Washington Update

NIGMS Director Highlights MIRA Program at Advisory Council

By: Jacqueline Robinson-Hamm
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Advisory Council received an update from Jon Lorsch, PhD, NIGMS Director, at a meeting on May 19. During his remarks, Lorsch highlighted data collected on the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program.

One goal in NIGMS’s strategic plan is to have at least 60 percent of R01-equivalent awardees be supported by MIRA by 2025. Data shared through fiscal year (FY) 2021 show a steadily growing interest in MIRA awards since FY 2016, with more than half of the competing early-stage investigator (ESI) research project grants now being awarded through the MIRA program. 

If awarded a MIRA, other NIGMS funding must be relinquished. This requirement has caused concern among the scientific community that MIRA-funded principal investigators may seek funding from non-NIGMS National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutes and Centers (I/Cs). However, data indicate that MIRA investigators apply for fewer grants from other NIH I/Cs compared to R01 matched investigators. This supports a key goal of the MIRA program: increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding. Applying to fewer grants at other NIH I/Cs demonstrates that MIRA investigators spend less time on grant writing and subsequent administrative tasks and are instead able to dedicate more focus to scientific activities. 

Finally, an initial analysis of MIRA investigators compared to matched NIGMS R01 investigators shows increased productivity in publications and citations. Established investigators supported by MIRA have statistically significant higher average annual publications than their comparator R01 funded peers. ESIs from earlier MIRA cohorts similarly publish more frequently than their ESI R01 funded peers. There is no difference in publication rates between MIRA and R01 funded ESIs from more recent cohorts, but these investigators also have not had as much time to publish as the earlier cohorts and established investigators. 

The recording of the NIGMS Advisory Council meeting can be viewed here.