Research and Funding
Inside NIA: A Blog for Researchers

At long last—a budget!

At long last—a budget!

The wait was long—but the news is good! If you’ve been following events on Capitol Hill, you already know this. NIH has received a $2 billion increase in budget for this fiscal year, reflecting much-appreciated bipartisan support for biomedical research. NIA’s own budget received a monster $400 million boost for Alzheimer’s-related research, and our budget for other research areas increased at the same percentage rate as the NIH budget. It took 30 years (from 1975 to 2005) for the annual NIA budget to reach $1 billion dollars. Now, with the number above $2 billion, the budget has doubled in just 12 years. This alone reflects the substantial public interest in our mission in an era where interest in science generally has lagged.

A continuing focus on Alzheimer’s disease

At NIA, that interest has focused primarily in research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and that is how our budget has been shaped in recent years. We continue to have unprecedented opportunity to help you to make a difference in our ability to prevent and to treat these devastating disorders, and to provide caregiving relief for the many affected.

These are increases on top of our general budget. It’s important to note that nothing has been taken away from our other scientific fields. And, as noted above, these fields also enjoy an increase for the second consecutive year, even though it’s significantly more modest than the increase for Alzheimer’s-related research.

What does this all mean for you? If this were a normal year—are there any normal years these days?—I would be telling you to hold your horses. After the President signs the budget, the numbers pass through several agencies on their way to us and then to you. That takes time. And that’s a problem this year: We have very little time. The fiscal year ends in under five months. So, we are taking immediate steps.

Immediate changes in some pay lines

We have just announced changes to several different funding lines. The big differences, of course, are for research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Alzheimer’s-related dementias (ADRD). We have increased NIA’s regular pay line for AD/ADRD research from the 18th percentile to the 28th percentile. We are also restoring the administrative cuts that we made to these awards earlier in the year when our budget was uncertain.

I hope you’ll notice a couple of other changes, though. We’ve increased the general allocation training grant line to 22 and the general allocation career development award line to 19. These changes reflect a decision to put more emphasis on early-career development and on bringing investigators into aging research. You’ll be hearing more from us on this point going forward. The actions here are an initial statement.

Some of you may be wondering how we are going to be able to disburse these funds in the most scientifically sound way when we have so much to spend and so little time on the clock. Luckily, we did have some indication that an increase might be coming (see the prior blog on the flurry of Funding Opportunity Announcements over the fall and winter) and, we have a lot of plans in place that we are implementing quickly—including the just-announced changes to our funding lines. You will see future blogs and funding policy changes as we move forward. It is going to be quite a ride—while FY2018 looms in another fog of uncertainty.

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Posted by LW on May 10, 2017 - 11:01 am

Dr. Barr: I'm very excited to see the change in payline for AD grants! I have a grant going to Council next week, but haven't received a JIT request and it is under 28%. Have contacted the PO to no avail. Getting nervous. Any advice? Love your blog!

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:03 pm

Take a few calming breaths! If you still have difficulty reaching your program officer then send me an e-mail. I will follow up.

Posted by AD on May 10, 2017 - 12:14 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, This is wonderful news. The new pay lines for e.g. for AD-related research under 500K, has gone up to 28 percentile from 18 percentile. Will these pay lines be applicable to grants that were reviewed in the October 2016 cycle (January 2017 council)? What can investigators within the pay line expect (for e.g. 19th percentile on an AD-related proposal under 500K)? Nevertheless, this is very exciting.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:05 pm

The new 28th percentile pay line is applicable to all FY 2017 applications. These include the October 2016, January 2017, and May 2017 cycles. For example, a 19th percentile application considered at January 2017 Council is now within the pay line.

Posted by Guo on May 10, 2017 - 3:20 pm

I have a R01 that was reviewed in June 2016. Would it be considered using the new payline? Thanks!

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:56 pm

Quite possibly. Please check with your program officer. Applications reviewed in June and July of a year normally go to the October Council. If that was the case for your R01 then it will be in the set that we consider for 2017 funding. But check with your program officer as I do not know the circumstances of your particular R01.

Posted by Kelly on May 10, 2017 - 1:46 pm

Wow! That is amazing news. For somebody who is waiting to hear how my fellowship application is scored this is very exciting! Congratulations on your hard work.

Posted by Nancy Manley on May 10, 2017 - 1:48 pm

What about restoring (at least partially) the 'standard' 18% administrative cuts to non-AD/ADRD grants?

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:07 pm

The problem with that thought is that the much smaller increase we received in the general line would barely cover that tab and would leave no funds to either extend the pay line or put more funds into investigator development initiatives. We can't use ADRD funds on non-ADRD awards.

Posted by Adel Nefzi on May 10, 2017 - 1:57 pm

Do you have an idea about the pay-line for STTR (Alzheimer Drug Discovery)

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:08 pm

Not yet. We need to have the final numbers delivered to us for our budget so that we can work out the percentage going to SBIR and STTR before we can draw that line. We should have more news in a month or so.

Posted by Call Me Al on May 11, 2017 - 12:51 pm

To follow up on the STTR paylines, I realize you don't have the final payline but do you anticipate that the STTR paylines will also go up? As always, thanks so much for your informative and easy to read blog. It's so very much appreciated.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 11, 2017 - 1:55 pm

I expect that the STTR ADRD pay line will rise, but cannot make any promises yet as we do not have final numbers.

Posted by Adel Nefzi on May 18, 2017 - 1:31 pm

What was the STTR pay-line for 2016?

Posted by Robin Barr on May 18, 2017 - 4:44 pm

We do not yet have a final STTR pay line. Contact your program officer for information.

Posted by Mike Bowers on May 10, 2017 - 1:59 pm

I am wondering if the RFPs concerning Alzheimer's disease sent out several years ago are still active and can proposals be sent in response to them? It seems the large increment for AD may be appropriately used in part to fund these areas.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:09 pm

If you mean the FY 2015 Alzheimer's PARs then, yes, most of them are still active and receiving applications.

Posted by Renee Stapleton on May 10, 2017 - 2:08 pm

My current R01 was cut by an additional 10% this year while operating on the continuing resolution (beyond the already large 18%). Does this new budget affect that 10% cut? i.e. will we receive it now that the money exists? Thank you.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 10, 2017 - 3:11 pm

I expect that most or all of the cut will be restored. We need to wait for our final budget to arrive and for NIH policy on non-competing awards to be established. I expect we will know in about a month.

Posted by Jim on May 10, 2017 - 10:05 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, It is exciting to see the $400 million boost for AD research. Will the ADRD pay line for Career award K99 also be revised soon? Thanks.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 11, 2017 - 1:50 pm

I do expect the career award ADRD pay line to be revised in the near future. We have a couple of wrinkles to sort out there, that's all.

Posted by lryan on May 10, 2017 - 11:02 pm

Dear Dr.Barr, Thank you for sharing with us this exciting news. I saw the AD-related payline increase by 10%, except the training and career awards in AD. Even the general payline in training and career awards increase by 3%. Will be there a possibility that the payline in career awards in 2017 FY changes? Thank you.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 11, 2017 - 1:51 pm

As I responded to another comment, I do expect the ADRD career award pay line to change.

Posted by Robert Hibschweiler/Bob on May 11, 2017 - 11:18 am

What further research and RCTs are being funded for the endogenous cannabinoid system as a result of the Salk Institute's finding that cannabis THC completely eliminated beta amyloid plaques and inflammation from lab human neurons as reported in Aging and Mechanisms of Disease and What is being done to advise Congress to remove the many barriers to exogenous phyto cannabinoid agonist research? Our Medical Science Research Community is the only credible voice to Congress for changing the onerous cannabis research regulations at the DEA, FDA, NIDA and DOJ.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 11, 2017 - 1:52 pm

As we are a federal agency, we are constrained in our ability to advocate for change in regulations. The medical science community itself is the group that can lead that effort.

Posted by Guo on May 11, 2017 - 1:38 pm

Dr. Barr, I am probably in the same boat with a lot of nervous people (especially AD researchers) who missed the interim payline for the last two council meetings, eager to find out the outcome of their grants. I am wondering if you could provide a sort of estimated timeline on what happens next for those applications below payline. For example, the May council meeting is next week, should we expect to receive a JIT request before the council meeting? Are grants processed in the order from cycle 1 (Feb/Mar 2016 submission) to cycle 3 (Oct/Nov 2016 submission), or all at once? I am following up with my PO, but not getting response fast enough (for which I totally understand), and it is making me very anxious. Your blog may calm a lot of nerves. This blog has been an invaluable resources for me and really appreciate it.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 11, 2017 - 1:57 pm

Thanks for your comments about the blog. J-i-T requests should be going out soon, but I am not going to put any more pressure on our grants management unit as they have been given an enormously increased task with the new budget. So I ask for a little patience before the news here is converted to reality where you are, and an award is made.

Posted by WD on May 12, 2017 - 2:22 pm

How about the pay lines for non-ADRD grants? Are they going to improve?

Posted by Robin Barr on May 15, 2017 - 10:42 am

We did show improvements in the general training grant line and career development award line in this update. We need to wait for particularly the NIH policy on noncompeting awards to be published before we will know whether we may extend any research grant lines in the general allocation.

Posted by doubletree on May 16, 2017 - 12:36 pm

Dr. Barr: Thanks for sharing wonderful news. I was wondering if NIA help support an ADRD application that was originally assigned to a different IC. My R01 application that was reviewed last October was also assigned to NIA a couple of weeks ago. NIA was not a primary nor secondary IC, and I am not sure whether mine is being transferred to NIA ( I just saw the NIA assignment in the era commons status, but was not formally informed). thank you in advance for your time.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 19, 2017 - 9:48 am

Do check with your current program officer on the application which you think may be being transferred to NIA. That's the person who can help you.

Posted by N.E.M on May 17, 2017 - 10:58 pm

Hello Dr. Barr, the council meeting for my application was scheduled to be last Tuesday. Should we expect to be informed about the funding decisions right after the council meeting or it usually takes a while until the final decisions are made. Thank you very much in advance, this blog is very helpful.

Posted by Robin Barr on May 18, 2017 - 10:49 am

Your program officer can give you any updates but the move to funding is a gradual process -- second level review (now done), funding decisions (end of the month), making the award (June-July). The award isn't certain until the check has arrived but each step makes it more likely to happen.

Posted by Covfefe on Jun 02, 2017 - 12:41 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, Thanks for your really informative Blog and for the great news regarding AD research funding. You mentioned above that the 28% payline is applicable to the October 2016, January 2017, and May 2017 cycles. Would that include grants that were submitted in May 2017 but for which the council meeting is scheduled for October 2017? Also, in chatting with my program officer I learned that this 28% payline does not apply to some of the AD PARs. Just curious on your take as to why one would continue to apply to specific AD PARs going forward when the funding line is lower?

Posted by Robin Barr on Jun 02, 2017 - 1:22 pm

The March 22 blog explains why we do not include the AD PARs in our regular percentiled funding line. At the same time, I highly expect that we will adjust the AD PAR lines given the good news on the budget. We need to sort out a few wrinkles first, that's all. On your other point, the October 2017 round is a fiscal year 2018 round. That means the 28th percentile line does not apply to these applications. As our 2018 budget is currently uncertain, I will not be so rash as to venture a prediction of a funding line for that year at the moment.

Posted by Adam P on Jun 03, 2017 - 9:49 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, This blog is very helpful, thanks for keeping it up! Is there any chance that the 2017 Early Investigator general payline will increase once you have the budget fully in place? My co-PI and I are in the unfortunate situation of having missed the payline by one point (well within last years payline). We are assuming the worst and preparing our resubmission but any insight from you would be appreciated.

Posted by Robin Barr on Jun 05, 2017 - 10:00 am

While the fiscal year continues there does remain a chance for an award. Do keep in touch with your program officer.

Posted by DT on Jun 05, 2017 - 9:03 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, Can you venture in any predictions on when FY18 budget will be determined? What would you like to see in the FY18 budget in order to maintain the same paylines as for FY17? thanks

Posted by Robin Barr on Jun 06, 2017 - 11:55 am

Of course I wish that we have a final budget ready to start on October 1. In truth though, I have no more privileged information on when that budget will arrive than you do. As for size, my desires on that remain properly private, as they should for all of us working in the Executive Branch.

Posted by JJ on Jun 06, 2017 - 6:01 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, Does the payline of 28% apply to R21 grants related to ADRD? Also will the grants submitted this Feb. (reviewed in June) be considered within FY2017? Thanks.

Posted by Ruth B on Jun 18, 2017 - 10:28 pm

Dear Dr. Barr, Thank you for your informative blog! My recently scored RO1 received an 18%. It is peripherally related to AD as it examines factors and mechanisms that are precursors to AD. However, it could theoretically be considered a gray area with regard to its AD relatedness. How are grants determined to be AD-related or not? Is this determined by my PO? Thanks in advance!

Posted by KP on Jun 20, 2017 - 9:14 am

Dear Dr. Barr, Thank you for this informative blog. When do you anticipate that the paylines for the AD-PARs will be available? I applied to PAR15-348 October 5. Any sense of how they are likely to compare to the general ADRD paylines? Thank you.

Posted by Robin Barr on Jun 20, 2017 - 10:50 am

We are waiting for the reviews to finish on the end-of-year RFAs before we develop a final funding plan for the AD PARs. That should be in late July.