Funding Mitochondrial Research and Can NIH Grants Be Used to Pay Off Dues?


Where can I find grants for mitochondrial diseases?

Can NIH money be used to pay dues?

Dear GrantDoctor,Hi! I am a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego. I want to focus mainly on studying the mechanism of pathology of mitochondrial diseases, which include degenerative diseases like Parkinson's. I would like to apply for some grants that will give me the opportunity to become an independent investigator in the future. I would appreciate if you could advise me about where to apply, particularly when you do not have U.S. citizenship or a green card. I look forward to hearing from you.- Mitochondrial Postdoc.

Dear Mitochondrial Postdoc,

Fellowships do exist specifically for mitochondrial-associated disease research, and it is possible for researchers who are not U.S. citizens or who do not have the appropriate visa or work permit to apply for such grants from U.S. funders. I urge readers to make use of Next Wave's free sister site, GrantsNet, to locate funding sources and fellowship opportunities--especially those that do not require U.S. citizenship. A simple search with "postdoctoral" and "disease-specific" key words, for example, gave me 59 awards that matched these criteria. For starters, check out the database and pinpoint relevant opportunities--you will find contact information, application forms, and eligibility requirements there.

More specifically, the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation sponsors research projects that deal with mitochondrial abnormalities. Their grant cycle begins 1 July, and grants are awarded specifically for researchers who need "seed money" or are conducting clinical research, or for fellows in search of postdoctoral grants. There are no citizenship requirements or restrictions for these awards.

The National Parkinson Foundation Inc. has information about the disease, treatments, and ongoing research efforts. They do award grants, although (unfortunately for you) their once-a-year submission deadline is 15 February. You should have enough data by next year's cycle, however, to apply then.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke conducts Parkinson's disease-related research and associated genetic studies. As for other institutes at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they award the National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32). However, "applicants must be citizens, legal permanent residents, or noncitizen nationals of the United States" when they apply.

The Parkinson's Disease Foundation Inc. is another organization that awards grants for research in this field--applicable to M.D.s and Ph.D.s--and there are no U.S. citizenship requirements. You do, however, have to have at least 2 years of postdoctoral experience. Check out their Grants and Fellowships page for more information. Good luck!

Happy grant hunting...

-- The GrantDoctor

Dear GrantDoctor,Can NIH money be used to pay dues? Thanks!-- Jan

Dear Jan,

Your question is typical of some of those I receive--open-ended and not enough information! Some grants allow some sort of tuition remission; others--perhaps training grants--may not. The "dues" have to be related to courses and programs that are relevant to the grant and to your research.

According to officials at the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Grants Policy Office, without more specific information, it is impossible to advise you one way or the other. What you should do--and NIH policy officials stress this--is to make your first inquiry to local officials at your own university. Policies at your institution may be more restrictive than NIH's when it comes to managing funds. Finding out what NIH approves and what it doesn't may not be worthwhile if your institution does not support those guidelines.

Secondly, specific grant inquiries should be directed to "the awarding component" of NIH--that is, the NIH institute that awarded the original grant. On the letter notifying the investigator of a grant award, there is contact information for the program officer and the grants management officer. Get in touch with these people to resolve such queries. And as my NIH policy source said: "If you ask a general question, I'll give you a general answer." The same applies to you GrantDoctor readers out there! Jan, follow these guidelines, and if you still need advice, drop me another line with more details. Good luck! -- The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!

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