiality of study participants will not be funded.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact appropriate program staff within NINDS for advice about potential R21 proposals and to ensure that their proposals are consistent with the NINDS criteria. See a complete listing of NINDS program director contacts.

General inquiries may be referred to:

Anna Taylor, Ph.D.