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Where the rubber meets the road: Small businesses and Alzheimer's research

Mack Mackiewicz
Program Director,
Division of Neuroscience (DN)

Calling all small businesses and entrepreneurs!

If we hope to translate what we are learning about Alzheimer’s disease into health, safety, and emotional well-being benefits for Alzheimer’s patients and their families, then small businesses have a vital role in making that happen. The NIA recently published two funding opportunity announcements for small businesses focused on Alzheimer’s disease. One targets the Small Business Innovative Research program and the other the Small Business Technology Transfer program. Both have an initial submission date approaching rapidly—April 5. And if peer reviewers smile upon your application, you can even receive funding before the end of September this year.

Why this attention now?

NIA received an additional $350 million in its appropriation this year particularly targeted towards Alzheimer’s research. A noticeable share of these funds—$16 million—is aimed at small business programs. Both FOAs are broadly focused. You may want to pursue some of the early stages of drug development, or you may be working on an enhanced imaging technique or other screening tool. You may be looking for improved ways to enhance caregiver well-being, or to assist and stimulate individuals at different stages of the disease. You might be considering features of nursing home and assisted living facilities that might be improved to promote self-navigation among patients. We are interested in all of these ideas.

Who can apply?

Broadly speaking, U.S. small businesses with less than 50 percent foreign ownership are eligible to apply. Read the Eligibility Information in Section III of either FOA carefully. Applicants also need to register with the Small Business Administration, another part of the U.S. government, before submitting applications via If you’re considering applying, register right away so that you are not waiting to be eligible while you’re concentrating on getting your application in.

If you’re not familiar with the SBIR/STTR mechanisms, you can get the basic overview in this previous blog post. However, the FOAs provide the most recent information on how to apply for these awards.

The SBIR and STTR programs give you the seed money for your project. And, between the Phase I and Phase II awards, you have two years plus to make it work and then take it to the next level. In some cases, this may be funding from another federal agency such as the FDA, particularly in the area of drug development. In others, you may go directly to commercializing and marketing your product or device. We’re looking for people who have the vision and the know-how, but just need the boost of start-up and development funds to see their dream become a reality.

Real-world research

These two FOAs represent translational research in the real world — a chance to turn our research findings into tangible products that can be used by the people who need them most. And, it’s a chance to promote the growth and development of small businesses, particularly in the high-tech medical/technology/computer sector.

Contact me or Partha Bhattacharyya right away if you have questions. In fact, we strongly advise that you contact us before submitting your application. We also encourage you to submit your application several days before the published submission deadline so that any errors found in the application during the submission process can be corrected by the due date. If you have general questions not addressed by the FOAs, we encourage you to comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

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