The Department of Defense wants you!

Last fall, members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Public Affairs Advisory Committee traversed the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region to meet with research-funding agencies. We met with representatives not only of the old standbys, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, but also with funders that we typically have fewer conversations with. We met with officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the Army’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

Since its inception in 1992, the CDMRP has administered more than $8.5 billion in federal appropriations, funding more than 12,000 grants (out of 90,000 applications) for research around the country and the world. The CDMRP is different in a couple of ways from the NIH. First, the overwhelming majority of the research CDMRP funds focuses on disease, which may make it difficult at first to see a connection for many ASBMB members looking to diversify their funding portfolios.

“(M)ost of our cancer and specific disease programs have awarded over half of their portfolio to basic research in areas of cell biology, genetics and molecular biology, endocrinology, pathobiology, and immunology,” explains Col. Wanda L. Salzer, CDMRP’s director. “For example, the (Department of Defense) Breast Cancer Research Program’s portfolio from fiscal 1992 to FY12 shows that over half of the 6,400 funded awards are in basic research areas.”

Also, grants funded at the CDMRP go through a two-tier review process. The first step is a rather typical peer-review process, of which you are keenly aware. After peer review, however, grants then are reviewed based on programmatic and community need. This second review is not a rubber stamp for those grants that scored highest in peer review. The applications that have the highest potential to help achieve the vision and goals of the respective program (programmatic relevance, relative innovation and impact respective to the award mechanism, portfolio balance and adherence to the intent of the mechanism) win funding.

The CDMRP, while a relatively new kid on the block in terms of funding research, already has had some major successes in its first 20 years of funding biomedical science. The CDMRP notes that its funded investigators have affected significantly the standards for care provided to patients with breast cancer, neurofibromitosis, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and spinal cord injuries.

For those interested in the program or funding opportunities, the ASBMB has been told that comprehensive program announcements will be released in March for the FY15 cycle. The program announcements will include detailed descriptions of funding mechanisms, evaluation criteria, submission requirements and deadlines. Each program announcement will be available at Grants.gov and the CDMRP website.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB.