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NIH Revises Reimbursement Rules for High-Volume Microarray Studies

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By Justin Petrone

The National Institutes of Health has changed the rules for grant applicants that seek to use high volumes of microarrays for research studies.

Citing the "relatively high" price of chips, particularly for use in genome-wide association studies, the NIH last month said that for projects that exceed $50,000 per year in microarray costs, the first $50,000 will continue to be classified as "supplies" under the NIH's Facilities and Administrative, or F&A, rate, but the remaining balance will be classified as consortium/subcontract costs.

The first $25,000 in consortium/contractual costs will receive the full F&A reimbursement, but the remaining costs "will be excluded from the F&A cost base calculation."

The new policy, which went into effect May 12, applies only to new budget requests, and noncompeting awards are not affected. It also does not impact the amount of funding the NIH will dispense to array-related projects. Instead, it will provide "consistent budgeting, accounting and reimbursement of these costs," according to the agency.

"The budgeting and reimbursement approval of these costs require careful consideration to ensure that these substantial investments are both scientifically and fiscally justified," NIH said.

The NIH said it revised the reimbursement rules after determining that budgeting large quantities of arrays as supplies made an "outsize impact" relative to the actual administrative burden on applicants.

"The treatment of the costs for purchase of [genomic arrays] as 'supplies' in these specialized award budgets at high levels of usage would result in the application of F&A cost recovery that is disproportionate to the actual administrative burden associated with the relatively high cost of the procurement" of arrays, the NIH said.

The agency noted that the procurement of chips has been usually via commercial sources through a simple purchase order.

According to the NIH, arrays used in GWAS or gene-expression profiling are "exceptional among laboratory supplies in that they are almost always procured from a commercial source; have a relatively high unit cost — currently the approximate range is broad from several hundred dollars to greater than five hundred dollars each — and are often utilized in large numbers." The NIH said these costs are "increasingly common in the requested budgets of applications for support of genome-wide association studies and other genetic and genomic methodologies."

As of May 12, the NIH has been reviewing budget requests for genomic arrays to make sure they comply with the new policy. If a proposed budget does not comply, a grants-management specialist will request a revised budget and incorporate required changes into the grantee's Notice of Award, the agency said.

The full terms of the agency's new policy can be accessed here.

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