Washington Update

NIGMS Advisory Council Approves Renewals for MIRA Grants and T32 Program Enhancements

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, September 26, 2019

On September 19, the National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council – the group charged with providing advice and recommendations to National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) leadership – met to review and discuss numerous proposals for refining existing grant mechanisms.

These “concept clearances” can range from the introduction of new funding opportunities, such as the recently released Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program, or updates to existing mechanisms to better meet the research community’s needs. The eight concept clearances reviewed during this meeting fell into the latter category.

During his opening remarks, NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch, PhD, highlighted the success of the Maximizing Investigators Research Award (MIRA) grant mechanism, particularly for its support of Early-Stage Investigators (ESIs). Since its introduction in 2016, uptake of this funding opportunity has been remarkable, with over 70 percent of NIGMS’s ESIs supported through this mechanism in Fiscal Year 2019.

Dr. Lorsch noted that the first cohorts of Established Investigators and ESI MIRA awardees will be up for renewal beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, and he intends to have a high success rate for those opting to continue their work through this mechanism. To encourage ESIs to apply for MIRA support as soon as they are appointed to independent research positions, NAGMS Council approved the concept clearance for the ESI MIRA funding opportunity reissuance, with updates that emphasize bold ideas rather than preliminary data.

In 2017, NIGMS launched updates to the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Predoctoral Institutional Training Grant (T32) program to catalyze significant changes in graduate education. Emphasizing skills development and evaluation-based approaches, this updated funding opportunity provided the framework for all NIGMS training programs.

Noting a need for flexibility when implementing new concepts, Alison Gammie, PhD, Director of NIGMS Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, presented a concept clearance for several enhancements to the T32 program when it is reissued in early 2020. These include an emphasis on curriculum development, encouraging partnerships with and input from potential employers on skills development, and teaching the highest standards of biomedical research practice to ease trainees’ transitions to a variety of research environments.

Changes to the application requirements were also proposed. These were namely the addition of plans for outcomes and data storage and dissemination, and elimination of Table 6A, “Applicants, Entrants, and their Characteristics for the Past Five Years,” noted for requiring significant administrative effort.