Here we go again -- Wait and hurry up!
The signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 a couple of weeks ago provided a $414 million increase in our budget for Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD). On top of that, it provided a $111 million increase in our general budget. With that much gas in our tank, as soon as the ink on the Act was dry, NIA sprang into action. We followed a now-familiar road: Funding meetings were held; new notices sped their way to the NIH Guide; both veteran and recently hired staff worked intensively to expedite funding of approved research proposals.
Once upon a time, NIA and aging research itself were almost a backwater—a smallish community that was growing by the odd fit and start. Lately, we are front and center, in the news, and growing by leaps and bounds. With this new attention, high expectations are our constant companion. We hope that, in your hands, these funds can deliver a future that provides relief to patients and their families who bear the burden of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as the challenges of aging in general.
Getting ready for the AD budget increase
As you know, we’ve done much to prepare for this new funding. As noted in a previous blog, we used a somewhat unusual method of advertising a new set of initiatives. We published a “blank” parent funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and then followed it a few days later with a Notice containing nine initiatives around AD/ADRD research. The deadline for that funding opportunity and for all these initiatives is April 17. I trust that many of you are taking a break from putting the finishing touches to a stellar application as you read this blog. The reason for the peculiar machination of FOA and Notice is now clear. We intend to pay awards from these initiatives in this fiscal year with some of the money that we received in the new appropriation. We could not have achieved that with the conventional FOA process.
Some of you have asked whether the FOA and its attendant Notice will be re-issued. I don’t know, and we can’t know yet. How many applications will we receive for the initiatives? How well will they cover the bases of the research areas that we advertised? How well will they do in review? The answers to these questions and others like them will determine whether we re-issue the FOA. Right now, there is one opportunity, and one alone, for these initiatives. It has an April 17 deadline.
Aging as well as Alzheimer’s research
In the bigger picture, there’s a lot more to aging research than to Alzheimer’s disease, even with its related dementias in tow. I can write all I want about “Now is the time for Alzheimer’s research,” but the other problems of aging are not going away. A growing population of older people across the country and around the world pose questions about management of multiple chronic conditions, options for long-term care, and the nature of the aging process at the cellular level, among other things. From basic research on the mechanisms of aging through translational research that identifies targets for treatment, through work understanding health disparities, to the social fabric of an aging society, so much needs to be explored, and so many questions need to be answered.
While we don’t have special appropriations for this research we do have funds for it, and we saw a noticeable increase in our general allocation this year too—much improved over the recent past. Yet for the next few years, the tale of two funding lines will continue. To pursue NIA funding for areas outside the AD/ADRD field, you’ll need to clear a higher bar for these years. We know that work is important and there remain many reasons to try for that higher bar. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt to write an application on Alzheimer’s either…!)