NIH Announces ARRA Grant Mechanisms

As federal agencies begin to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds (see IBO 2/28/09)—the so-called US stimulus funding—they are releasing more information about how they plan to spend the money. Of all of the agencies, the NIH was the largest beneficiary (see IBO 2/28/09) of ARRA funds for research. This article will outline the NIH’s funding mechanisms for ARRA monies based on information recently released by the NIH and its Institutes and Centers (ICs). This article will focus only on those ICs for which the purchase and use of analytical lab instrumentation is more relevant. These ICs are: the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Hear, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and BioEngineering (NIBIB), National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), National Institute of General Medical Science (NIGMS), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) and the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

Of particular note for instrument companies are ARRA-funded grants that will be awarded by the Office of the Director (OTD) and by the NCRR. The OTD will award 200 of the new Challenge Grants (see IBO 2/28/09), each worth $1 million (see table). Among the 15 high-priority topics for Challenge Grants are “Biomarker Discovery and Validation”, “Genomics”, “Regenerative Medicine” and “Stem Cells”.

The NCRR plans to award four grants that are funded either wholly or in part by the ARRA: two for instrument purchases, and two for facilities construction and expansion. Initially allocated $60 million for grants in fiscal 2010, the Shared Instrumentation Grant Program received an additional $300 million from the ARRA. ARRA funding will also be used for the NCRR’s newly created High End Instrumentation Grant Program, which specifically provides grants for high-cost laboratory equipment. Examples given by the program announcement of high-cost equipment are: NMRs, biomedical imagers, mass spectrometers, electron microscopes and supercomputers. Instruments utilizing the latest technology must be requested, and all funding must be spent within two years.

The $300 million in ARRA funding for the NCRR will also go toward instrument purchases made under two other grants: the Extramural Research Facilities Improvement Program (ERFIP); and the Core Facility Renovation, Repair, and Improvement Program (CFRRIP). The Programs have a combined two-year allotment of $1 billion to fund projects. The ERFIP provides funding for major facilities renovations (see table page 8). The CFRRIP funds smaller renovations (see table page 8). Deadlines for the spending of ERFIP and CFRRIP grants vary.

Grant mechanisms for which individual ICs can choose to participate and spend their ARRA funding are the Grand Opportunity (GO), Administrative Supplement, Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA), and Biomedical Core Facilities grants. GO grants are nonrenewable and support new research projects costing more than $500,000 per year. Among ICs that are providing the most funding for the GO program are the NIAMS, NCI and NIEHS, which will provide $30 million, $10 million and $10 million for GO grants, respectively. Because GOs are funded by individual ICs, researchers can either submit their own projects for grants or select projects initiated by ICs. For example, an NCI GO grant will fund the creation of pilot-program centers to analyze molecular cancer targets. In contrast, the NIAMS simply asks for grants in line with its mission.

In an effort to more evenly distribute NIH grants geographically, the ARRA-funded AREA grants fund institutions that have not received more than $6 million per year in four out of the past seven years from the NIH. Lab equipment is an allowable expense under this grant. The NIH did not provide a spending limit in the program announcement.

The ARRA-funded Biomedical Core Facilities Grants provide funding to hire and outfit new researchers to create and expand NIH-relevant biomedical research projects at an institutions. The outfitting of these new researchers includes providing pay, equipment and other supplies. This grant does not allow for funds to be used in laboratory construction and expansion. Among the ICs, the NHLBI is providing the largest amount for this grant at $40 million for a two-year period. It is followed by the NIND and the NCI, which are providing $20 million and $16 million in funding, respectively.

ARRA Supplement grants include Administrative Supplement grants, which provide additional funding for active NIH grants (see table page 3), and are one of three types of Supplement grants funded by the ARRA. All Supplement grants will share $1 billion in ARRA funding that must be distributed by September 30, 2010. Other Supplement grants sharing these funds are: the Competitive Revision Grants, and Administrative Supplements to Research Grants Providing Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Educators.

Administrative Supplement grants cover multiple purposes, such as increasing the pace of research, adding new objectives to projects and purchasing equipment costing less than $100,000. The caveat for Administrative Supplement grants is that funding must be used for purposes within the scope of the original grant. The NIH states within the program announcement that it expects many grants funded under this program to receive 50% of their original funding amount. Some ICs that have specifically stated that they are interested in funding equipment purchases with Administrative Supplement grants are the NCI, NIBIB, NINDS and NIAID.

Competitive Revision grants function much like Administrative Supplement grants, but provide for supplemental funding for objectives outside the scope of the original project. Although it is a part of the $1 billion Supplement grant funding program, the Competitive Revision grant program was recently recategorized as its own mechanism. Like the Administrative Supplement grants, the cap for equipment funding requests for Competitive Revision Grants is $100,000.

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