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NIH Grant Pipeline Now Flush With $timulus

The National Institutes of Health will dedicate most of its $8.2 billion for research from the economic stimulus bill to funding grant applications it has already received and to supplementing existing grants. A smaller amount, on the order of $100 million to $200 million, will go to new grant applications it receives in the coming months.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C., to a packed auditorium of representatives from universities and associations, acting director Raynard Kington said NIH would soon issue a request for applications for new “challenge grants” of as much as $500,000 per year for 2 years. These challenge grants will be for research addressing certain areas in science or public health that NIH thinks can advance significantly in 2 years. NIH will create a shortened application process for these peer-reviewed grants but hasn't said which areas will be targeted.

Because NIH has to spend the stimulus money within those 2 years, it is under pressure to start sending money to grantees as soon as possible. That's why, Kington said, it will not issue a massive call for new applications. Instead, it will mainly look to add money to existing grants and to fund grant applications it has already received and peer reviewed.

Any of the 2-year grants that result from the stimulus package will come with unusually stringent reporting requirements, Kington said, including reporting the number of jobs created or preserved. He repeatedly said that NIH would be “embarrassed” if institutions did not spend the money or boost their local economies. He expects grantees to “hire people and make purchases and advance science,” he said.

Because the stimulus bill's aim is to improve the nation's economy, Kington said, NIH would also be sensitive to geographic distribution of the grants it gives.

Kington gave few specifics about NIH's plans but said more details would become available soon.