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NIH Distributes Funds For High-Risk Research

Funding: Agency names 115 recipients of three transformative research grant programs

by Britt E. Erickson
September 24, 2009

The National Institutes of Health announced on Sept. 24 the recipients of its first-ever Director's Transformative R01 (T-R01) Awards, as well as the 2009 Pioneer Awards and the 2009 New Innovator Awards. The three programs are part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research; they support high-risk, innovative research that has the potential to overturn fundamental paradigms and lead to improved health. NIH will provide an estimated $348 million to fund 115 projects in the three programs over the next five years.

"The appeal of the Pioneer, New Innovator, and now the T-R01 programs, is that investigators are encouraged to challenge the status quo with innovative ideas, while being given the necessary resources to test them," NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a statement. "The fact that we continue to receive such strong proposals for funding through the programs reflects the wealth of creative ideas in science today."

The T-R01 program, named after the standard NIH-supported research grant, the R01, aims to fund creative ideas, rather than creative individuals. To encourage bold new transformative ideas, the program imposes no budget cap and researchers are not required to submit preliminary results. They can also choose to work alone or in large, complex teams. NIH awarded 42 T-R01 grants this year, with at least a quarter of them going to chemists.

Now in its sixth year, the Pioneer Award is given to researchers who have proven that they are innovative and deserving of funds to set off in a new, pioneering direction. The award is open to researchers at any stage in their careers.

The New Innovator Award, now in its third year, is open only to early-career scientists who have not received a traditional NIH grant such as an R01.

This year, NIH awarded 18 Pioneer and 55 New Innovator Awards, the largest number ever, thanks in part to $23 million from the American Recovery & Reinvention Act directed to the New Innovator Award. About a dozen chemists were among those who received these two awards.

Complete lists of awards are available as follows: T-R01 grants,; Pioneer Awards,; and New Innovator Awards,



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