NHLBI R35 Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA) and Emerging Investigator Award (EIA) Program

May 5, 2021

RFA-HL-23-004 NHLBI Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA)
RFA-HL-23-005 NHLBI Emerging Investigator Award (EIA)

The purpose of the NHLBI R35 Program is to promote scientific productivity and innovation by providing long-term support and increased flexibility to experienced Principal Investigators (PIs) who are currently PIs on at least two NHLBI R01-equivalent awards and whose outstanding record of research demonstrate their ability to make major contributions to heart, lung, blood and sleep (HLBS) research. The R35 is intended to support a research program, rather than a research project, by providing the primary and most likely sole source of NHLBI funding on individual grant awards. This program is a renewal of the pilot NHLBI R35 Program, and RFAs HL-16-024, HL-16-025, HL-20-011, and HL-20-012, which are expired.

The R35 will support the research program of NHLBI-funded investigators for up to seven years. The R35 will provide investigators increased freedom to conduct research that breaks new ground or extends previous discoveries in new directions. It will also allow PIs to take greater risks and to pursue research that requires a longer timeframe. Research supported by the R35 must be within the scope of the NHLBI mission (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/mission-statement).

It is anticipated that the R35 will:

  • Provide a stable funding environment, thereby improving productivity and facilitating nimble, ambitious, creative research;
  • Accelerate scientific innovation by enabling flexibility in pursuing new research directions as they arise, since PIs will not be bound to specific aims proposed in advance of the studies;
  • Reduce the time researchers spend writing grant applications and managing multiple grant awards, thereby allowing more time to be devoted to conducting research;
  • Facilitate PIs’ commitment to research through increased stability of funding; and
  • Enable PIs to devote more time and energy to mentoring students and junior scientists and providing scientific service.
  • Please limit this field to a brief description of ¼ to ½ page in length. Brevity is appreciated.

Below are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the NHLBI R35 OIA and the EIA Programs. Further questions about the NHLBI R35 Program should be sent to the NHLBI R35 mailbox.

I. Funding Opportunity Description

  1. Q. Can I continue to work with my current collaborators, including foreign collaborators?
    • NHLBI strongly encourages collaborative research, including foreign collaborators. NHLBI will accept R35 applications with a foreign collaboration. However, NHLBI will not provide funding for foreign consortium arrangements through this funding opportunity.

  2. Q. Can the R35 application be submitted as a multiple-PI application?
    • No. OIA/EIA applications are not eligible to be multi-PI applications.

  3. Q. Can you clarify how much flexibility is meant by "flexibility to pursue new research directions"?
    • In research, potential new directions often arise that may, for example, require changes in the model system used or involve the pursuit of new biological problems related to the overall goals of the research program. To accommodate the dynamic nature of research, the R35 program provides flexibility to pursue new directions that are reasonable extensions of the overall themes of the peer-reviewed application, provided the science remains within the mission of the NHLBI. PIs are expected to work with program staff to ensure that the program remains within the mission of the NHLBI. Any changes in scope to what was originally proposed in the application will require prior approval from NHLBI Office of Grants Management. See next question for additional details.

  4. Q. What might be considered out of the scope of an OIA/EIA?
    • Work that migrates fully into the mission of another NIH institute or center would be considered out of scope and not appropriate for pursuit through the OIA/EIA. Changes in scope could include, for example, the addition of or a change in the approved use of human subjects, vertebrate animals, select agents or human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Such changes require prior approval by NHLBI before the work is initiated. However, such changes in scope can be approved with appropriate documentation. Please refer to the NIH change in scope policy (NIH GPS for additional guidance.

  5. Q. In the absence of specific aims, how do I conceptualize and prepare a non-modular budget?
    • The requested budget should include information for costs related to accomplishing the Research Strategy proposed in the application. Given that the NHLBI R35 Program will generally fold in investigators’ current research projects, the requested budget should reflect the budgetary needs for the current research. If the proposed R35 research program is intended to continue the R01 line of research, it may be appropriate to consider existing R01 budgets as a baseline.

  6. Q. How many R35 awards has NHLBI funded?

II. Eligibility Information

  1. Q. One of my grants is in a No Cost Extension, includes a Clinical Trial, and/or is Multiple-PI. Am I eligible to apply?
    • One of the qualifying R01-equivalents must be single-PI, AND not in a No Cost Extension (NCE), AND not a Clinical Trial. Grants in a NCE remain active and expire at the end of the no cost extension period; however eligibility will be limited to grants in their first NCE.

      Eligibility is conditional on having one R01-equivalent that is single-PI, AND not in a No-Cost-Extension, AND is not an NIH defined Clinical Trial as defined as Clinical human subjects research is permitted under this FOA.

      The other R01-equivalent may be multi-PI, and/or in a no-cost extension, and/or include a Clinical Trial.
    • For OIA eligibility, if you are a PD/PI in an active NHLBI R35 (OIA or EIA) award in the 6th or 7th year of funding, you are eligible to apply and you must commit a minimum of 50% research effort (i.e., minimum of six person months) throughout the duration of the OIA. If the new R35 application becomes fundable, the grantee institution must relinquish the existing R35 before a new R35 is funded.

  2. Are R35 awardees eligible for the NHLBI Emerging Investigator Award (EIA)?
    • No
  3. At some point in the previous four years, my grant was either on an NCE or I had an NHLBI R56 award. Do I still qualify as having had NHLBI support for the last four consecutive years? Does having an NCE and/or an NHLBI R56 disqualify me from having continuous support?
    • Yes. Continuous support from NHLBI on an active grant (including those on a NCE or R56) qualifies as four years of consecutive NHLBI support. As long as PI has active funding for four continuous years, this meets the requirement for consecutive support.

  4. Q. What is meant by “four years of continuous support”?
    • Continuous support means having an active NHLBI R01-equivalent grant (i.e., R01, DP1, or DP2) in each of the last four fiscal years, including the current fiscal year. For example, for the February 15, 2022 application due date, the PI must have had an active NHLBI R01-equivalent grant in each fiscal year from 2019 (which began on October 1, 2019) to 2022.
  1. Q. One of my current grants is equivalent in budget and scope to an R01 grant (e.g., U10, P50, P01, a sub-project of a Program Project Grant, etc.) but is not the specified R01-equivalent type identified in the OIA/EIA FOA (i.e., R01, DP1, or DP2). Am I eligible to apply?
    • For the purposes of the NHLBI R35 program, and as specified in the OIA and EIA FOAs, grant types for R01-equivalent awards are limited to only the R01, DP1, and DP2 mechanisms.
  2. Q. For the EIA, does “two current R01s” include the DP1, and DP2 mechanisms, as stated in the companion OIA FOA?
    • Yes. For the purposes of NHLBI R35 program, two “current R01s” and “R01-equivalent” refer to the R01, DP1 and DP2 mechanisms.
  3. Q. What is meant by "minimum of 50% effort"?
    • Per the FOA, “minimum of 50% effort” means the PI must be able to commit 50% effort, meaning the equivalent of 50% effort on a full-year appointment, 66.67% on a 9-month appointment, or 100% on a 6-month appointment.
  4. Q. Why are U01s (including R01s that were converted to U01s) excluded from eligibility consideration?
    • U01s require substantial NIH programmatic involvement. The overall goal of the R35 Program is to provide flexibility and freedom to conduct research that breaks new ground or extends previous discoveries in new directions.
  5. Q. What is meant by “currently” funded applications? Does it mean funded at time of receipt or at time of award?
    • Eligibility is determined after the receipt of applications on the intended application due date.
  6. Q. Are individuals who have support from sources of funding other than NHLBI (e.g., other NIH components, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, or other types of substantial, unrestricted laboratory grant support) eligible to apply?
    • Yes. Individuals may have support from other NIH components or from other sources, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements and are able to commit at least 50% effort (i.e., the equivalent of 50% effort on a full-year appointment, 66.67% on a 9-month appointment, or 100% on a 6-month appointment) of their research effort to the OIA/EIA.
  7. Q. Can I submit applications for continuation of my current NHLBI grant support and apply for OIA/EIA at the same time?
    • Yes. As indicated in the FOA, investigators are encouraged to apply for R01-equivalents in parallel with an R35 application to maintain funding continuity. If both the R35 and R01 applications become eligible for funding, the applicant may accept only one of the awards.
  8. Q. I have two active NHLBI R01 awards. One was originally awarded when I was an Early Stage Investigator (ESI), and it has since been successfully renewed. Does my renewed NHLBI ESI R01 award qualify as “an NHLBI-funded NIH Early Stage Investigator award” and therefore meet that eligibility criterion for the Emerging Investigator Award (EIA)?
    • No. Once an R01 has been renewed, it is no longer considered an Early Stage Investigator award. However, with two currently active R01 awards and four years of consecutive R01-equivalent NHLBI funding, it is possible that the investigator is a candidate for the companion Outstanding Investigator Award.
  9. Q. If I have an appointment at more than one institution, can I apply for a separate OIA/EIA through each institution?
    • No. An investigator can only receive one OIA/EIA award. The application should be submitted by the institution where he or she primarily conducts his or her research program. Under rare circumstances, a subcontract may be permitted to support a part of the research program that is based at a different domestic institution.
  10. Q. Can I get a definitive determination of my eligibility prior to submitting an application to this Request for Application (RFA)?
    • No. NHLBI staff can provide advice about eligibility; however, applications are evaluated for eligibility by the Receipt and Referral Office at the NIH Center for Scientific Review based on the criteria stated in the FOA after receipt of the application.
  11. Q. If all of the grants that I am PI on are multi-PI R01s, am I eligible to apply for the R35 Program?
    • No. As indicated in the eligibility section of the FOAs, one of the qualifying R01-equivalent awards must be single-PI, AND not in a No Cost Extension, AND not a Clinical Trial.
  12. Q. How will my multi-PI application impact the EIA/OIA award amount?
    • To preserve the collaborative nature of the multi-PI awards, the NHLBI will not fold the multi-PI awards into the OIA/EIA during the Program. PIs with multi-PI applications should continue and complete the project. Meritorious OIA/EIA applications from PIs with multi-PI grants may initially be awarded at an amount commensurate with single investigator research awards that will be folded into the OIA/EIA (i.e., the OIA/EIA will be funded at a reduced level). At the end of the multiple-PI project period, the OIA/EIA investigator’s proportionate share from the multi-PI project will be added to the future year OIA/EIA commitments such that funding stability is maintained for seven years. 
      Below is an example of an award budget for a meritorious OIA/EIA application:

      An investigator with a:

      • Single-PI R01 ($250K direct costs), and a
      • Multiple-PI R01 with 2 (two) PIs ($250K direct costs):
      Equates to an R35 budget of: $375 direct costs
      • This is the sum of the single-PI R01 budget ($250K) and proportionate amount of MPI budget ($125K)
      • In this case, the R35 may be initially awarded at $250K direct costs until the end of the MPI award project period. Future year commitments will be adjust to $375K so that the investigator’s funding remains stable for seven years.

      This approach also facilitates the goal of the OIA/EIA to reduce the time researchers spend writing grant applications. In most cases, the expectation is that the OIA/EIA will be the sole source of funding for a lab. Therefore, potential applicants with multi-PI award(s) should consider whether applying for this program is optimal for their situation. Furthermore, the R35 award must retain a 50% effort (i.e., the equivalent of 50% effort on a full-year appointment, 66.67% on a 9-month appointment, or 100% on a 6-month appointment)  throughout the duration of the award (including the initial period of time when the multi-PI portion is not incorporated into the R35 award).
  13. Q. I know that once I am awarded an R35, I cannot be awarded a multiple-PI application while my R35 award remains active. However, what happens to my multiple-PI application that is under review in the same Council round as my R35 application? Will both the R35 and multiple-PI applications be considered for funding?
    • Yes, both the R35 and multi-PI applications under review in the same review and award cycle will be considered for funding. If the R35 application is awarded, the multi-PI award will no longer be considered for funding. If the multi-PI application is awarded, the R35 application will no longer be considered for funding. Please see FAQ above.

III. Application and Submission Information

  1. Q. What became of the specific aims section of the grant application?
    • Specific aims are not required because the goal of OIA/EIA is to move the scientific enterprise away from a focus on narrowly defined projects with highly tailored specific aims and to refocus attention on the big picture and overall impact of the research.
  2. Q. What format should the application follow?
    • Follow the instructions in the SF424 R&R application guide as modified by the instructions in the FOA. In brief, this means that the scientific content of the application will rely mainly on the abstract, facilities and other resources page, biographical sketch and the six page research strategy, plus details on the involvement of human subjects and vertebrate animals, as necessary. Avoid duplicating material covered in other sections. Do not include lists of publications, except as part of the biographical sketch, or references as necessary in the Bibliography & References Cited section of the Other Project Information Form. Provide current and pending research support information at the time of application using the format typically used for Just-in-Time information. Be sure to distinguish the direct costs per year that support research in the investigator's laboratory from support that goes to other investigators.
  3. Q. Can I request money for equipment in the budget?
    • Yes. You may request money for equipment with appropriate justification. Remember that such requests should be accommodated within a budget that is commensurate with the overall NHLBI grant support of the laboratory in recent years. This is not intended as a mechanism to acquire "big-ticket" items that may be covered under instrument-specific funding opportunities or to furbish a lab with equipment. Standard NIH Prior approval requirements (NIH GPS 8.1.2) apply to post award equipment requests.
  4. Q. Who, if anyone, in addition to the PI should be listed as "key personnel"?
    • Key personnel include any other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way, whether or not they receive salaries or compensation under the grant. Typically, these individuals have doctoral or other professional degrees, although individuals at the master's or baccalaureate level may be considered senior/key personnel if their involvement meets this definition. Consultants and those with a postdoctoral role also may be considered senior/key personnel if they meet this definition. Senior/key personnel must devote measurable effort to the project whether or not salaries or compensation are requested. "Zero percent" effort or "as needed" are not acceptable levels of involvement for those designated as senior/key personnel.
  5. Q. How will support of other senior/key personnel (co-PIs) be considered?
    • Senior/key personnel who are independent investigators can contribute effort toward OIA/EIA. They may receive support from the award, but only if they do not also receive support from their own OIA/EIA award.
  6. Q. Can I include a consortium for a collaborator?
    • Yes, but such requests must be well justified and describe why collaborative research with the OIA/EIA PI is not feasible without funding support from the OIA/EIA. The NHLBI encourages collaborative and interdisciplinary research when it is appropriate, and individual OIA/EIA grantees are free to collaborate with one another or with other investigators using funds from their respective individual grants to support their parts of the team's research. Consultants may be an additional option to support collaborative research.  NHLBI will not provide funding for foreign consortium arrangements through this funding opportunity.
  7. Q: Is continuous submission allowable for the R35?

IV. Review Information

  1. Q. How will the review process for OIA/EIA differ from that for regular R01 research grant applications?
    • Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. For this FOA, reviewers will be asked to shift emphasis away from details of the application and the approach, and to emphasize the potential impact of the investigator's research program on the field.
  2. Q. How do the review criteria differ from those for a regular R01 research grant application?
    • The review criteria are the same, but the wording has been modified to emphasize the review of the investigator's overall NHLBI-relevant research program rather than a specific, narrowly-focused project with highly tailored specific aims. Reviewers should emphasize OIA/EIA-specific aspects of significance, investigator qualifications, innovation, approach and environment.
  3. Q. Given the absence of specific aims, how will the study section determine the appropriateness of the requested budget and arrive at a budget recommendation?
    • Reviewers will be asked to consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed work. In answering this question, it is anticipated that reviewers will consider the past productivity of the investigator's laboratory in areas relevant to the NHLBI mission, given the resources at the laboratory's disposal, evidence of efficient use of funds in the past and likelihood of efficient use of funds in the future. Reviewers will not be asked to recommend specific, detailed budget cuts. Rather, they will be asked to recommend an overall budget amount or a budget within one of a few specified ranges still to be determined.
  4. Q. Does the expertise of reviewers on the R35 study section encompass the heart, lung, blood, and sleep fields? Or will the applications be reviewed in panels with heart-, lung-, blood-, and sleep-specific scientific expertise?
    • The panel(s) reviewing the R35 applications will collectively have expertise from each of NHLBI’s specific mission areas. Given the absence of specific aims in this application, the expectation is that the review will be general in nature and focused on the challenge or gap in the field (as articulated in the OIA/EIA application), the applicant’s prior research contribution and impact on the research gap or challenge, and the expectation for the investigator’s research program to continue on its outstanding and productive trajectory.

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

  1. Q. What is the timeline for transitioning from current NHLBI grant support to OIA/EIA?
    • This is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the expiration dates of existing NHLBI grant awards, their unobligated balances, and the best way to provide a smooth transition.
  2. Q. What, if anything, is different about the annual reporting required for OIA/EIA?
    • Annual reports are required using the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR). The FOA includes some additional instructions consistent with the broader goals of the research program supported by OIA/EIA and the absence of detailed specific aims. Additional information is requested that relates any new program directions to the NHLBI research mission, discussion of how the work continues to be innovative and of high impact, and the relationship of any new other support to the activities supported by OIA/EIA.
  3. Q. Is carryover of an unobligated balance from one budget period to another permitted?
    • Yes.
  4. Q. Are OIA/EIAs eligible for administrative supplements? Competitive supplements (Revisions)?
    • OIA/EIAs are eligible for Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research and other types of administrative supplements, including equipment supplements that may be offered by NHLBI through notices in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Competitive supplemental applications (revisions) in response to the NHLBI R35 FOAs are not permitted. Generally, R35 awardees will be expected to reallocate existing resources to accommodate new research directions.
  5. Q. On what basis will award decisions for the OIA/EIA be made? How will the budget for my OIA/EIA be decided?
    • As for all other awards, the award decisions will be based on the scientific and technical merit of the proposed program as determined by scientific peer review, availability of funds, and relevance of the proposed program to program priorities. The OIA/EIA budget will be determined by the funding level of the PI’s current NHLBI research projects.
  6. Q. I am currently an NHLBI R35 awardee. If I successfully compete for a new R35 application, how will my budget be determined?
    • NHLBI will consider increasing budgets for R35 awardees who successfully compete for a new R35 award. As stated in the question above, budgets will be based on scientific and technical merit of the proposed program as determined by scientific peer review, availability of funds, and relevance of the proposed program to program priorities.
  7. Q. Do I need to relinquish my K24 award in addition to my R01-equivalent awards when I receive the R35?
    • Yes, the NHLBI K24 awards must be relinquished.
  1. Q. Are no cost extensions to the R35 award permitted?
    • All extensions, including the first no cost extension, will require NHLBI prior approval. Extensions beyond the first NCE will be granted only in rare circumstances and will require extensive justification.
  2. Q. How does receipt of support from OIA/EIA affect the eligibility of co-PIs to receive other grants?
    • Senior/key personnel other than the PI may receive support from other awards, including other OIA/EIA awards on which they are also not the PI. Investigators who are PIs on more than one NHLBI R01 award are encouraged to consider consolidating their support by applying for an OIA/EIA application. 
  3. Q. What happens if the PI becomes unable to carry out the duties as a PI or will be absent for more than three months at a time for any reason?
    • If the PI is no longer able to serve, the NHLBI will negotiate phasing out the award with the Recipient Organization. Extenuating circumstances may be handled on a case by case basis in compliance with NHLBI and NIH policies.
  4. Q. I have an NHLBI Diversity Supplement or a Re-Entry into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers Supplement on an award that will be folded into an R35 award. What is the process for continuing this Supplement and transitioning it from the current award to the R35 award?
    • Since the R35 is a new award, the recipient must re-apply through the eRA commons to NIH FOA PA-18-586 or PA-18-592, as appropriate. Given that the Diversity Supplement or Re-entry Supplement to the existing award was already reviewed and approved, NHLBI staff will employ an expedited process for the review of these supplements, in an effort to minimize gaps in funding. In the time before the new supplement is issued, R35 awards that required relinquishment of a grant including a Diversity or Re-entry Supplement, may support the supplement candidates on the R35 awards, under standard NIH pre-award cost authority (NIH GPS 7.9.1). If the Diversity or Re-entry supplement is not awarded, the supplement candidate may remain on the R35 as personnel.

      Specifically, potential R35 awardees with currently active Diversity or Re-entry Supplement funding will be instructed during the Just in Time Process, by their Grants Management Specialist, to submit a new application with the following items:
      • New face page for new supplement
      • Remaining award balance and budget justification (for requests of an extension beyond the previously approved supplement duration, see next FAQ)
      • Research project progress report to date
      • Statement about how research conducted through the diversity supplement contributes to the R35 Program
    • These materials must be submitted through the NIH Program Announcements listed above, and in accordance with the guidance provided in the NHLBI Research Supplement Application Guidelines.

      All other multi-year supplements (e.g., ORWH, OAR, OBSSR) will also end and will require a new supplement request application that will be processed on the typical (non-expedited) schedule.

VI. Post-Award Information

  1. Q. Can I apply for R01s from other ICs while I am on an NHLBI R35 award?
    • Yes; as long as the scope of the R01s is outside the mission of NHLBI and there is not overlap with the R35 program.

  2. Q. Once I am awarded an R35, can I also receive a multiple-PI NHLBI R01 award?
    • No, multiple-PI NHLBI R01 applications will not be awarded to investigators with active R35 awards.
  3. Q. How do I transition from R35s back to R01s (when can I apply for R01s again, etc.)?
    • R35 awardees can apply for R01 funding at any time, and can relinquish the R35 in order to receive R01 funding. R01 (or equivalent) awards will not be made by NHLBI during an active R35. As the end of the R35 award project period approaches, R35 awardees are strongly encouraged to apply for R01 funding in years 5 or 6 of their R35, to maintain continuity of research support. If the R35 is not successful, NHLBI will consider funding R01s after the end of the R35 funding.
  4. Q. I am an R35 awardee in year 6 or 7 of my award. I am applying for R01 and R35 funding to maintain continuity of research support. How will new R35 awards be made to current R35 awardees?
    • If the new R35 application is not successful, and the R01(s) become fundable, NHLBI will consider funding R01s as the R35 comes to an end. The R35 award and required level of effort will be reduced accordingly.
    • If both the R35 and R01s are fundable, the PD/PI will have the option to choose which award to receive.
    • If the R35 is fundable and the R01(s) are not, the R35 application will be funded.
  5. Q. If I get an R35 award, can I then apply for an NHLBI Program Project Grant (PPG) P01? 
    • Yes. However, the PI must document any overlap in the Just-In-Time submitted for that application (per standard NIH rules) and explain how potential overlap due to the nature of the R35 will be mitigated. Before applying, investigators should consider whether the proposed research could be accomplished under the R35 award. 
  6. Q. I want to apply for or extend an NHLBI Diversity Supplement or a Re-Entry Supplement to my R35 award. What is the Diversity Supplement or Re-entry Supplement application or extension process for the R35?  
    • The process for applying for or extending a Diversity Supplement or Re-entry Supplement to an R35 is the same as any other mechanism. Please apply through the eRA commons to the applicable NIH Program Announcements in accordance with the guidance provided in the NHLBI Research Supplement Application Guidelines.