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New resources to enhance your chance of K99 success!

Jamie Lahvic
Program Officer (Training),
Office of Strategic Extramural Programs (OSEP)

The K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award can help facilitate the transition from a postdoc to an independent academic research position. This competitive award provides up to five years of funding across the postdoctoral and faculty phases. Importantly, the K99 is an NIH career development award that does not require U.S. citizenship or permanent residency to apply.

Earlier this year, we shared a set of sample K99/R00 applications from a successful applicant. The samples quickly became one of our most-downloaded resources. Since there are many strategies to writing a strong K99 application, we recently worked with another NIA K99 awardee to provide a new set of sample applications. Visit the NIA K99 webpage to download these samples today!

Multiple paths to K99 success

Both of our K99 sample application sets include an initial, unfunded application; the resubmission that resulted in success; and all reviewer summary statements. These examples can help support you in building the best possible application and provide guidance on how to address reviewer comments if you must resubmit, which you should always do if eligible.

While our first example application focused on the basic molecular biology of aging, the new sample K99 application is from a clinical researcher investigating Alzheimer’s disease caregiver burden. You’ll see there are several differences in this application that correlate with the clinical focus:

  • The application includes significant required paperwork related to protection of human subjects.
  • The applicant identifies a large team of four mentors and co-mentors in addition to collaborators and consultants. A large team like this can be important to facilitate outreach to broad participant populations.

You will also note that one applicant writes in the third person, using phrases such as “Dr. Luth will pursue” and “Aim 1 will identify.” The other uses first person, such as “I developed a system” and “I hypothesize that.” Both styles are common in career development applications: Choose the one that feels most comfortable to you.

At NIA, all K99 applications are evaluated by a single study section. As you will see from these examples, this study section reviews applications from candidates with diverse research backgrounds.

This is why, as you compile your own K99 application, it is important to put your accomplishments in the context of your scientific discipline. Think about what will make your application stand out. For example, do you have an especially strong publication record or a unique research background? Have you mastered a technical skill that is known to be especially difficult? Make sure both you and your mentors highlight and contextualize accomplishments that might not be well-recognized outside of your own field.

Keys to a strong application

In comparing the two resubmissions — beyond the differences between basic versus clinical research — you will find they have several strengths in common, for instance:

  • A clearly written, innovative research plan that is achievable within the K99/R00 timeline
  • A natural flow from the K99 to the R00 research phase
  • A career development plan that is detailed, individualized, and well-integrated with the research plan
  • And, importantly for all resubmissions, a well-organized introduction page that describes substantive responses to all reviewer concerns

We encourage you to share and consult these resources as you prepare your own K99 application. For specific questions and to receive feedback, reach out to NIA training staff at

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