NIH – NIBIB Trailblazer Award for New and Early Stage Investigators (R21)

August 8, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The rapid evolution and vitality of the biomedical sciences benefits from the contributions and creativity of investigators in the early stages of their careers, and a continuous infusion of new ideas, techniques, and perspectives from other fields. This Trailblazer Award is an opportunity for New and Early Stage Investigators to pursue research programs of high interest to the NIBIB at the interface of engineering and/or the physical sciences with the life and/or behavioral sciences. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) employs an R21 Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant mechanism enhanced to provide $400,000 in direct costs over three years, allowing sufficient time and resources to pursue a new or emerging research program. With the goal of increasing the diversity of the NIBIB-supported research community, NIBIB encourages applications from investigators that are underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral or clinical research workforce (see data at and the most recent report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering). Such individuals include women, those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. All applicants to this FOA must meet the NIH definition of New or Early Stage Investigator (

The application of principles and techniques from engineering and the quantitative sciences such as physics, mathematics, chemistry and computer sciences is providing innovative technologies and novel methods to accelerate the pace of biomedical research, producing new understanding of disease mechanisms and translating these new discoveries to improve human health. The Trailblazer Award seeks to catalyze the development of transdisciplinary research approaches with the potential to open new areas of biomedical investigation. A Trailblazer project may be exploratory, developmental, proof of concept or have high risk-high impact goals. Importantly, the proposed research for this FOA may be technology design-directed and may or may not be hypothesis-driven. In the context of this FOA, innovation encompasses approaches to address well-defined, unmet biomedical research needs through the development of new methods, ideas, or technologies; early steps along the path toward delivery of a new capability or method; and the integration of existing components in a previously unproven format. High-impact projects will have the potential to transform our understanding or practice by applying an innovative approach to an appropriate biomedical challenge to generate informative and impactful data or craft a solution to a significant problem. For projects supported by a Trailblazer Award, successful results should provide a solid foundation for further research under other funding mechanisms, such as the R01. All areas of research important to the mission of the NIBIB are appropriate for the Trailblazer FOA (

Trailblazer approaches are expected to differ substantially from current thinking or practice, therefore, extensive preliminary data demonstrating feasibility is an indication that the project is beyond the scope of this FOA. Reviewers’ determinations of merit will rely instead on the conceptual framework, the level of innovation, and the potential to significantly advance our knowledge, understanding or practice.  Applicants can provide appropriate justification for the proposed work through literature citations, data from other sources, or analytical and computational models. The proposed research could involve considerable risk that the work may not be successful and applicants should clearly explain the significance of the work to allow the reviewers to determine whether the potential impact justifies these risks.

Not all research endeavors will be suitable for this FOA. Projects from New and Early Stage Investigators that are supported by extensive preliminary data should be submitted to the Parent R01 FOA ( or the Bioengineering Research Grant FOA ( Established investigators proposing exploratory and developmental projects should consider the Parent R21 FOA ( and the Exploratory/Developmental Bioengineering Research Grants (EBRG) FOA ( Projects of limited cost or scope that use widely accepted approaches and methods within well-established fields should be submitted to the Parent R03 FOA ( Projects that propose incremental improvements in well-established areas of investigation are not appropriate for this FOA.

Deadlines:  standard dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities