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NIH Details $250M Program for Supporting 'Transformative' Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institutes of Health today issued details of a $250 million plan to fund “transformative” research through a new type of grants that are designed to lower the hurdles researchers face as they try to win backing for “bold [and] creative” science.
In the unveiling today of the five-year grants plan, which GenomeWeb Daily News outlined on Monday, NIH said that the “Transformative-R01 (T-R01) Program” is aimed at helping scientists bypass some of the structure and review bottlenecks that can hinder the success of “the most bold, creative, and risky research proposals.”
NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said in a statement that the T-R01 will “pilot novel approaches to peer review to facilitate identification and support of the most ground-breaking, high impact research and augment the existing Pioneer and New Innovator Awards programs."
The trans-NIH initiative is funded under the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research and is coordinated through the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI).
“This new mechanism is designed to encourage the generation of new scientific paradigms or the disruption of old ones," OPASI Director Alan Krensky said in a statement. He added that the program is the result of “years of discussion as to how to encourage thinking outside of the box.”
The T-R01 effort will support original studies that will synthesize new paradigms for biomedical or behavioral sciences, show exceptional creativity in proposing bold and groundbreaking approaches to fundamental problems, promote radical changes that will impact other scientific areas, and will be evaluated under new procedures that the NIH Center for Scientific Review is currently piloting.
“The hope is that the T-R01 Program will liberate scientists to unveil extraordinary ideas and approaches, and that novel review and support procedures will select the best for funding," said Keith Yamamoto, who is co-chair of the Advisory Committee to the Director Working Group on Enhancing Peer Review.
Scientists from a broad range of biomedical areas including biological, clinical, social, physical, chemical, computational, engineering, and mathematical sciences, are encouraged to apply.  Specific areas NIH has highlighted include pharmacogenomics, protein capture, functional variation in mitochondria, complex 3-D tissue models, the science of behavior change, and acute to chronic pain transition.
NIH is currently accepting applications for the program, and it plans to fund the first awards in 2009. It hopes to announce the T-R01 program again in 2010 if funds are available.
More information about the program is available here.

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