NINDS Funding Strategy FY 2019

On September 28, 2018, President Trump signed a ‘minibus’ appropriations package of 2019 spending bills. The FY 2019 NINDS Appropriation is $2,216,913,000, which includes $250 million for the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative and a general increase of $71.764 million over the FY 2018 NINDS appropriation. In addition to the $2.2 billion, NINDS also received $57.5 million from the 21st Century Cures Act for the BRAIN Initiative. The funding strategy described below does not apply to the funds received either for the HEAL Initiative, or from the 21st Century Cures Act. NINDS plans to spend 86.3%, or $1.693 billion of the remaining appropriation on extramural research, which involves investigators and organizations outside the NIH.

Consistent with the NINDS mission (“To seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease”), the Institute remains committed to funding basic research elucidating the structure and function of the nervous system and translational and clinical research focused on identifying causes of and treatments for disorders that affect the brain and nervous system. Funding investigator-initiated scientific discovery remains our central focus, but we also support targeted programs that address mission-critical scientific opportunities and public health needs. These programs are developed through consultation with external stakeholders and the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council.

Competing Awards: These are applications for a new, renewal, or resubmission research project grants (RPGs; including R01s, R21s, and related mechanisms) that require competitive peer review.

In FY 2019, NINDS plans to spend approximately 20% of the extramural research budget on competing RPG awards, and we anticipate a success rate of approximately 18%.

Unsolicited, investigator-initiated grants: NINDS plans to fund investigator-initiated grant applications in percentile rank order up to a 16th percentile payline.

Modular grants will be awarded at an average of 87.5% of the Council-recommended direct cost level. Non-modular applications that request more than $250,000 direct costs in any year, will be awarded at an average of 82.5% of Council-recommended direct costs.

Non-Competing Continuation Awards:  These are requests for payment for the next budget period of an ongoing award (Type 5). These requests do not compete with other applications. In FY 2019, NINDS plans to spend approximately 58% of the extramural research budget on non-competing RPG awards.

In FY 2019, NINDS will fund noncompeting award budgets at the full committed level – the level indicated on the most recent Notice of Grant Award.

Special Initiatives

NINDS plans to fund special initiatives that address mission-critical scientific opportunities and public health needs, including:

  • Early Stage Investigators:  Helping investigators transition to independence is a high priority for NIH and an important funding consideration for NINDS. NINDS will fund additional R01 applications from early stage investigators with scores below the 25th percentile with the aim of supporting these early career scientists at a success rate equivalent to that of established investigators submitting new R01 applications. 
  • Bridge Awards: In certain cases, the Institute may provide limited, interim support for applications that fall beyond the payline to enable an investigator to gather additional data necessary for submission of a revised application. These awards use the R56 grant mechanism, for which NINDS participation has been published in the NIH Guide (see NOT-NS-10-004). Please note that investigators cannot apply for R56 awards.
  • High Program Priority (HPP): When funds are available, program staff and Council members may select a small number of applications that score beyond the payline for funding consideration in each council round. The selection of these projects is based on: (1) mission relevance; (2) program balance; (3) creativity and innovation; and (4) funds already invested. All HPP nominations must be approved by Council to be considered for funding.
  • Major Clinical Trials:  Multi-center clinical trials and other types of clinical studies generally have large budgets and substantial NINDS staff involvement. Funds are set aside each fiscal year to fund new competing clinical trials, depending on the scientific merit of applications received. All such applications are extensively discussed by the NANDS Council, which makes funding recommendations to the NINDS Director. Budgets for individual awards are set each year by staff after careful consideration of the resources needed to follow study protocols.
  • Funding Opportunity Announcements:  NINDS sets aside funds for grants responding to specific solicitations, such as Requests for Applications (RFAs) and Program Announcements with Set-aside funds (PASs).  These solicitations are approved by the Institute and its Council for supporting research and research resources important to the NINDS mission.
  • The BRAIN Initiative®: Since FY 2014, NINDS has been a leader of the NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. In FY 2019, NINDS committed approximately 5.5% of its extramural budget (competing and noncompeting grants) to the BRAIN Initiative – funds that Congress appropriated to NINDS specifically for BRAIN. These funds were supplemented by additional support from the 21st Century Cures Act.  This Initiative aims to develop and apply cutting-edge technologies to create a dynamic picture of the brain in action, providing the critical knowledge base for researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders. For more information on the BRAIN Initiative and active funding opportunities, see the BRAIN Initiative page.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (AD/ADRD): The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) (Public Law 111-375) is intended to stimulate scientific research to develop effective therapies to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (AD/ADRD). The ADRDs include frontotemporal, Lewy body, vascular and mixed dementias. In FY19, NIH received $425 million in additional appropriations targeted for AD/ADRD research.  Because of this additional funding and in conjunction with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), NINDS has created new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) involving focused, high priority topic areas based on ADRD milestones in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease that were developed in the NINDS-led ADRD Summit 2016. NINDS will be leading a new ADRD Summit in March of 2019, where new milestones will be identified to inform future ADRD research priorities for NIH.  NIA and the NINDS have also established a joint extended payline for meritorious investigator-initiated projects on AD/ADRD.  For more information on research on AD/ADRD visit the NINDS Focus on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias page.
  • HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative: HEAL is an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. The generous appropriation of $250 million to NINDS in the FY 2019 appropriation, coupled with the funds provided in FY 2018, ensures NINDS has the resources needed to jumpstart an ambitious and targeted research plan. NINDS is coordinating the NIH’s efforts to: understand the biological underpinnings of chronic pain; accelerate the discovery and pre-clinical development of non-addictive pain treatments; and advance new non-addictive pain treatments through the clinical pipeline.  For more information on the HEAL Initiative and upcoming funding opportunities, please visit the NIH HEAL Initiative page.
  • NINDS Research Program Awards (R35): In FY 2019, NINDS intends to continue supporting Research Program Awards (RPAs).  The RPA is intended to encourage ambitious, creative science by providing stable funding of up to $750,000 for 8 years to support outstanding investigators’ research programs.  The stability and flexibility offered through the RPA provides investigators with the freedom to take greater risks, embark upon research that breaks new ground, or undertake research projects that require a longer timeframe. For more information, see the RPA page. 
  • Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Awards (R37): The NINDS Advisory Council may designate a small number of competing applications each year as Javits Awards. These awards are made in two segments, an initial four-year award, followed by a subsequent three-year award with staff review and Council concurrence for progress and expanded scope of project. Investigators may not apply for Javits Awards. These awards are made to distinguished investigators who: (1) have a record of substantial contributions on the "cutting edge" of a field of neurological science, (2) can be expected to be highly productive for a seven-year period, and (3) have a strong record of service to NIH review or advisory committees.  Any application selected for nomination would be expected to be exemplary of the investigator's body of work and would have been judged especially meritorious by a peer review group (study section). For more information, see the Javits Award description.

Research Training, Career Development and Workforce Diversity

NINDS is strongly committed to enhancing training, career development, and workforce diversity. NINDS plans to spend approximately 4% of the FY 2019 total NINDS extramural budget for training, fellowship, and career development awards. For more information, see the NINDS Training and Career Development page.

NINDS Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grant Program

NINDS is required by law to set aside 3.75% of its extramural budget to support Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants (R43, R44), and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grants (R41, R42) awards.  The NINDS SBIR and STTR programs support research and development at U.S. small businesses that has a strong potential for commercialization.  While NINDS has specific SBIR and STTR funding opportunities, many applications are investigator-initiated and are submitted through the general NIH SBIR and STTR omnibus solicitations. NINDS does not set a payline for these awards but considers applications within a score range as determined by the available budget. For more information, see the NINDS SBIR Program page.

Special Supplement Funding

NINDS allocates some limited resources to support administrative supplements.  These awards provide additional funds to an existing grant to pay for things within the scope of the grant, but that were unforeseen when the new or renewal application was submitted.  In addition, NINDS uses supplemental funds to enhance workforce diversity, recognize outstanding mentorship, and to provide immediate short-term support in response to natural disasters or national health emergencies.

NINDS/NIH Policy for Accepting Applications Exceeding $500,000/Year (Direct Costs)

NIH will support research projects with large budgets when appropriate, but needs to consider such awards as early as possible in the budget and program planning process. Therefore, applicants must obtain permission from NINDS program staff before submitting any application requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs (for any year) at least six weeks prior to submission. (For more information, see NOT-OD-02-004) Investigators with clinical research applications over $1,000,000 must contact NINDS staff at least three months prior to the next submission deadline. (See below).

NINDS Policy for Accepting Clinical Research Applications Exceeding $1,000,000/Year (Direct Costs)

Applicants planning to submit an application for a clinical trial or clinical research project requesting $1,000,000 or more in direct costs for any year must contact NINDS staff a minimum of three months prior to the next submission deadline. The applicant must obtain agreement from the NINDS staff that the Institute will accept the application for consideration.  Any application subject to this policy that does not receive permission to submit will be returned to the applicant without review. For purposes of this policy "clinical research" is as defined in the 1997 Report of the NIH Director's panel on Clinical Research, and includes: (a) Patient-oriented research (including research on the mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions, clinical trials, and the development of new technologies); (b) Epidemiological and behavioral studies; and (c) Outcomes research and health services research. Excluded from this definition are in vitro research studies that utilize human tissue that cannot be linked to a living individual or research that does not involve human participants. For more information, see NOT-NS-01-012.