The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, supported by the Common Fund at the National Institutes of Health has awarded 103 new research grants to support highly innovative scientists who propose visionary and broadly impactful meritorious behavioral and biomedical research projects. Awards include the impact exposure to fracking might have on pregnancy and conception; how brain mechanisms influence memory performance; the neural basis of social bias and association using the female songbird as a model; tissue regeneration using the uterus as a model; a mixed methods examination of skin tone and health among African Americans across the United States; and a new model organism to lead in the development of an HIV vaccine. The 103 awards total approximately $285 million in support from the institutes, centers, and offices across NIH over five years beginning in 2022, pending the availability of funds.
“The science advanced by these researchers is poised to blaze new paths of discovery in human health,” said Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., who is performing the duties of the Director of NIH. “This unique cohort of scientists will transform what is known in the biological and behavioral world. We are privileged to support this innovative science.”
The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supports investigators at each career stage who propose innovative research that, due to their inherent risk, may struggle in the traditional NIH peer-review process despite their transformative potential. Investigators seeking program support are encouraged to think beyond traditional bounds and to pursue trailblazing ideas in any area of research relevant to the NIH’s mission to advance knowledge and enhance health.
The Common Fund oversees programs that pursue major scientific opportunities and gaps throughout the research enterprise, are of significant importance to NIH, and require collaborations across the agency to succeed. The High-Risk, High-Reward Research program manages four awards, including two awards specifically for researchers in the early stages of their careers. These four awards include:
· The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, established in 2004, challenges investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad area of biomedical, behavioral, or social science.
· The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, established in 2007, supports unusually innovative research from early career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received an NIH R01 or equivalent grant.
· The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, established in 2009, promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.
· The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, established in 2011, provides an opportunity to support exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency to skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.
NIH issued eight Pioneer awards, 72 New Innovator awards, nine Transformative Research awards, and 14 Early Independence awards for 2022 . Funding for the awards comes from the NIH Common Fund, the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Cancer Institute.