OnPAR: A Second Chance for Unfunded NIH Proposals

Author: Jaclyn Lucas

Many researchers and administrators across the country are familiar with the disappointment of a rejected proposal. Researchers can spend months running experiments to generate preliminary data and many more weeks preparing the necessary documents (including a robust research strategy, detailed budget, and other requirements) for their proposal. And even if this proposal is well conceived, it may not be selected for funding. This is the fate of many NIH proposals, given that the agency can fund only a portion of the proposals it receives.

In response to this issue, the NIH has teamed up with science and technology solutions company Leidos to give proposals submitted to NIH a second chance for funding. NIH and Leidos have developed OnPAR, an online portal for submitting unfunded NIH applications to a myriad of sponsors who may be interested in funding the proposed research. One major benefit of the program is that the substantial process of peer review has already been conducted by NIH study sections – so sponsors can be assured they are reviewing viable proposals.

The OnPAR system was launched in March 2016, and in its current pilot stage has seven sponsor members who may fund proposals that come through this portal. Applicants may submit to OnPAR by invitation from NIH only (generally, applicants are invited if they fall within the top 30th percentile but are not selected for funding). Even if researchers do not believe their work falls within the mission of one of the current seven members, they are encouraged to apply, as OnPAR will be adding additional sponsor members following the initial pilot stage. The hope is to add other private biomedical foundations, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and private funders to the list of potential sponsors in the future. Researchers and sponsors alike are optimistic about the collaboration possibilities that may emerge from this partnership.

For more information about OnPAR, consult these articles from Science Translational Medicine and NIH’s Open Mike blog.