NIH – Physician-Scientist (PS) Research Award for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) (R01 – Clinical Trial Optional)

April 2, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The goal of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to support the independence of physician-scientist (PS) early-stage investigator (PS-ESI) faculty committed to academic careers in heart, lung, and blood diseases, and sleep disorders (HLBS) research and related implementation science by providing adequate protected time to conduct high quality research and establish independent research careers. To assist in individual career development of the PS-ESI, these awards encourage host institutions to relieve administrative burdens and foster collaborations among established researchers and early stage investigator (ESI) physician scientists.

Background and Objectives

Academic physician-scientists have unique experiences and perspectives on bench-to-bedside research and vice versa, but their numbers have been declining for many years. Despite NIH support for medical students and later career stages by various career development award opportunities (F, T, and K award mechanisms) and loan repayment programs, data show that few applications are being submitted by young physicians and even fewer awards are made to them. In 1995 almost 22% of all awards were going to physicians, and that number is currently about 15%. From 1990-2015, the number of established MD investigators (age>60) rose while the number of new, young MD investigators (age<40) fell. In addition, the time from medical school graduation to a first faculty position has risen to >10 years for MD-PhDs and even longer for sole MDs.

Because the causes for these trends are uncertain, the NIH sponsored an Advisory Committee Report to the NIH Director (ACD) in 2014. It recommended that NIH establish a new physician-scientist-specific granting mechanism to facilitate the transition from training to independence. In response, the NIH launched a very successful NIH K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award. However, the K99/R00 award has a four-year limit on eligibility (although that limit is adjustable for long clinical training times). Since data show that research career attrition occurs at every stage, the current FOA expands the PS applicant pool to ESIs who have or have not had NIH or non-NIH career development awards (e.g., foundation grants, etc.), but who face clinical and teaching demands, and who need at least 50% protected time for research.

This FOA intends to support post-mentored, independent research that is basic, translational, or clinical, e.g., mechanistic (see explanation). Applications in which clinical experience supports and informs the research, and vice versa, are greatly encouraged. The strongest ESI applicants will have the ability to analyze existing or preliminary data to form a compelling hypothesis, conduct experiments carried out under NIH guidance on Rigor and Reproducibility, and curate, analyze, publish and share their own data to continue future grant support. If clinical trials are proposed, applicants’ training in protecting human research participants must be current.

In response to this FOA, talented physician-scientists can apply to work independently, but we also encourage collaboration and team science. A model for a team approach is given in the Examples of Research Programs section. Institutional commitment is also a crucial factor for ESI success. Thus, this FOA requires evidence of a strong commitment by the dean/department head/institution to give adequate time and resources for research and to minimize encroachment of administrative, clinical and/or teaching duties.

Consistent with the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative, this R01 Physician-Scientist Research Award for Early Stage Investigators targets applicants who are full-time faculty at an academic center. The NHLBI-wide effort provides five years of initial funds for protected time, but it requires sustained institutional commitment to promote junior faculty to independent careers in heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders (HLBS) research, and related implementation science.

Supported Research Activities

This FOA is targeting research in heart, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders (HLBS) research, and related implementation science that may be basic, clinical, or translational in accord with NIH’s and NHLBI’s Strategic Vision. The proposed research may be related to mentored work but must be conducted independently.

Examples of Research Programs

NIH encourages team science, and as such, applications in response to this FOA may propose that the PS work independently or collaboratively. One example of collaboration would be a PS-ESI who works with a data scientist and a postdoctoral basic or behavioral researcher as key personnel. In such cases, the main roles of each could be similar to the following:

  1. The clinician provides subject samples, phenotyping, and design of the study;
  2. The data scientist provides review of existing data, curation, and analysis of new data;
  3. The basic scientist provides sample assays, discovery of results, and innovative approaches;
  4. Or a behavioral scientist designs a survey and collects data for analysis.

Deadlines (letters of intent due 30 days prior to the deadline):

  • Non-AID proposals – June 4, 2018, June 4, 2019, June 4, 2020
  • AIDS proposals – September 10, 2018, September 10, 2019, September 10, 2020


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities