National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants for non-US applicants

11-7-2018 By Peter van den Berghe

The NIH funding program has a wealth of funding opportunities and more importantly, it is open to non-US applicants (both companies and academic groups). This is all good news, but how to get such a grant?

Tips for European NIH applicants

Do you have unique technology or knowledge that is not available in the US?

Before you start your NIH grant, make sure that reviewers will not ask: “Why should the US pay for something that US researchers can do as well?” The single most important criteria to be successful at NIH is to bring technology, innovation and knowledge that they do not have in the US.

NIH specially welcomes non-US key opinion leaders that can advance science in the US. If you are not a Key opinion leader yet, you should not worry. Do your homework and team up with a US key Opinion Leader in your field to collaborate with.

Pitch yourself and your project to the NIH project officer

The NIH funding scheme consist on many specific funding opportunities announcements (FOA). All with a very distinct set of requirements.

Before you start writing you should start with the following exercise:

  • What are the objectives of the FOA and objectives of the NIH departments
  • What are the objectives of your project: called Specific Aims in NIH jargon
  • Make sure the Specific Aims match with the objectives of the FOA
  • Identify the required expertise for your project and when possible identify (US) consortium partners to collaborate with

The next step is a crucial one. Most FOAs ask you to send a letter of Intent. Take this opportunity and do more! Each FOA has a dedicated project officer who is often a scientist from the field. Use the LOI to get in contact with the project officer and pitch your Specific Aims during a phone call. This will help you to align your project with the goals of the FOA.

It is a no brainer but you need to learn the lingo and to start on time

As an NIH novice you need to learn many new abbreviations, from AOR, SO, DUNS, SAMS, Grant.gov, Assist and the list goes on and on and on … Do not worry you will get the jest. As fresh NIH applicant you also need to register your organization at several different sites. This registration process can take up to 6 -8 weeks and you should organize this well in advance. Thus, make sure to spot your favorite FOA in time to not miss out on the best NIH grant for you project.

Increase your chances

Are you unsure whether you have a technology which is not available in the US? Do you want advice how to proceed or help with developing a competitive proposal?

Our experts have experience with life science non-US NIH applications. We can analyse your case and help you develop the right strategy. Contact us and let’s talk about your ideas and ambitions.


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