NIH and RO1 Grants and Their Contribution to Medical Advancements


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is by far the leading funding source for medical and biological research in the United States. If you search the NIH Grant database its current yearly budget is ~ $33 billion dollars, with 82% directed towards "extramural" funding of over 300,000 medical researchers, at over 2500 research institutions, across the country.

With the U.S. total population of about 324 million people, the NIH budget represents about $100 per U.S. resident. This money is used to fund research grants for numerous disease and health conditions, vaccine and drug development, and much more. With each person spending just $100 for a year's worth of scientific research on all sorts of health conditions that could affect their health from birth to old age, this is quite reasonable.

 Personal impact, on U.S. residents, of NIH funding

For most people, the impact of NIH-funded medical research has been felt directly, by nearly everyone, as it has either improved (or even saved) their own, or their loved ones', lives. Moreover, these medical advances benefit everyone around the world, not just in the U.S. For a myriad of maladies, NIH-funded research has improved treatment, prevention, and better understanding of serious non-infectious and infectious (and even worldwide pandemic-threatening) diseases.

National impact of NIH funding

NIH grants support medical and scientific research across the entire country. This funding also facilitates research training for the next generation of scientists and doctors. Major highlights of NIH contribution to medical advancement [1] include: (1) Americans are living healthier and longer lives: life expectancy of the average American has increased by 8 years, with a decrease in death rate, by 43%, from 1969 to 2016; (2) Babies are now being born healthier: child mortality has reduced by over 80% since the 1960s; (3) Heart disease, diabetes, and stroke are far less deadly today, compared to the 1970s; (4) Advances in treating and preventing cancer: cancer-related deaths have declined by over 26% from 1991 to today; and (5) A better understanding of drug abuse and addiction: NIH-funded research in the last 30 years has revealed more about the mechanisms and risks that lead to drug abuse and addiction, leading to the development of new prevention approaches. The benefits of NIH grants go on and on, and their impact can be felt all around us in our daily lives.

NIH-funded, recent advances in better quality of life

Some of the most notable recent research funded by NIH grants includes better development of background noise cancellation technology for hearing aids [2], and invention of devices that improve survival after sudden cardiac arrest [3]. In addition to funding medical advancements, NIH and small business grants lead to innovations that create new inventions, businesses, and job opportunities. You can explore the health and economic impact that NIH grants have created, across the country, using this interactive map tool [4].

Impact of stagnant NIH growth on highly laudable research projects.

While NIH research funding brings all these benefits to persons living in the U.S. and across the world, the number of research projects funded by the NIH has been declining in recent years. A 2016 NIH Research Funding Trends report [5] reveals the NIH lost 22% funding capacity during the fiscal year 2003 to 2015, due to sequestration, budget cuts, and inflationary losses. The overall impact of fewer grants is reduced innovation and discoveries, as some of the most talented scientists leave research.

However, there is a ray of hope that, within the last three years (2016, 2017, and 2018), Congress has increased the NIH budget, thus improving funding capacity. For instance, due to the FY 2017 increased NIH budget, 1,149 additional grants could be funded. The increase in the budget is also reversing losses that originated from sequestration (2009 – 2010). To sustain this new progress that has been achieved by the NIH, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recommends a budget of at least $39 billion for NIH for the 2019 Fiscal Year. Even that amount is likely to be inadequate to support the numerous qualified and relevant research grant applications submitted, but it should at least sustain current progress. 

Importance of NIH grant proposals

Academic promotion and recognition highly depend on the number and quality of grants received from the NIH. Each year, a large number of scientists and researchers apply for NIH funding, but the hard truth is –only a few of them are considered (e.g., a 12.5% success rate for the National Cancer Institute in 2017). Thus making the importance of writing high-quality NIH grant proposals necessary for achieving long-term success.

Difficulties with grant application success in the recent years, due to competitive markets, declining funds, and lack of research progress has made writing an outstanding, high-quality grant proposal more important than ever before. As an applicant, you need to set out your proposal such that you hit all the important criteria of consideration, and maximize your chances of success. For starters, your grant application proposal needs to follow a specific format and tell a compelling story. Before submitting it to grant reviewers, you need to have it reviewed internally by your senior colleagues or mentors –and don't forget to initiate consultation at the very early stage of the proposal writing.

With ever-increasing competition and reduced success rates, there is no denying that grant writing can be quite a daunting task, especially for inexperienced researchers and scholars. If you're having trouble putting together a sound and airtight grant proposal, you can always seek help from a professional grant writing service. These expert consultants will help you refine your research idea, follow all the required protocols and present your application in a way that captures the attention of the grant application reviewers.




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08 December 2019
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