FY 2018 Funding and Operating Guidelines

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institutes of Health

Available Funding and Operating Guidelines

FY 2017 Archive


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) applies NIH cost management guidelines when making FY2018 grant awards (see NOT-OD-18-180). All legislative mandates that were in effect in FY2017 remain in effect, with the exception of the salary limitation set at Executive Level II of the Federal Pay Scale ($189,600) that was effective with grant awards with an initial Issue Date on or after January 7, 2018 (see NOT-OD-18-181). 

Funding Strategy:

The NHLBI funding strategy for competing applications will use one of two methods detailed below, depending upon the specific grant mechanism:

  • a payline with selective pay
  • a zone of consideration

The currently available funding strategy information for NHLBI competing awards is displayed in the tables below. The NHLBI will continue to update its funding strategy for FY2018, as necessary and as additional information becomes available. Applicants are advised to use information presented here, in conjunction with information available in their organizational eCommons accounts, for planning purposes only. 

Payline with Selective Pay

When a payline is specified, the NHLBI intends to fund all applications equal to or less than the percentile (or priority score if there is no percentile). Depending on the availability of funds, the Institute will make funding decisions on competing applications above the payline through selective pay actions. The table below details the paylines for relevant grant programs.


Grant Program

Grant Program Description


Priority Score


Research Project Grant




Early Stage Investigators



K awards

Career Development Awards




Pre-doctoral NRSA



F31, F32, F33

Pre- and Post-doctoral NRSA




Academic Research Enhancement Awards (AREA)




Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants (Phase I)



Zone of Consideration

A zone of consideration is a range of priority scores within which competing applications will be considered for funding. The table below details the range of priority scores per relevant grant program.

Zone of Consideration

Grant Program

Grant Program Description

Zone of Consideration

(Priority Score Range)


Program Project Grant

10 - 30

T32, T35

Institutional NRSA Training

10 - 35

R41, R42 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Grants 10 - 40
R44 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants (Phase II) 10 - 40

Criteria for Selective Pay and Zone of Consideration

Final award decisions related to selective pay and zones of consideration will be based on a variety of criteria relevant to scientific merit, program balance, and NHLBI strategic priorities including: 

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council (NHLBAC) recommendations
  • Relevance to NHLBI’s strategic research priorities.
  • Overall programmatic portfolio balance and need (e.g., scientific gaps and needs, areas of interest to the NHLBI, poorly represented areas in Institute’s portfolio, overlap with existing programs, etc.)
  • Development and diversity of the biomedical workforce (e.g., investigator’s career stage, etc.)
  • Potential for high scientific or public health impact (e.g., highly innovative research, research relevant to special populations that are disproportionately affected or understudied [women, minorities, pediatric populations, patients with rare diseases], etc.)

Future Year Commitments on FY 2018 New and Competing Renewal Awards:

As in recent fiscal years (see NOT-OD-17-086), inflationary increases for future year commitments are no longer provided for all competing and non-competing research grant awards issued by the NHLBI. However, adjustments for special needs (such as equipment and added personnel) continue to be accommodated whenever possible. 

Duration of Research Project Grants

The NHLBI will fund investigator-initiated R01 competing applications, regardless of percentile or priority score, for up to four years. The only exceptions to this policy are awards made to Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) and clinical trials with patient accrual and follow-up timelines that cannot be accomplished within four years. These excepted applications will generally be awarded for the full length of their NHLBAC recommended project periods.

Clinical Trials

The NIH is rolling out a series of initiatives to enhance the accountability and transparency of clinical research. Included among the changes is a requirement for all applications proposing clinical trials to be submitted through FOAs designated specifically for clinical trials (beginning with January 25, 2018 due dates).

Early Stage Investigators

Fostering the success of Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) who are establishing careers in biomedical research is a high priority of the NHLBI and NIH, and the NHLBI will continue its commitment to ESIs in accordance with NIH guidelines as articulated in the NIH Guide (see NOT-OD-17-101). The NHLBI commitment to ESIs is reflected in the special consideration given in both funding priority and period of support.

The NHLBI routinely considers funding ESI applications that score outside of the normal funding range by maintaining a separate payline for competing, investigator-initiated ESI R01 applications. In FY18, the payline for these applications will be 10 percentile points above the regular R01 payline. Further, all awards to ESI applicants that are included under that policy will be funded for all years recommended by the NHLBAC.

Note regarding NHLBI policy on ESI application resubmission post ESI eligibility status: For investigators whose ESI eligibility window expires between the new (A0) application submission and the resubmission (A1), the NHLBI will honor ESI special funding consideration for these resubmission applications for the entirety of the resubmission window (37 months). In other words, provided an ESI submits the original application and has not previously received substantial, independent NIH funding when a funding decision is made, the resubmission (A1) of these applications is eligible for NHLBI ESI special funding consideration. Note that the NHLBI approach differs from the NIH statement about retaining ESI-eligible status for investigators whose ESI eligibility window expires between the original submission and resubmission by extending the 13-month resubmission window (see FAQ 7) to 37 months.

Note regarding applications with Multiple PIs: To be eligible for the ESI funding advantage, all PIs on multiple-PI applications must originally have been ESIs when a funding decision is made.

Note regarding phased mechanisms/transitional grants: The ESI funding advantage applies to phased mechanisms/transitional grants. However, note that upon transition to the second phase of the research (the substantial, independent research grant) the ESI status for the PD/PI(s) will no longer apply. This includes combined, transitional awards like the R21/R33, SBIR/STTR Fast-Track (R42, UT2, R44, U44), UH2/UH3.

Note regarding program project grants (PPG): Under the current PPG (P01) FOA (PAR-18-405), PPG applications may include an ESI as a Project Leader. Serving as a Project Leader, but not Program Director/Principal Investigator in a PPG grant will not impact the investigator’s ESI status.

First Competing Renewals (Type 2) or New (Type 1) R01 Application for Investigators with an NHLBI Early Stage Investigator Award

The NHLBI appreciates that the first competing renewal application or second R01 application at the end of an awarded ESI applications are submitted during a critical period in investigators’ careers. In order to extend timely support for the next generation of heart, lung, blood, and sleep researchers, the NHLBI maintains a separate payline of 5 percentile points above the regular R01 payline for investigator-initiated first competing renewal (Type 2) or secondary new (Type 1) R01 applications that meet all of the following criteria:

  • the initial (Type 1) application was funded as an NHLBI ESI application and is currently in the last project period year or within two fiscal years beyond the last project period year
  • the individual is not and has not been a principal investigator on an Independent Scientist (K02) or other non-mentored career award, on another R01, or on any other “major award” mechanism that disqualifies one from being considered an NIH Early Stage Investigator (see https://grants.nih.gov/policy/early-investigators/index.htm#earlystage
  • the application must be from a domestic institution

Note: This is a special NHLBI program, therefore the competing renewal applications will not be flagged by the NIH grant system. Rather, NHLBI staff will identify applications eligible for special funding consideration under this Program. Further, to be eligible for this funding advantage, all PIs on multiple-PI applications must meet the criteria described above.

NHLBI Interim Funding Using the R56 (High Priority, Short-Term Project) Award

Pending the availability of funds, the NHLBI may use the R56 grant mechanism, sometimes called "Bridge Award," to provide limited, interim research support to competing R01 applications requesting less than $500K in direct costs per year. Eligible investigators cannot have substantial funding support from within or outside the NIH beyond the current fiscal year. Further, applications with administrative issues that preclude timely award are ineligible for this program.  NHLBI participation in the R56 mechanism was published in the NIH Guide (see NOT-HL-13-188). Please note that investigators cannot apply for R56 awards.

The ultimate goal of the award is to provide interim, one-year support for investigators to collect preliminary data in support of a resubmission or newly competing NIH R01 application.

The NHLBI will use the following guidelines for funding RPGs:

Salary Cap

The FY2018 salary cap for individuals under an NIH grant or cooperative agreement is established by statute at $189,600 effective January 7, 2018 (see NOT-OD-18-181).

Competing (Type 1 and Type 2) Research Project Grant Awards

The NHLBI policy for competing grants is to award them at the NHLBAC recommended level except for specific programmatic and administrative adjustments. Applications that do not exceed $250,000 direct costs in any given year of support in the recommended competitive segment are generally awarded under the modular concept. Applications requesting direct costs that exceed $250,000 in any year of support in the recommended competitive segment will be awarded with categorical budgets.

Effective FY17, NHLBI is no longer limiting Type 2 awards to NHLBAC recommended direct costs plus a maximum of three percent above the level of the last noncompeting segment.

Program Project Grants (Type 1 and Type 2)

Type 1: Direct costs will be awarded at the recommended level or $1,515,000, whichever is less. Under the current PPG (P01) FOA (PAR-18-405), PPG applications including an ESI as a Project Leader may have a larger budget cap per year if at least four projects are included in the application. Project budgets should reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. If an ESI-led Project is included and the application contains at least four Projects, the maximum direct costs will increase to $1,765,000 per year (with a minimum of $250,000 per year in direct costs for the ESI-led Project). Facilities and Administrative (F&A) Costs associated with first tier subcontracts are not included in the direct cost ceiling. No annual increases for recurring costs in non-competing years are allowed.

Type 2: Direct costs (excluding first tier subcontract F&A costs) awarded will not exceed the direct costs (excluding first tier subcontract F&A costs) for the last noncompetitive segment. As with new awards, no annual increases for recurring costs are allowed.

All new (Type 1) and renewal (Type 2) Program Project Grant (P01) competing applications will be awarded at or below the NHLBI published Program Project Grants (P01s) direct costs cap (excluding first-tier subcontract Facilities and Administrative [F&A] costs) for each project year, in accordance with the PPG cap policy. No annual increases in noncompeting years may be requested. Equipment is included in the budget ceiling.

Under the current PPG (P01) FOA (PAR-18-405), PPGs will be limited to one competitive renewal.

Continuation Awards (Type 5 Noncompeting Renewal)

The NHLBI will award Type 5 grants in accordance with the NIH Fiscal Policy for FY2018.

Last Updated:  May 2018