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15. Activities Supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Recovery Act or the Economic Stimulus Package, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on February 17, 2009.  It was an unprecedented effort to jump-start the economy, create or save millions of jobs, and address national challenges so that the Nation can move forward and thrive in the 21st century.

As stated in the legislation, the ARRA has five purposes:

  • Preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery
  • Assist those most affected by the recession
  • Provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health
  • Invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits
  • Stabilize state and local government budgets to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases

The ARRA provided the NIH with $10.4 billion, of which $763 million was allocated to the NHLBI.  The Institute's funding plan strikes a balance between increasing the number of investigator-initiated research grants and supporting signature projects through the following mechanisms:  NHLBI research grants (through expansion of FY 2008 and FY 2009 paylines), participation in NIH-wide administrative supplements, and participation in NIH-wide ARRA RFAs.

NHLBI Research Grants-Expansion of FY 2008 and FY 2009 Paylines

The NHLBI used a portion of the ARRA funds to support investigator-initiated research grant applications that had just missed the paylines in FY 2008 and FY 2009.  The following proposals were funded by the NHLBI:

  • Highly meritorious investigator-initiated R01 and R21 applications that ranked from the 15.1 to 25.0 percentile and were viewed as being capable of making significant advances with a 2-year grant.
  • Early Stage Investigator-initiated applications up to the 35.0 percentile.  The first 2 years will be supported by ARRA funds.  The remaining years will be funded by regularly appropriated funds.
  • New Investigator-initiated applications that ranked from the 20.1 to 30.0 percentile and were viewed as being capable of making significant advances in 2 years.

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Administrative Supplements

An administrative supplement is an increment in funding to support research that is within the original scope of an active NIH research grant (parent grant).  Requests for administrative supplements for NHLBI grant awards do not require evaluation by an initial peer-review group but are subject to review and approval by NHLBI program and grants management staff.

The NHLBI funded administrative supplements to active R01 and R21 grants.  The NHLBI's supplements under the ARRA support research employment opportunities for new full-time-equivalent employees who are predoctoral students, postdoctoral trainees or fellows, or recent college and master's degree graduates.  Priority was given to requests from investigators who were qualified to receive their current awards as Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators.

The NHLBI also funded administrative supplements under the following NIH-wide initiatives:

  • Administrative Supplements Providing Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Educators.  The NHLBI used ARRA funds to provide supplements to active research grants to support summer research opportunities for high school and college students and science educators (e.g., elementary, middle, and high school teachers; community college faculty; and faculty from non-research intensive institutions).
  • Research Supplements To Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research.  The NHLBI used ARRA funds to provide supplements to research grants to improve the diversity of the research workforce by supporting and recruiting students, postdoctorates, and eligible investigators from groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in science.
  • Research Supplements To Promote Reentry Into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers.  The NHLBI used ARRA funds to provide supplements to research grants to support individuals with high potential to reenter an active research career after a qualifying interruption for family or other responsibilities.

NHLBI Participation in NIH-Wide ARRA RFAs

NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research (RC1)

This new program supports research in areas that address specific scientific and health research challenges in biomedical and behavioral research that will benefit from significant 2-year jumpstart funds.  The NIH identified Challenge Areas focused on specific knowledge gaps, scientific opportunities, new technologies, data generation, or research methods that would benefit from an influx of funds to advance the area quickly and in significant ways.  The NHLBI identified specific Challenge Topics within the broad Challenge Areas that reflect the Institute's views about priority areas for funding. 

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Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” (GO) (RC2)

GO grants support projects that address large, specific biomedical and behavioral research endeavors that will benefit from significant 2-year investments without the expectation of continued funding from NIH.  Research supported by this program is expected to provide a high short-term return and offer a high likelihood of enabling growth and investment in biomedical research and development, public health, and health care delivery.  The NHLBI identified priority topics for GO grants, including the following:

  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Novel Methods of Monitoring Health Disparities
  • The NHLBI BioResource Program:  Creation of Resources Designed To Accelerate Scientific Progress in the Areas of Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases; Cellular Therapies; and Blood Safety
  • Large-scale DNA Sequencing and Molecular Profiling of Well-Phenotyped NHLBI Cohorts
  • Next Steps in Gene Discovery:  Building Upon GWAS (Genome-wide Association Studies)
  • Characterizing Differentiated Heart, Lung, and Blood Cells Derived by Reprogramming Human Embryonic and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Testing of Mechanistic Hypotheses Generated by Findings From Genetic and Genomic Studies of Heart, Vascular, Lung, and Blood Disorders
  • Translation of Fundamental Research Findings Into Clinical Treatments for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases (including the NHLBI Translational Research Implementation Program (TRIP); the Phase II Clinical Trials Program of Novel Therapies for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases; and the Ancillary Studies Program)

Supporting New Faculty Recruitment To Enhance Research Resources Through Biomedical Research Core Centers (P30)

These P30 grants enable institutions to augment or expand their biomedical research efforts by hiring newly independent investigators and providing them with appropriate startup packages and the resources needed to develop pilot research projects.

NHLBI Participation in NIH-Wide ARRA RFAs With Earliest Anticipated Award Date in FY 2010

Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA) (R15)

The AREA program will stimulate research in educational institutions that provide baccalaureate or advanced degrees for a significant number of the Nation's research scientists but have not been major recipients of NIH support.  AREA grants are intended to support small-scale health-related research projects proposed by faculty members of eligible, domestic institutions.

Biomedical Research, Development, and Growth To Spur the Acceleration of New Technologies Pilot Program (BRDG-SPAN) (RC3)

The BRDG-SPAN is a pilot program that will address the funding gap between promising research and development (R&D) and transition to the market by contributing to critical funding needed by applicants to pursue the next appropriate milestone(s) toward ultimate commercialization.  The goal of the BRDG-SPAN is to accelerate the transition of research innovations and technologies toward the development of products or services that will improve human health, help advance the mission of the NHLBI, and create significant value and economic stimulus.  This program will also foster partnerships among a variety of R&D collaborators.

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Small Business Catalyst Awards for Accelerating Innovative Research (R43)

This program will accelerate innovation through high-risk, high-reward R&D that has commercial potential and is relevant to the mission of the NIH.  The award is expected to support entrepreneurs of exceptional creativity who are drawn from scientific and technological environments beyond those usually involved in NIH-supported research and who have proposed pioneering and possibly transformative approaches to addressing major biomedical or behavioral challenges with the potential for downstream commercial development.

Other RFAs Funded Under ARRA

Small Grants for Lung Tissue Research (R03)

This program will enable tissue-based research on two common, yet complex and difficult-to-treat lung diseases:  interstitial fibrotic lung disease and COPD.  Funds from the ARRA will allow a substantial expansion of the Institute's lung tissue research program by enabling support for nine additional grants that would otherwise have not been funded. 

Functional Characterization of Genetic Variants and Interactions:  The Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (R21)

This program—which is part of the NIH Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative—will determine the functional relevance of associated genetic variant(s) to common diseases.  It will focus solely on functional characterization of gene variants that are strongly suggested to be associated with common, complex human diseases identified through candidate gene, GWAS, and other approaches.

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER)

Approximately $1.1 billion of the ARRA funds were allocated to CER, of which the NIH received $400 million.  The NIH used the funds to support 2-year investigator-initiated projects, including payline expansions, Challenge grants, GO grants, and such other activities as supplements and contracts.  The projects supported by the funds met the Federal Coordinating Council definition of CER, that is:

Comparative effectiveness research is the conduct and synthesis of research comparing the benefits and harms of different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor health conditions in “real world” settings.  The purpose of this research is to improve health outcomes by developing and disseminating evidence-based information to patients, clinicians, and other decisionmakers, responding to their expressed needs, about which interventions are most effective for which patients under specific circumstances.

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Signature Projects

DNA Sequencing of NHLBI's Well-Phenotyped Population Cohorts for the Identification of Disease-Causing Genetic Variants and Understanding of Biological Pathways

Although genome-wide association studies have been successful in identifying high frequency genetic variants of modest effect size that are associated with numerous common complex traits and diseases—including myocardial infarction, stroke, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease, and anemia—they are incapable of identifying actual disease-causing genetic variants, especially those of lower frequency and potentially larger effects.  Finding such variants will require large-scale DNA sequencing of thousands of individuals from well-phenotyped populations.  With recent technological advances, the feasibility of such a project is now within reach, and a strong argument can be made that the well-phenotyped NHLBI cohorts are the logical place to start. 

The NHLBI is supporting six GO (RC2) grants, including two sequencing centers, under this signature program.  The NIH Office of the Director is providing funds to help support one of the sequencing centers.

Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine

The NHLBI is committed to catalyzing basic and clinical stem cell research that will lead to the development of regenerative therapies for the treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases.  Recent advances, including the induction of pluripotent stem cells from adult somatic cells and the directed differentiation of stem cells into a variety of cellular derivatives, hold great promise for future therapeutic application.  However, important gaps remain in understanding the characteristics of stem and progenitor cells, the mechanisms of their differentiation, and the unique attributes of resultant differentiated states.  In addition, the degree to which differentiation of stem cells in the laboratory recapitulates the in vivo characteristics of tissues and organs remains unclear, and fundamental knowledge of cardiovascular and pulmonary stem and progenitor cell biology lags behind that for hematopoietic cells.

To address these gaps, the NHLBI is supporting four GO (RC2) grants under this signature program.

Translation of Fundamental Research Findings Into Clinical Treatments for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases

The ultimate goal of biomedical research is to develop new knowledge that will lead to improvements in public health.  Fundamental research studies in cells, tissues, and animal models and investigations of biomarkers and functional genomics have greatly expanded understanding of the pathogenesis of many heart, lung, and blood diseases and have provided a range of potential new approaches for their prevention and treatment.  Yet the translation of basic research findings to clinical testing has often been disappointingly slow, with good ideas and new findings sometimes languishing for years before being tested for efficacy in a clinical setting.  ARRA funds provide an excellent opportunity to stimulate translational research and thereby hasten the transition of research findings into clinical practice.  The NHLBI will fund a total of 10 GO (RC2) grants in two program areas:

  • Stage 1 of the NHLBI Translational Research Implementation Program (TRIP).  The intent of the two-stage TRIP is to accelerate the translation of fundamental research ideas into proof-of-concept efficacy testing in patients.  The 2-year Stage 1 TRIP awards will support preliminary studies that culminate in the development of ready-to-conduct clinical trials.  The awards will fund the activities required to design clinical trials to evaluate safety and efficacy of new modalities to treat and prevent heart, lung, and blood diseases based on promising ideas that have emerged from basic research.  For the Stage 2 TRIP, the NHLBI will use regularly appropriated funds to support the most meritorious trials developed in Stage 1.
  • Phase II Clinical Trials Program of Novel Therapies for Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases.  This program will support Phase II clinical trials of novel therapies and diagnostic strategies for heart, lung, and blood diseases that offer the potential to change clinical practice and are ready to be tested in patients.  It will also support innovative clinical trial designs.  The supported research is expected to result in high-quality data that will lead to efficacy or Phase III trials.  This program will assess only interventions and strategies that offer high promise for modifying current treatments or diagnostic approaches or altering the course of a disease.

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NHLBI ARRA-Supported Activities Initiated in Fiscal Year 2009


Program and Mechanism*

Estimated Number
of Awards

Estimated Funding
(Dollars in

NIH Support
(Dollars in

Research Grants-Expanded Paylines





NIH-Wide Administrative Supplements

Administrative Supplements




Research Supplements To Promote Diversity in Health–Related Research




Research Supplements To Promote Reentry Into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers




Administrative Supplements Providing Summer Research Experiences for Students and Science Educators





Challenge Grants (RC1)




Grand Opportunities (RC2)




Supporting New Faculty Recruitment To Enhance Research Resources Through Biomedical Research  Core Centers (P30)




Other RFAs

Functional Characterization of Genetic Variants and Interactions:  The Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (R21)




Small Grants for Lung Tissue Research (R03)




*   Does not include mechanisms with funding received after 2009.
** Two-year total costs.

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