Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00)

The NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) is for promising postdoctoral scientists seeking to complete needed, mentored research career development that will facilitate their timely transition to an independent, tenure-track or equivalent, faculty position. The K99/R00 Award provides up to 5 years of grant support consisting of two phases: the Mentored Phase (K99) supports 1-2 years of mentored postdoctoral research training; the Independent Research Phase (R00) is a research project grant for up to 3 years, contingent on the scientist securing an independent, tenure track faculty position. It is expected that Pathway to Independence Award recipients will be positioned to submit an application for independent NIH Research Project Grant support (e.g., R01 or R35 MIRA for early stage investigators) during or following completion of the Independent Research Phase (R00) period. The Pathway to Independence Award is limited to postdoctoral trainees who propose research relevant to the mission of one or more of the participating NIH institutes and centers.

NIGMS participates in the K99/R00 program through two notice of funding opportunities (NOFO):

  • PA-24-194​: NIH Pathway to Independence Award (Parent K99/R00 - Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • PAR-21-271: Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Postdoctoral Career Transition Award to Promote Diversity (K99/R00 - Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Each notice of funding opportunity has specific requirements and eligibility. Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the NOFO​ and reach out to the appropriate NIGMS staff member before applying for an award.

The NIGMS expects that applicants seeking the K99/R00 award are postdoctoral scientists in biomedical science who require at least 12 months of mentored research training and career development to become a competitive candidate for an independent faculty position. This typically means acquiring and gaining skills with new research tools, systems or methodological approaches and organizational and management skills critical for an independent research career in an academic setting. Applicants should understand that the K99/R00 award supports both research project aims and career development objectives with both elements considered in review of the application.

Candidates are strongly encouraged to apply no later than the third year of their postdoctoral training to ensure awardees receive maximum benefit from both the K99 phase of the award, and to make a timely transition to their independent research program. Awardees must complete at least 1 full year of mentored training under the K99 phase before transitioning to the R00 phase.

As both NOFOs make clear, “Individuals must be in mentored, postdoctoral training positions to be eligible to apply to the K99/R00 program.” If an applicant achieves independence (any faculty or non-mentored research position) before a K99 award is made, neither the K99, nor the R00 will be awarded.

The K99 is not intended to extend time in the postdoctoral lab while an individual is on the job market. Individuals nearing the end of their four year eligibility must make a strong case for the need for additional mentored training. Individuals who are testing the academic job market by applying or interviewing for tenure track (or equivalent) faculty positions are not the intended candidates for NIGMS K99/R00 awards. A decision to apply for independent, tenure track faculty positions implies that the applicant (with the concurrence of their mentor) is prepared to launch an independent career. An invitation to interview for a faculty position also indicates that search committees consider an individual as a competitive candidate who is prepared for independence. Therefore, applicants who have been actively interviewing for tenure track (or equivalent) faculty positions will generally be considered a lower priority for funding by NIGMS.

For more information on the Pathway to Independence Award, see the NIH Pathway to Independence Award page, or see the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts (PA-24-194​ for Parent ​Award; PAR-21-271 for MOSAIC K99/R00 Program). This Frequently Asked Questions page may also be useful.

Before preparing an application for NIGMS, each investigator is strongly encouraged to contact NIGMS staff to discuss their potential application. In some cases, the applicant may discover that there are other options for their specific situation.

Applicant Eligibility
Applicants must have no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research experience at the time of the initial or the subsequent Resubmission application. Eligible principal investigators include outstanding postdoctoral candidates who have terminal clinical or research doctorates including the Ph.D., M.D., D.O., Pharm.D., D.C., N.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., Sc.D., D.N.S. or equivalent and no more than 4 years of postdoctoral research training at the time of initial application or resubmission(s). NIGMS will not use K99/R00 awards to support individuals who already have faculty appointments—including assistant professor, clinical assistant professor, research assistant professor and instructor—or their equivalent in academia, industry or elsewhere.

A candidate for these awards may not simultaneously submit or have an application pending for any other NIH career award (e.g., K01, K07, K08, K22, K23, K25) or any PHS award that duplicates any of the provisions of the Pathway to Independence Award. Ineligible individuals include current and former principal investigators on NIH research project grants, comparable individual career development awards (e.g., K01, K07, K08, K23, K25) or equivalent non-PHS peer-reviewed research grants over $100,000 direct costs per year, or project leaders on subprojects of program project (P01) or center (P50) grants or similar awards.

Exceptions to the Four-Year Limit
In unusual circumstances, exceptions to the 4-year limit may be approved. An exception may be considered when a significant change in fields of study has occurred, such as moving from physical science to life science research, or when a significant break in training has occurred as a result of family responsibilities. Such unique exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

NIGMS will consider extensions of the 4-year eligibility window for life events (e.g., for childbirth or adoption) that impact research progress during the 4-year eligibility window. Applicants seeking an extension of the 4-year eligibility window must contact relevant NIGMS staff at least 8 weeks before submitting the application to discuss their case for extension. In a cover letter with the application, the investigator should include an explanation of the special circumstances of their career training that warrants consideration for an exception.

Please refer to the NIH Extension Policy for Eligibility Window for Pathway to Independence Awards (K99/R00).

Mentored Phase (K99) Costs
The total cost per year for the initial mentored phase may not exceed $125,000. Salary is limited to $75,000 plus applicable fringe benefits (consistent with effort committed to the award and institutional compensation policies) and up to $25,000 for research support costs for a 12-month budget period. Candidates (intramural or extramural) are required to commit a minimum of 75 percent of full-time professional effort (9 calendar months) to pursue their career development and research experience during the mentored phase.

Independent Phase (R00) Costs
The total cost for the independent investigator phase may not exceed $249,000 per year. This amount includes directs costs (personnel, research and other expenses) and applicable facilities and administrative costs. For NIGMS, costs for equipment are limited to $50,000 in the R00 phase. Grantees are required to commit 75% of their total effort to establish their research program during the R00 phase.

Activating the Independent Scientist Phase (R00)
The transition to the independent phase (R00) is contingent on the K99 recipient receiving and accepting an offer of a tenure track faculty or equivalent position. Transition from the mentored phase to the independent phase is intended to be continuous in time but may occur at any time after the first year of the K99 phase or within one year after completing the K99 phase.

The activation of the R00 phase is not automatic but requires approval from the NIGMS. Therefore, the K99 recipient should not accept an offer for a faculty position without first consulting with their NIGMS program officer. Once it has been determined that the offer meets the requirements and expectations for the R00 the PI can accept the position and will receive approval from the NIGMS to submit the R00 application. The extramural institution will submit an R00 application on behalf of the candidate using the PHS 398. The noncompeting application must include a letter from the department or division chair describing the institution's commitment to the candidate and supporting plans for establishing their research program and their career development. The R00 application will be reviewed by NIGMS program and grant administrative staff for completeness and responsiveness to the R00 program requirements before approval of the R00 award is made.

Funding Decisions
In making funding decisions, NIGMS will give high priority to applications directly related to the missions of its divisions, with consideration of the significance of the research, technical merit, and the applicant’s training and career development potential.

Applicant Inquiries
For more information about the Parent K99/R00 (PA-24-194​) at NIGMS contact the following NIGMS staff members at NIGMS K99:

Michael Sesma, Ph.D.
Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Biographical Sketch

Oleg Barski, Ph.D.
Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry
Biographical Sketch

Chi-Wing Chow, Ph.D.
Division of Genetics, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Biographical Sketch

Paula Flicker, Ph.D.
Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology and Computational Biosciences
Biographical Sketch

Yogesh Wairkar, Ph.D.
Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Biographical Sketch

For more information about the MOSAIC K99/R00 Postdoctoral Transition Award to Enhance Diversity (PAR-21-271) contact the following staff members​:

Kenneth Gibbs, Ph.D.
Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Biographical Sketch

Kalynda Gonzales Stokes, Ph.D.
Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Biographical Sketch