Biomedical research funding in the U.S. depends most heavily on grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with over $40 billion distributed annually. Individuals training for an independent research career in a biomedical field are very aware of NIH funding opportunities and must gain familiarity with NIH grant writing. But far fewer researchers, it seems, are aware of another sizable pot of money available from the federal government: the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) under the US Army Medical Research & Development Command. Though the DoD’s annual budget for biomedical research is only about 1/10th of NIH’s, CDMRP is uniquely tasked with filling gaps in funded research, and it supports some areas of research that might surprise you.
CDMRP was established in 1992 after breast cancer patient advocacy groups lobbied Congress to fund “high-risk, high-reward” research that might lead to faster breakthroughs for patients. The CDMRP website describes their goals as “advancing paradigm shifting research, solutions that will lead to cures or improvements in patient care, or breakthrough technologies and resources for clinical benefit.” The CDMRP approach provides a potential avenue for funding bold ideas–ones that might not pass the scrutiny of NIH review due to a lack of significant preliminary data or research that is more than the next stepping stone in a series of experiments.
But it’s not all early-stage: in addition to breakthrough awards like their “Early Idea Awards” and “Discovery Awards”, CDMRP also provides funding for large-scale clinical trials and collaborative “Focused Program Awards”. Also unlike NIH, the types of awards vary by year and by program, so keeping an ear to the ground, so to speak, for upcoming opportunities is critical to determining if CDMRP funding is a viable option for your lab or organization.
How do you find out if you should consider applying for CDMRP funding? First, take a look at their extensive list of programs. You’ll note research topics vary widely, ranging from expected foci like Gulf War illness, military burn, and traumatic brain injury to the perhaps unexpected, such as autism and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The largest program, the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), includes a changing slate of topic areas. FY21’s list of over 40 topics included arthritis, endometriosis, suicide prevention, food allergies, and much more.
The FY22 programs have not yet released their Program Announcements (requests for proposals), as doing so requires that the FY22 Defense Appropriations Bill first be passed and signed into law. However, 14 programs have sent press releases announcing their anticipated funding opportunities; you can find these here.
In a subsequent post, I’ll discuss the funding review process at CDMRP, including peer review and programmatic review as well as the unique requirements of many program applications. In the meantime, are you thinking about applying for CDMRP funding and have questions about how I might help? Please be in touch! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.