Career Development Awards and Grants for River Blindness


How do I apply for K22 career development awards?

Can I find grants for doing river blindness research in the U.S.?

Dear GrantDoctor,

I am looking for K22 career development awards. I have been told that these grants can be written without institution support. How do I apply for that and what are the agencies that fund these types of grants? Also, do I have to be within a certain number of years after my Ph.D.? I received my Ph.D. in May of 1993. Could you give me some suggestions about where I should be applying?


Dear Chitra,

The K22 refers to the National Institutes of Health's Career Transition Award, a grant for postdocs making the move to independent research positions. Not all NIH institutes offer the award, but those that do are:

  • National Eye Institute

  • National Cancer Institute

  • National Human Genome Research Institute

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

  • National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

  • National Institute of Nursing Research

You can find summary information, contact details, and links to all these institutions--as well as details for other "K" awards--at NIH's K Kiosk. The Transitional Career Development Award in Women's Health Research is a form of K22 grant program run by some other NIH institutes that may interest you.

According to the eligibility requirements of some institutes--such as the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Eye Institute, and the National Cancer Institute, if you have more than 5 years of postdoctoral research training, you cannot apply. You must also be a U.S. citizen, a noncitizen national, or have been admitted for permanent residence; temporary or student visas are not valid. Call the relevant institute's contact person (that information can be found in the K Kiosk) to clarify such eligibility requirements.

Once you've determined that you meet the necessary requirements (and the 7 years that have elapsed since you were awarded your Ph.D. may make that difficult in your case, Chitra), then how should you go about applying for these grants? The most crucial thing you can do to improve your chances of receiving any award is to read the instructions! Don't mess up your chances because you failed to follow--or properly understand--what the institute needs you to do. And if you need a few more tips, then the Grants and Grantwriting section of Next Wave's Career Development Center provides information on how best to tailor your grant application. Look there for hints, tips, and advice from the experts as you take one of the most important steps toward successfully developing your career--applying for a grant.

Good luck!

--The GrantDoctor

Note: GrantsNet's June newsletter points out that two more Institutes have adopted the Transition Award: The National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Visit GrantsNet for up-to-date information on funding news and grant opportunities.

Dear Grant Doctor,

I am a biochemist finishing my Ph.D. in Europe in immunoparasitology of filariasis, specifically onchocerciasis (river blindness). I've done most of my education in Europe and I would like to explore other environments in America. Do you know the most appropriate places to look for and apply for postdoctoral fellowships in this area of research? How easy is it to find a postdoctoral position in America? Thanks in advance for the advice.

Worm Man

Dear Worm Man,

As you know, onchocerciasis is caused by a parasitic worm that can infect the eyes. The worm is transmitted by blackflies, primarily in Africa and South America. Today, there is a rather greater emphasis on developing drugs that eradicate these infectious organisms with a single, one-time dose than there is on experiments that focus on the basic science of the disease. Nevertheless, research on topics such as the genetic variation of onchocerciasis and the development of new methods of molecular diagnoses are in progress.

The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene's Funding and Fellowships Web page is a useful place to look for awards. Its Funding Opportunities site is one of the most comprehensive I have ever seen.

Similarly, the Helen Keller Worldwide organization, which is based in New York, has a number of programs including efforts to control onchocerciasis. Contact them for information about their on-going research efforts and possible funding opportunities.

And not surprisingly, the U.S. government supports such research, too. The National Institutes of Health's Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have funded grants on this and other filariasis diseases. If you are eligible (contact program staff by visiting their Division of Extramural Activities Web site to check on the details) you can submit your proposal without having to wait for a "program announcement" to be issued.

In Europe, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), based in Switzerland, has a strong emphasis on onchocerciasis. Check their pages for funding resources and for possible Euro-U.S. research collaborations or initiatives. You might even want to contact Dr. Hans Remme, the manager of the Task Force on Filariasis Intervention Research at the TDR, to discuss current funding opportunities.

Approximately half of the biology-related postdocs in 1995 were non-U.S. citizens, so getting a position in the States is possible--provided you have funding, of course. You can find advice on what to expect if you do come to the U.S., how to obtain funding, and visa requirements at the U.S. Department of State's International Information Programs. There, you will find advice for scholars and professionals wishing to work in the U.S.

Good luck, Worm Man. ... And to all you grant seekers out there: Stay healthy!

--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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