Why are R01 NIH Grants Such a Big Deal?

by Erica Mitchell | January 5 2022 | Product Evaluation, Research | 1 Comment

r01 grant-01The National Institutes of Health is the largest public funder of biomedical research around the globe. This support has led to life-saving treatments as well as an ever-growing body of research that paves the way for future breakthroughs. NIH funding comes in the form of grants, of which there are dozens of types. In today's post, we'll look at just one type of grant and why it is so important to research in infection control and prevention.

The Institutes and Centers

The NIH is made up of 24 institutes and centers (ICs), each of which get separate funding from the US Congress and have their own mission and priorities, budget and funding strategy. They focus on specific conditions, populations, or technologies such as cancer, minority health, or bioengineering.

Grant Categories

There are dozens of types of grants available through the NIH. They include projects dealing with construction, training, career advancement, healthcare access, community service, research dissemination, and many more. Not all ICs participate in all categories of grants, and some ICs work together on the same grant.

The R01 Grant

The Research Project grant, or R01 grant, has the longest history with the NIH. These grants support "a discrete, specified, circumscribed project." All the institutes and centers participate in at least one form of the R01 grant. Funding for this grant category is extremely competitive; while NIH funds approximately 20% of grant applications, only 10% of R01 grants are funded. Grants are typically for 3-5 years and can be renewed.

Which IC for Which R01?

Applications to the NIH are submitted to a specific IC as it relates to the grant request. A researcher in infectious disease, for example, might apply to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. However, a researcher looking at hospital-acquired infections might apply through the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality. Often, multiple ICs are involved in order to bring together knowledge experts across disciplines.

R01 Public Health Impact

The unique quality of the R01 grant program is that the results are specific and actionable. The requirement that the grant focus on a "discrete" problem means that a funded project will have a narrow focus with a clear outcome. Each applicant must provide a "public health relevance" statement and makes a clear connection between the subject to be studied and a direct benefit to public health. For example, an R01 grant was recently awarded to the Central Texas VA to study EOSCU. Their public health relevance reads:

“The goal of this study is to explore the effectiveness of a self-sanitizing antibacterial surface that is a blend of copper oxide and polymer in a real clinical setting and assess whether this surface prevents accumulation of bacterial contamination on healthcare surfaces. Our project has the potential to reduce infections resulting from admission to a healthcare facility such as a VA hospital. The impact of this new technology could be transferred to other healthcare settings such as clinics, nursing homes, operating rooms, and other areas including medical care systems in private sector.”

Published work from R01 research answers a specific problem with significant data, allowing the healthcare field to make decisions based on verified results. Often, an R01 grant is behind many "best practices" and interventions considered "standard of care."

We hope you have learned a few new things about the NIH and its R01 granting program. For more information about an EOSCU-related R01 grant, please click here.

 Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.