For several years, NINDS has been concerned about a fall-off in funded research grants that emphasize basic science (studies focused on understanding development, structure and function)—internal analyses showed a drop in basic science funding levels from 52% to 27% of NINDS’ competing budget between 1997 and 2012. Potential reasons for the drop include investigator concern that NIH is not interested in basic research, that such applications may not fare well in peer review, or that translational research is more desirable.
Basic research has, however, formed the basis for fundamental advances in science, both in knowledge and technology, and is an essential underpinning for understanding diseases and developing treatments. As such, NINDS has not waivered in supporting basic research.
NINDS has continued to put their money where their mouth is with the re-issue of a Program Announcement with Set-Aside funds solely to fund basic research projects. See PAS-18-483, Promoting Research in Basic Neuroscience (R01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
(https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAS-18-483.html). This program is to run for three years with set-aside funding of $5M (anticipating 12 awards) in fiscal 2018. Applications are reviewed in regular study sections and any special consideration for set-aside funds is part of the post-review process.
Basic research grant applications that fall within the NINDS payline will be paid with ‘regular’ funds. Importantly, these dedicated set-aside funds will be used to fund meritorious basic research applications that fall just outside of the payline, conferring an important advantage for basic research applications.
Applicants with interests in fundamental research questions are encouraged to submit applications to the NINDS. For example, studies focused on the role of MBNL in muscle or brain development may be a good fit for consideration of set-aside funding and would provide important background for better understanding of DM. Note that studies focused on DM mechanisms or therapy development are considered to be outside the scope of this initiative, but remain of interest at NINDS.