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Continuing to serve small businesses during the pandemic

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

This year has been an unprecedented one for all of us. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we connect and network with our stakeholders. Many applicants from small businesses and research organizations have had to slow or stop their work while the nation’s aging population copes with social isolation and reduced mobility, among other challenges. As chief of NIA’s Office of Small Business Research (OSBR), I understand the concern and pressure that this time is causing everyone, including entrepreneurs focused on improving the lives of older adults.

NIA is adapting and working diligently to help small businesses through our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which are designed to help companies commercialize products and technologies to extend healthy, active years of life. Through SBIR and STTR, NIA provides more than $100 million in set-aside, non-dilutive funding (not loans), funding 259 projects across 184 companies and a broad range of aging-related topics.

Funding caregiving and geroscience innovation

NIA has two new, time-sensitive funding opportunities for small businesses working on research and development (R&D) to address family caregiving and geroscience:

  • RFA-AG-21-025: We’ve collaborated with the Administration for Community Living (ACL) to support R&D for customizable training platforms that focus on addressing financial and estate planning responsibilities for individuals, families, and care partners of people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Applications that consider diverse populations across the socioeconomic spectrum are encouraged. Letters of intent are due October 12, and applications are due November 12. NIA and ACL will co-host a pre-application webinar on September 9, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET.
  • RFA-AG-21-026: We recently published a cooperative agreement funding opportunity to support the preclinical development of emerging therapeutics targeting fundamental mechanisms of aging. Letters of intent are due October 10, and applications are due November 10. Join NIA for a pre-application webinar on August 27, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET. We also recently posted information on the Food and Drug Administration’s review of geroscience-related Investigational New Drug applications.

Making virtual connections

In NIA’s OSBR, we haven’t let the pandemic slow us down. Some of our recent activities include:

  • Market Research: Throughout this year, we’ve conducted a market research analysis to leverage audience feedback and better understand the needs of the communities we serve. These insights were drawn from participant survey feedback and in-depth interviews with survey respondents who helped our staff inform and improve outreach activities.
  • Webinars and Virtual Workshops: With travel restrictions and remote working in place, we’ve created online trainings to assist entrepreneurs, small businesses, and research organizations in learning about our programs and resources, including application tips. We also launched a virtual workshop series to dig deeper into key topics, including the Phase II Commercialization Plan, the Commercialization Readiness Pilot program, and the Phase IIB application.
  • Entrepreneurial Training and Partnering Showcase Efforts: In collaboration with NIH Small Business Education and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) and across NIH, we have provided entrepreneurial training to SBIR/STTR awardees through NIH’s C3i and I-Corps programs as well as through NIH Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. We’ve also been working with SEED to spur our awardees’ efforts to showcase their technologies to potential partners and investors at several NIA-relevant industry conferences.

Supporting companies at every step

We want to help you prepare the most successful funding application possible. I strongly encourage you to contact us at least one month before you plan to submit so we can help guide you through the application process. Contact us to schedule a time to connect about your project.

We also participate in the NIH Applicant Assistance Program for small businesses that need help navigating the SBIR or STTR application process. I encourage you to learn more about our activities and stay connected to the latest information. Sign up to receive email updates, and follow @NIA_SBIR on Twitter. Although we may be socially distant, we’re still here to help, so feel free to contact us!

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