The goal of the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award is to provide support for collaborative investigative teams or individual scientists who propose unusually innovative research projects, which, if successful, would have a major impact in a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research. To be considered transformative, projects must have the potential to create or overturn fundamental scientific paradigms through the use of novel approaches, to transform the way research is conducted through the development of novel tools or technologies, or to lead to major improvements in health through the development of highly innovative therapies, diagnostic tools, or preventive strategies. Consistent with this focus, applications supported under the Transformative Research Award will reflect ideas substantially different from mainstream concepts.
Several key features of this FOA have been designed to emphasize to applicants and peer reviewers that these applications are very different from conventional, investigator-initiated research awards. The application format, through its requirements for explicitly addressing specific issues, focuses attention on the importance of the problem, the novelty of the hypothesis and/or the proposed methodology, and the magnitude of the potential impact rather than on preliminary data or experimental details. Reviewers will be instructed to emphasize significance and innovation in their evaluations, and these criteria will be the primary basis for funding decisions. These features are intended to steer applicants and reviewers, at each step of the process, toward the goal of this initiative, which is to solicit and fund unusually bold and potentially transformative research.
Projects in any area of NIH interest, including basic, clinical, translational and behavioral studies, are encouraged and will be considered responsive to this FOA. Though technical and conceptual risks are expected in highly innovative projects, clinical research also must address potential risk to human subjects. Clinical researchers are encouraged to submit applications as long as rigorous assessment of participant risk/benefit ratios compellingly indicates the ratio to be in favor of the potential benefit. Many of the advances in public health have been achieved through clinical trials, which necessarily involve some risk to participating human subjects. NIH acknowledges the presence of such risk and has established a set of clinical research ethics principles that provides guidance regarding the risk/benefit ratio in clinical research. Applicants proposing clinical research should contact Program staff at the appropriate NIH Institute or Center (IC) to ensure that their applications conform to IC-specific policies for clinical research.
The NIH Director's Transformative Research Award is part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which also includes the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, and the NIH Director's Early Independence Award. The program is part of the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting efforts that are expected to have exceptionally high impact. All Common Fund initiatives invite investigators to develop bold, innovative, and often risky approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress.