The Hematologist

September-October 2012, Volume 9, Issue 5

ASH Announces $9 Million Bridge Grant Program to Combat the Reduction in NIH Funding

Armand Keating, MD

Published on: September 01, 2012

Commits to 30 one-year grants of $100,000 each for the next three years totaling 90 awards

In this period of economic uncertainty, one thing is clear: a continuing decline in NIH funding will have a serious adverse effect on hematology research. After nearly a decade of modest budget increases, NIH’s inflation-adjusted funding is almost 20 percent lower today than in FY 2003. As a result, NIH’s capacity to sustain current research support and to fund promising new areas of science is, and will be, significantly limited. According to some analyses, as many as 2,300 NIH grants will be eliminated beginning next year. Facing this dire prospect, the ASH Executive Committee designed a multi-faceted strategy to support hematology research and to engage hematologists in the public policy debate over NIH funding by:

  • Establishing a multi-million dollar bridge grant program to begin to address research funding gaps
  • Launching the ASH Foundation, with the initial focus on supporting research excellence in our field
  • Providing enhanced communications to the membership to encourage individual advocacy
  • Strengthening advocacy by undertaking additional campaigns both in Congressional districts and through “fly-ins” to Washington, DC

The launch of the ASH bridge grant program is the linchpin of our new strategy and is designed to retain hematology scientists who are at risk of leaving research due to loss of grant funding caused by NIH budget cuts. This effort, which will support approximately $9 million in hematology research over the next three years, is among the boldest actions taken by ASH in its 54-year history.

The Society’s leadership determined that the ASH Bridge Grant Program will provide 30 one-year grants of $100,000 yearly for the next three years. Competition for these awards, aimed at supporting investigators in basic, translational, and clinical research, will be open to ASH members whose NIH R01 series research grant applications were scored but not funded.

Because of the precarious funding climate, the ASH leadership is committed to launching the award as quickly as possible, with the first application process opening in September and final selection for the first round of awards to be completed by March 31, 2013. There will be two award cycles per year for each of the next three years. The awards are intended to “bridge” researchers for approximately one year while they gather data to strengthen the resubmission of their grant applications. Because the funding gap must be addressed quickly, a straightforward application and an expeditious review process have been designed.

The bridge grant applications will be reviewed by an ASH-appointed study section that will make its determination based on the accomplishments and career trajectory of the applicant and the scientific merit of the project. The first payment of $80,000 will be made at the time of the award announcement, with the remaining $20,000 forwarded upon approval of a final project report from the grantee. Award recipients’ institutions must provide $50,000 to match the ASH grant. Documentation of the match must be included in the application.

We expect that 100 percent of recipients will reapply for an R01 grant during the award period, and we hope that at least 50 percent of the awardees will receive an R01 grant within three years of receiving the ASH award. ASH leadership will ensure that the program has the expected impact and reflects strategic use of Society resources, and the results of the Executive Committee policy oversight will be communicated to the membership.

Although $9 million will not solve the NIH funding crisis, I am moved by the commitment of the ASH Executive Committee to act deliberately, expeditiously, and with strong resolve to take dramatic steps to address the vitality of our research and the future of our profession. I want to particularly thank Jan Abkowitz, ASH president-elect, and Rob Hromas, chair of the ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs, for leading the task force that helped create this award.

It is clear that we must take bold steps to position ourselves for what are certain to be challenging times. With that in mind, ASH calls on you to increase your level of engagement with the Society as we help shape the debate relative to the evolving funding environment. I urge you to attend the annual meeting in December to learn more about ASH’s efforts, participate regularly in our online advocacy campaigns, and contribute to the new ASH Foundation. We have reached a crossroad. We need your help; we cannot do it alone. We must now join together to do all we can to preserve the future of hematology research!

Applicants will be asked to submit the following:

  • An application form accompanied by an NIH biosketch
  • A letter from the applicant’s institution that addresses the institutional commitment to the applicant
  • The specific aims from the original R01 application
  • The NIH Study Section Reviewers’ comments from the original R01 application
  • A brief statement addressing how the critique will be addressed
  • A first-year budget from the R01 application
  • A budget for the award

Get additional details about the bridge grant program and the application process.

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