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Update on NIA's funding opportunities for small businesses

Dr. Todd Haim
Todd HAIM,
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)

It’s a new year and that means it’s a good time to look at what’s new with NIA’s small business programs. I’m proud to head up NIA’s Office of Small Business Research, which runs the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Research) programs, designed to help firms commercialize products extending the healthy, active years of life. We’re interested in a broad range of new interventions, aids, and diagnostic instruments that come from scientific advances. Some of these include novel devices, therapeutics, assistive technologies and health information technology.

We’ve been able to significantly increase our funding for small business research recently, resulting in a remarkable 300 percent growth over the past four years. If you’re looking for help bringing an idea to market that could help people live vibrant and healthy lives as they age, or assist in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and its related dementias (AD/ADRD), then FY19 is an excellent time to apply for SBIR or STTR funding. To help get your innovations to the next level, we’d like to offer some tips for successful applications.

A plethora of funding opportunities

First, some details about what we’re looking for. As the lead federal agency for research on AD/ADRD, NIA has a substantial budget dedicated to the development of interventions and therapeutics designed to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease and to help families and caregivers of people with dementia. The range of products and ventures we seek to support includes:

  • Technology to monitor and assess functions of people with AD/ADRD: SBIR and STTR
  • Testing lifespan/healthspan-extension interventions in models of AD: SBIR and STTR
  • Tools for clinical care of AD and its comorbidities: SBIR and STTR
  • Assistive technology for persons with ADRD and their caregivers: SBIR and STTR
  • Development of socially-assistive robots to engage persons with ADRD and their caregivers: SBIR and STTR
  • T1 and T2 translational research on aging
  • Personalized in vitro assays to quantitatively assess age-related changes in cellular resiliencies to physiologic stressors: SBIR and STTR

You can find the full menu of our funding opportunity announcements on our website. We encourage entrepreneurs and business teams to pay particular attention to PAS-18-187, which solicits projects addressing AD/ADRD, and both accepts Direct-to-Phase II SBIR applications and allows for grant budgets of up to $450,000 (Phase I) or $2.5 million (Phase II). The NIH SBIR Omnibus Solicitation also accepts Direct-to-Phase II SBIR applications and allows budgets of up to $300,000 total costs (Phase I) or $2 million total costs (Phase II). This solicitation is a great resource for applications that may not fit the targeted funding opportunities.

We’re here to help!

Our staff is dedicated to helping you prepare your best funding application. I strongly encourage you to contact us well before submitting your application. Many applications get off to a poor start with a weak or incomplete “Specific Aims” section. This section is crucial to a strong SBIR/STTR application. It’s where you describe the unmet need you plan to address, highlight why your idea has a competitive advantage, and present key metrics and milestones for achieving your goal.

Our office is eager to review and provide feedback on your draft Specific Aims pages before you finalize your application submission. NIA program staff can also give you helpful advice. Again, it is best to contact them at least a month before the application is due to discuss your project.

We are also spreading the word about the program to innovators and entrepreneurs around the country. We even have a new page on our website that shows upcoming events in which we will be available to meet with you and discuss a potential application! We encourage you to visit our homepage to meet our staff, learn more about their specific roles, and read up on our lists of FAQs and tips for applicants. If you’re new to the process, a good place to start is the NIH SBIR/STTR site.

Act now!

Now is the time to get started. It takes careful planning and preparation to complete a compelling application. We have three annual application deadlines: January 5, April 5, and September 5 for the majority of current funding opportunities. The April deadline is coming up fast. If that’s too tight of a turnaround, then we encourage you to apply in September.

We look forward to working with the business and tech community in 2019 and beyond.

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