The Daily Dose • Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Funding Sources for Anesthesiology Researchers

Cameron Bosinski, MD, MS

Funding is an important aspect of research at all career stages. However, multiple funding resources, as well as the subtleties of each grant can make it difficult for investigators to know which grants to apply for and the specific criteria required by each. Dr. Keith Vogt led a discussion between Dr. Max Kelz and Dr. Zuzana Justinova on how to successfully take advantage of various funding opportunities at every stage of an anesthesiologist’s career. During the IARS, AUA, SOCCA and eSAS Scholars’ Program Day 2021 on May 8, Dr. Keith Vogt, an Assistant Professor and Program Director of the PANTHER research track at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, moderated the discussion, “Finding Your Funding: Opportunities for Early Stage Investigators in and Out of the NIH.” Typical funding sources for anesthesiology investigators from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) and the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) were outlined during the session.

Dr. Max Kelz is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the T32 Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kelz’s talk was titled, “Mentored, Institutional and Foundational Grants” and focused on the various funding opportunities that are essential stepping-stones for early-stage investigators seeking NIH funding. Residents with and without substantial research experience can apply for a T32-supported research fellowship at any one of the 16 NIH-funded institutions. The T32 grant offers 2-3 years of training and provides trainees with 80% protected research time. This institutional grant is often paired with a research track during residency, which allows residents to hit the ground running as a research fellow. Additionally, the T32 is a great way for those without significant research experience to find a mentor and acquire research experience.

Either following, or in place of, a T32 FAER and IARS both offer 2-year grants for applicants that have finished training within the past 10 years. The FAER Mentored Research Training Grant (MRTG) requires 75% of a grantee’s time be devoted to research and awards $250,000. The IARS Mentored Research Award (IMRA) requires 45% protected research time and is a $175,000 award. Applicants often apply to these awards simultaneously, with a first-submission success rate of 30% for the FAER MRTG and 12% for IMRA. Key components of a successful application include the applicant’s potential, past experience, career goals and research plan. Additional important factors include the mentor, mentorship team, training environment and chair letter. When reviewing applications, reviewers will ask whether the applicant has a history of high quality publications, whether the plan, mentor and institution are an appropriate bridge to independence, and if the chair letter indicates that the applicant is an integral member of the research program at that institution.

Dr. Zuzana Justinova is a Program Officer at National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) and gave a talk with the title, “NIH: K and R Level Grants.” The PPBC (Division of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry) at NIGMS supports research in several areas including, anesthesiology/perioperative pain, clinical pharmacology, critical illness and injury, sepsis and wound healing. Before writing a grant, applicants should also review the mission of other institutes such as, the National Institutions of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Drug Abuse (NIDA), Aging (NIA), and the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which may offer alternative funding opportunities. Importantly, the review information section of the funding opportunity announcement will list the criteria for scoring and should be used as a guide when preparing a submission.

Dr. Justinova distinguished between the types of career development grants appropriate for assistant professors (K awards) and R awards intended for those seeking independent research project grants. NIGMS offers three mentored K awards, K25 for basic and biomedical research, K08 for translational research and K23 for patient-oriented research. K awards require 75% protected time for 3-5 years and offer up to $50,000 per year. The K99/R00 award is available for clinician-scientists who are transitioning from mentored grants to independent funding. An application for R01 funding is expected during the R00 stage. An R01 grant is typically for 5 years with up to $500,000 per year. Importance and feasibility are critical to receiving funding. The “Katz” R01 was newly introduced last year for investigators who are proposing a change in research direction. This grant does not require any preliminary data, but at this time is not being offered by NIGMS. R21 (NIGMS Technology R01) is a 2-year, $250,000 grant intended for proof-of-concept studies and therefore cannot be renewed. R35 Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award requires 51% research time over 5 years and awards up to $250,000. R35 applications do not include specific aims and are intended to give investigators the ability to take on ambitious projects and the flexibility to follow new research directions. Scoring of each application is based on candidate’s background, career development plan, research plan (significance, innovation, approach), letters of support from collaborators and institutional commitment. Clinical trials are subject to additional review criteria. Individuals with Early Stage Investigator status are given funding preference and have a higher success rate when applying to R35 (37%) vs. R01 (24%).

At each career stage, there are funding opportunities available from the NIH, FAER, IARS or within individual anesthesiology departments. Each grant makes available its eligibility criteria and the type of project that it intends to fund. To assist with applying for NIH grants, contact a scientific review officer, or the program officer after the summary statement has been released. In order to prepare a successful application, Dr. Justinova recommends that applicants begin writing the grant at least 6 months before it is due and to submit it at least 2 days before the deadline, so that it can still be corrected after submission.