NIH – Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35)

December 27, 2016 by School of Medicine Webmaster

NOTE:  NIGMS had piloted the MIRA concept for established investigators on a small scale through previous announcements.  The goal of the new announcement is to broaden the MIRA program by making it available to a larger pool of NIGMS-funded investigators.  To manage the entry of NIGMS-funded investigators into the MIRA program, eligibility is restricted to investigators who are the PD/PI of an NIGMS R01 equivalent grant (defined as an R01, R37, DP2 or SC1) that was awarded in the fiscal year prior to the fiscal year of submission of the MIRA application and whose project end date is in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the submission of the MIRA application. 

Supporting fundamental research by funding individual projects has a number of consequences for the efficiency and effectiveness of the biomedical research enterprise in the U.S.  To address these issues and increase the efficiency and efficacy of its funding mechanisms, the NIGMS Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program uses a new mechanism to fund research that will award a single grant to provide support for the program of research in an investigator’s laboratory that is related to the mission of NIGMS.  For the purpose of this FOA, a program of research is the collection of projects in the Program Director’s/Principal Investigator’s (PD’s/PI’s) lab that is relevant to the mission of NIGMS. (See:  MIRA web page For research areas within the NIGMS mission, see

It is anticipated that this new funding mechanism will achieve the following:

  • Increase the stability of funding for NIGMS-supported investigators, which could enhance their ability to take on ambitious scientific projects and approach problems more creatively;
  • Increase flexibility for investigators to follow important new research directions as opportunities arise, rather than being bound to specific aims proposed in advance of the studies;
  • More widely distribute funding among the nation’s highly talented and promising investigators to increase overall scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs;
  • Reduce the time spent by researchers writing and reviewing grant applications, allowing them to spend more time conducting research; and
  • Enable PD(s)/PI(s)  to devote more time and energy to mentoring junior scientists in a more stable research environment.

In developing the MIRA program, NIGMS is committed to maintaining support for at least the current total number of NIGMS-funded investigators and their associated programs of research. The Institute will also work to ensure that it maintains a broad and diverse research portfolio in terms of scientific areas, approaches, regional and institutional distribution, and scientific workforce. Such diversity will optimize returns on the Institute’s investments by maximizing the ideas explored and the chances for important breakthroughs.

The NIGMS MIRA program is similar to other NIH R35 awards, in that it supports the work of a single investigator’s laboratory in the mission of the institute; however, it differs from the NCI Outstanding Investigator Award, and others, in that it is eventually intended to support most NIGMS investigators.

Overview of the MIRA

An NIGMS MIRA grant is intended to provide support for the NIGMS-related research in an investigator’s laboratory.  NIGMS supports research on basic biological processes as well as translational and clinical research in certain areas. In addition to research designed to answer scientific questions and generate new ideas and hypotheses, the development of technology and computational approaches are supported. Within the scope of the MIRA, investigators will have the freedom to explore new avenues of inquiry that arise during the course of their research, as long as they remain within the mission of NIGMS.  Work involving the addition of human subjects, vertebrate animals, stem cells, select agents, or a new foreign component would require prior approval of NIH staff according to existing policies and procedures.  Research that involves a major change in scientific focus or that migrates away from the mission of NIGMS and/or into an area of interest of one of the other NIH Institutes or Centers will require approval of NIGMS program staff.

MIRA may not be the best mechanism to support all kinds of research, even though it is within the NIGMS mission.  Because the MIRA is expected to support the research program of an independent investigator’s laboratory, PDs/PIs may find other support mechanisms better suited to research requiring financial support of many collaborators and subcontractors.  Similarly, clinical research requiring human subjects protocols and milestones may be more appropriately supported by other mechanisms.  In addition, research focusing on HIV/AIDS, which is often supported with funds from the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR), may not be well suited to the MIRA mechanism because OAR funding has constraints that are not compatible with the flexibility of the MIRA program. Confer with NIGMS Scientific/Research staff (in Section VII. Agency Contacts of this FOA) before applying for research in these areas.

Because the MIRA is to support a significant and ambitious program of research, the investigator is required to devote at least 51% of his/her time available for research to this award. The time available for research should be determined in person-months and should not include time expended toward teaching, administration, and/or clinical duties. The effort committed by the PD/PI to the MIRA application should be over half of the time available for research and expressed in person-months.

Because most institutions expect some commitment from investigators to administrative, teaching and/or clinical duties, any salary support for the PD/PI requested on the grant should generally be less than 51% of the PD/PI’s annual salary and should in no case be more than the actual research effort the PD/PI will devote to the grant.

Investigators receiving a MIRA will be required to relinquish their other NIGMS research grants, except for award mechanisms mentioned below.  Investigators who receive support from the NIGMS research grants of other investigators will no longer be able to receive funds from those sources, including roles as collaborators and subcontractors on R01s, and as project leaders on P01, P20, or P50 subprojects.  NIGMS continues to encourage collaborative and interdisciplinary research when it is appropriate, and individual MIRA grantees are free to collaborate with one another or with other investigators using funds from their individual MIRA to support their contributions to the team’s research.  Investigators with K awards from another institute of the NIH may receive an NIGMS MIRA but will be required to adjust their person-months effort on those awards to be smaller than the person-months effort committed to  MIRA. NIGMS will negotiate an orderly process to MIRA funding when reductions in other commitments are required.  Details of how these changes may be accomplished are covered in Frequently Asked Questions on the MIRA web page.

The budget of a MIRA will be determined by NIGMS staff, based on the recommendations of the initial review group and the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council, and the expected productivity and impact of the program of research. NIGMS’ Special Council Review policy for applications that result in over $750,000 total annual direct costs from all sources being awarded to a PD/PI will apply to MIRAs.

In comparison to R01 funding of NIGMS investigators, MIRA benefits include:

  • A longer grant period – five year awards rather than the current NIGMS median of 4 years;
  • More flexibility to pursue new ideas and opportunities as they arise during the course of research because the award is not tied to specific aims or predicated on completing specific, pre-defined projects;
  • Increased stability of funding through longer-term commitments of support, improved success rates, and more graduated, rather than all-or-none funding decisions of R35 renewals;
  • A reduction in administrative burden associated with managing multiple grants;
  • A reduction in required application writing.

A researcher funded by a MIRA will not subsequently be awarded any other sources of NIGMS funding with the following exceptions:

  • Grants supporting research resources;
  • Contracts and selected cooperative agreements;
  • Grants supporting training, workforce development or diversity building;
  • Funding for clinical trials;
  • INBRE (P20), COBRE (P20/P30) or IDeA-CTRs (U54);
  • SBIR/STTR grants;
  • Conference grants;
  • Grants supported through NIGMS HIV/AIDS-related FOAs.

Supplements to MIRAs:  MIRAs will be eligible for Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research, and other types of administrative supplements, including equipment supplements that may be offered by NIGMS through FOAs in the NIH Guide.

Renewals:  NIGMS plans for MIRAs to be renewable.  Because there will be fewer applications as a result of the consolidation of separate research projects, NIGMS anticipates a higher success rate of R35 renewal applications than is the case for current research project grants.  If an application for renewal of the MIRA is unsuccessful, the grant will terminate at the end of its approved project period. However, NIGMS will consider bridge support for a period of time.  In the final year of MIRA funding, PDs/PIs may alternatively choose to submit a new NIGMS R01 grant application to resume support of their laboratory through individual project funding.

Implementation Plan:  NIGMS piloted the MIRA concept for established investigators on a small scale using RFA-GM-16-002 and RFA-GM-17-002 to enable the number of applications and phase-in of the MIRA program to be carefully managed and assessed. The goal of this announcement is to broaden the MIRA program by making it available to a larger pool of NIGMS-funded investigators. To manage the entry of NIGMS-funded investigators into the MIRA program, eligibility is restricted to investigators who are the PD/PI of an NIGMS R01 equivalent grant (defined as an R01, R37, DP2 or SC1)  that was awarded  in the fiscal year prior to the fiscal year of submission of the MIRA application and whose project end date is in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the submission of the MIRA application.  Applicants to the MIRA program may not have an NIGMS R01 application pending review at the time of the MIRA submission or submit an NIGMS R01 while the MIRA application is pending review. See Section III. Eligibility.  A separate FOA, RFA-GM-17-004, is continuing the pilot of the MIRA concept for applications from Early Stage Investigators.  The success of the MIRA programs will continue to be evaluated.

Deadlines:  May 17, 2017; January 17, 2018; May 17, 2018; January 17, 2019; May 17, 2019, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities