Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Get to know the biphasic award mechanism

Kimberly Kramer
Kimberly KRAMER,
Health Specialist,
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)

At NIH, we use three-character activity codes to help distinguish between the different types of research-related award mechanisms we support. The oldest and generally best known is the R01, but there are actually more than 200 other award mechanisms that have been used by NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. While we could devote several years’ worth of blog posts to explaining each and every funding mechanism, today we wanted to spotlight a subset that is often overlooked and misunderstood yet comes with a few interesting advantages: biphasic awards.

What is a biphasic award?

As the name implies, a biphasic award is given across two phases. Typically, the first phase is for earlier-stage research and the second phase is for expanded development. Investigators are then required to achieve certain milestones — specified in the application and further refined following peer review — in order to transition to the second phase. Biphasic awards are particularly helpful for higher-risk scientific projects, offering an accelerated path to additional funding if a project meets its goals within the established timelines.

What biphasic award programs does NIA support?

NIA-supported biphasic award programs fall into three categories:

  • Small business awards: The first phase is for discovery and feasibility, and the second phase is for development.
    • R41/R42 — Small Business Technology Transfer Grants
    • R43/R44 — Small Business Innovation Research Grants
  • Fellowship and career awards: Transition from first to second phase is timed with researchers’ transition between career phases.
    • F99/K00 — Pre-Doctoral to Post-Doctoral Transition Award
    • K99/R00 — Career/Research Transition Award 
  • Exploratory/developmental research projects and cooperative agreements: The first phase is for milestone-driven exploratory or feasibility studies, or planning activities, and the second phase is for expanded development or implementation.
    • R21/R33 — Phased Innovation Award
    • R61/R33 — Exploratory/Developmental Phased Award
    • UH2/UH3 — Phased Innovation Award Cooperative Agreement
    • UG3/UH3 — Exploratory/Developmental Phased Award Cooperative Agreement

When applying for one of these awards, remember to pay close attention to the application instructions to ensure that your application adequately describes milestones for both phases.

Fewer applications to write, lower chance of funding gaps

You may be wondering why biphasic awards even exist. Wouldn’t applying for an R21 and then an R33 accomplish the same thing as applying for an R21/R33? Not exactly.

Applying for an R21 and then an R33 requires a principal investigator (PI) to submit two separate applications, while applying for an R21/R33 only requires one application. Although PIs of biphasic awards do have to submit transition packages near the end of the first phase for NIA staff to review and determine whether the awards will transition to the second phase (and transitioning is never guaranteed), this is generally less of a burden than filling out an entirely new application.

Furthermore, because transition packages are due prior to the end of the first phase, PIs of biphasic awards are less likely to have a gap in funding than if they were trying to time the end of one award with the start of a separate award.

Where can I find biphasic funding opportunity announcements?

To find a biphasic award opportunity that’s right for you, check out NIA’s current funding opportunities or search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts for the activity code you’re interested in. As always, feel free to leave any questions in the comment box below!

Add new comment

Your e-mail address will not be posted.

Plain text

  • Allowed HTML tags: <p> <br>
  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

An official website of the National Institutes of Health