Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About MIRA for New and Early Stage Investigators (R35)

The following sections from the Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About MIRA RFA-GM-17-002 are also relevant to the MIRA for new and early stage investigators:

I. Funding Opportunity Description

IV. Application and Submission Information

VI. Award Administration Information (Including Funding Restrictions in Section IV.2 of the FOA)

Q. Am I eligible to apply?

A. NIH defines new investigators as those who have not yet received R01-equivalent grant support (i.e., R01, R37, DP2, U01 or SC1 grant awards). NIH defines early stage investigators as new PIs who are still within 10 years of having received their Ph.D. degree. Your eRA Commons account will indicate your NI/ESI status and provides links to request exemptions and extensions.

For RFA-GM-16-003:
If you are an ESI, you are eligible.
If you are a new PI, but not an ESI, then ask.
If you are at the assistant professor or equivalent level, you are eligible.
If you are at the associate professor level, you are NOT eligible.

Applicants must satisfy both sets of criteria (NIH and RFA). See the eligibility flowchart.

Q. What about postdoctoral fellows and career awardees?

A. If your institution defines your position as being one that permits you to submit an NIH grant application as an independent principal investigator of a research project grant, then you may apply.

If you are not in an independent position, such as most postdoctoral fellows, then you may not apply.

Q. What about K99/R00 awardees?

A. K99 awardees who have not yet transitioned to an independent position may not apply. R00 awardees who have transitioned to an independent position may apply.

Q. What about other K awardees?

A. If your K award is from another NIH institute (e.g., NHBLI, NINDS, NIDDK, NICHD, etc.), then there is a good chance that your area of interest predominantly falls in the mission of another institute, rather than NIGMS. However, check with both NIGMS staff and the other institute for guidance. Note that NIGMS staff have the final determination (see question 13).

Q. What if I have recently been, or expect to be, promoted to an associate professor?

A. See answer to question 1. If you are a new PI (but not an ESI), and you are an assistant professor at the time that you apply, then you are eligible. If you are promoted to associate before the receipt date, then this should be reflected in your biosketch and you would not be eligible to apply. If you are promoted to associate between when you apply and when a MIRA award is issued, you remain eligible to receive the award.

Q. What if I currently hold a SCORE award?

A. If you currently hold a SCORE SC1 award (not applicable to SC2, SC3), then you are NOT eligible for this RFA. NIGMS considers the SC1 to be a substantial form of support equivalent to an R01, so that you are no longer considered a new PI. See the SCORE Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

If you currently hold an SC2 or SC3 award and are otherwise eligible for this RFA, you may apply. If you are successful in receiving a MIRA, the SCORE award would be terminated or phased out.

Q. What if I currently have support from an IDeA COBRE award?

A. If you are one of the COBRE junior PIs and are otherwise eligible for this RFA, you may apply. However, if the MIRA is awarded, your COBRE funding will be phased out over a period of 1 year. The PI of a COBRE center is expected to be an established scientist and would not be eligible for this RFA.

Q. What if I currently hold an AREA R15 grant?

A. You are eligible to apply. If you receive a MIRA award, the early years may be adjusted to account for funds that you have already received for the AREA award, which were awarded in the first year of the R15.

Q. Do I need to have prior NIGMS support?

A. No, you do not. You may have received support from other institutes previously, but if you are otherwise eligible and the proposed work is in the mission of the NIGMS, then you may apply. However, the fact that your previous work was supported by another part of NIH may be an indication that the work really is of interest to one of the other institutes.

Q. Can a team of scientists submit a multiple PI MIRA?

A. No. The MIRA concept is to support research in the laboratory of a single PI. There may be occasions where scientists are so closely connected that it is impossible to separate the research of the one from the other. Future FOAs may account for this, but for this RFA, multiple PI applications are not allowed. While team science is an important component of the biomedical landscape, this MIRA is focused on supporting the laboratories of newly independent investigators.

Q. What research falls within the mission of NIGMS?

A. According to the RFA, all research to be supported must fall within the mission of NIGMS. Information on this point is available on the NIGMS Web site at:

Another approach may be to look up some related research in the NIH RePORTER to see which NIH components support most of the work in the area. If it is not NIGMS, then there is a good chance it is not in the NIGMS mission.

Q. Who makes the final decision about whether a MIRA application is responsive and within the NIGMS mission, when?

This decision is made by NIGMS program officials, division directors and NIGMS management. A preliminary determination may be made by e-mail or following a letter of intent; however, a final decision can only be made based on the application itself.

Q. What is the timeline for application, review and award?

A. The timeline is:

  • Letters of Intent to apply are due on August 9, 2015 (these are encouraged but not required).
  • Applications are due on September 9, 2015, by 5:00 p.m. local time.
  • Review will take place in February/March 2016 for consideration by the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council in May 2016.
  • Earliest awards will be made on July 1, 2016.

Q. Will revised MIRA grant applications be accepted, when?

A. No resubmission applications can be submitted in response to RFA-GM-16-003. No decision has been made yet about whether future FOAs will allow resubmission of previously reviewed MIRA applications.

Q. Can I submit a MIRA and an R01 at the same time?

A. No. According to NIH policy, you must receive the summary statement for the first application before NIH will accept any later, overlapping application. By definition, an NIGMS MIRA application would overlap with any other NIGMS grant application. If you submitted an application on June 5, then you will not be able to submit a MIRA on September, 2015, unless you withdraw the R01 submission. If you apply for MIRA on September 9, 2015, then you will not be able to submit any overlapping application until June 5, 2016.

Q. How will MIRA applications be reviewed?

A. Responses to this RFA will be reviewed by special emphasis panels (ad hoc study sections) that cover broad areas of science and review only applications in response to this RFA. These panels will be organized by the Center for Scientific Review. The reviews will use the review criteria specified in the RFA which emphasize the potential of the applicant and de-emphasize details of the experimental approach. No individual criterion scores will be assigned, only an overall impact score. Depending on the number of applications, it may be necessary to invoke a process whereby only the upper half of the applications are discussed.

Q. How many MIRA awards will be made to new and early stage investigators?

A. The FOA indicates up to 70 awards; however, the number of awards made will depend on the number of meritorious applications received, and could be greater than 70 if MIRA applications significantly outnumber R01 applications from new and early stage investigators. NIGMS expects to fund approximately as many new and early stage investigators as it did last fiscal year.

Q. What is the anticipated success rate for this FOA?

A. This is to be yet to be determined because it is a function of the number of applications. However, it is anticipated that the success rate will be similar to that for new and early stage investigator applications for R01 grant support.

Q. What is the maximum budget I can request?

A. The maximum budget is $250,000 direct costs per year, excluding any subcontract indirect costs, for a total project period of 5 years.

Q. Can a MIRA support clinical/translational research?

A. Yes. Clinical and translational research in the mission of the NIGMS may be supported through a MIRA award. Since MIRA is intended to support NIGMS-relevant work in the laboratory, it may evolve over time and move from basic research into more clinical and translational areas. Such work may include delayed onset of studies involving the addition of human subjects and vertebrate animals research and thus, would be a change of scope requiring prior approval by NIH before the studies begin. In other cases, work involving human subjects and vertebrate animals may warrant more detailed descriptions and review than can be accommodated by the MIRA format. Clinical trials, for example, are not well suited to this mechanism.

Q. Does a MIRA application have to be exceptionally innovative (i.e., like a DP2)?

A. NIGMS hopes that the MIRA mechanism will enhance investigators' ability to conduct ambitious and creative research; however, there is no special emphasis on conducting exceptionally risky or out-of-the-box studies. The Institute wants to support investigators who are working to answer important and interesting questions about biological systems that have relevance to human health.

Q. Do I need to have preliminary results?

A. The MIRA application is very short and this may preclude the presentation of extensive preliminary results. Reviewers will be asked to bear this in mind, as well as the career stage of the new PI and ESI applicants for this RFA. Nonetheless, if you can provide a few compelling examples of preliminary data that support your application, it could strengthen your proposal. These data can demonstrate that you have achieved independence and can generate results in your own laboratory. This is an important review criterion.

Q. How important is independence?

A. The reviewers will be asked to identify investigators with the potential to establish independent research programs that will make unique contributions to the investigator's area of science. Use the new format biosketch to emphasize your personal contributions to any publications resulting from work with former mentors. Evidence of independence may include preliminary data obtained since establishing an independent laboratory and publications separate from previous mentors. The resources and environment section of the application should address laboratory space and equipment available to the investigator. A letter from a department chair or dean should attest to the commitment of the institution to the development of the PI, any specific commitments, and plans for mentoring of the PI.

Q. My application image in the Commons does not show that I am a new or early stage PI on the face page, but I am. Is this an error? Whom should I contact to get this corrected?

A. No correction is needed, this is an artifact of the NIH record system that distinguishes applications as being eligible for New PI or ESI consideration, but only for grant mechanisms considered R01-equivalent (e.g., R01, DP2 and a few others). For those mechanisms, the award of a grant renders the PI ineligible for consideration of New PI or ESI status on future applications for R01-equivalent grant mechanisms.

For other types of grants (e.g., R15, R21), the New PI or ESI status of the investigator is considered irrelevant and is either blank in the system or marked N/A. This RFA used a new grant mechanism (R35) for which the NIH system was not programmed to set the field titled “APPLICATIONS” with New PI or ESI flags. However, the NIH system includes two other fields that retain the New PI or ESI status of the investigator, and NIGMS has checked these fields for all applications received. We will also check the biosketches in the applications to confirm eligibility for this RFA.

Q. My application was referred to the Cell Biology (CB) Initial Review Group (IRG), but it has nothing to do with cell biology and none of the study sections of the CB IRG have appropriate expertise. What should I do?

A. All applications received in response to this RFA were initially referred to the CB IRG because the CB IRG chief is overseeing CSR’s review of all applications. The reviews will be conducted by Special Emphasis Panels organized by CSR once the scientific areas are determined. At that time, the entries in Commons will be changed to reflect the study section and SRO responsible for organizing the review of your application. Applications will not be referred to any of the regularly constituted CSR study sections, so there is no need to contact anyone about your preferred study section assignment. If you submitted a cover letter requesting a particular study section, that information is known to CSR and may be useful to them in identifying appropriate expertise, but your request for a particular study section cannot be honored.

Q. MIRA applications are required to be within areas of NIGMS scientific responsibility. When will I know whether my application was accepted or rejected on these grounds and how will that decision be made?

A. NIGMS staff are responsible for determining whether an application is responsive to an RFA. Staff are presently reviewing all of the submissions for responsiveness. The application and related information will have been considered by at least three NIGMS staff members, including the most relevant program director, before being accepted or rejected. This process should be completed by September 25. Investigators whose applications are returned without review will be notified ASAP.