In an effort to sustain a diverse research portfolio of research in historically lean times, the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) issued final new guidelines in January for funding principal investigators (PIs) with substantial unrestricted research support. The guidelines refer to scientists receiving $400,000 or more per year in direct costs excluding salary and shared resources received to fund research on a broad topic. Examples of substantial unrestricted research support include funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, endowed chairs that provide undefined research support, or unrestricted monetary gifts to support research.
According to the guidelines, investigators with unrestricted support would have limited eligibility for R01 or R35 funding from NIGMS. Similarly, NIGMS-funded PIs with two or more NIGMS research grants will be able to renew only one NIGMS grant upon receipt of unrestricted support. Participation in a program project (P01), center (P41, P50, U54), or multi-PI R01 will usually be counted as research support for unrestricted investigators. However, training grants, support for educational and diversity enhancing programs, resource grants, conference grants, SBIR/STTR and clinical trial grants will not be counted.
The guidelines address several of the concerns raised by FASEB in its comments on the proposed Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award last August. Such concerns included eligibility, concentration of limited research funds among a small number of PIs, and funding that could be counted as research support for the purpose of defining eligibility. These new guidelines will be in effect for research grants submitted on or after January 2, 2016.