The thought of applying for funding opportunities from the Department of Defense (DoD) can seem daunting. The process and requirements are often unfamiliar and confusing, and it can be unnerving to spend so much time and effort on an unsure thing. That is why Tier Seven is here to help. We can assist in navigating the DoD funding process in a seamless, streamlined manner that integrates into your organization’s current R&D goals.
Here we will examine a DoD institution at the forefront of the biomedical and life science R&D funding effort – the CDMRP – and provide an overview of the general application process to guide you towards constructing a successful collaboration. With a well-established process and a strong funding background, the CDMRP is a great place for an organization new to working with the DoD to start.
What is the CDMRP?
The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) is a large source of non-dilutive funding managed by the DoD and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). The vision of the CDMRP is to “transform healthcare for Service Members and the American public through innovative and impactful research.” CDMRP places a strong emphasis on multiple team collaboration and targeting novel high-risk (but high-reward) biomedical R&D projects that can be difficult to fund through other avenues.
The CDMRP has been funded annually through the Congressional Defense Appropriations Act, managing a total of $11.17 Billion in Congressional appropriations since its implementation in 1992. Specifically, managing $1.02B in FY15 and $1.47B in FY16, the highest amounts in CDMRP history.
How Does CDMRP Funding Work?
Each year, the CDMRP releases Program Announcements for currently funded program topics. But beware – the application window (i.e., the time between the release date and pre-application submission deadline) is very brief – typically only around one month. This is hardly enough time to determine whether your research goals align with the current focus areas, sort through and choose the proper Award Mechanism (discussed below), and then put together a strong, competitive funding proposal. Fortunately, the CDMRP does release pre-announcements, giving potential applicants a heads-up on upcoming opportunities (you can subscribe to receive email notifications on CDMRP funding opportunity releases here). However, these pre-announcements are often posted within only a month (or less) prior to the actual announcement, necessitating that your organization (or someone advocating for your organization, such as Tier Seven) is alert and ready to act right away in order to prevent an ideal funding opportunity from slipping through the cracks. You can also look at release dates from previous years’ pre-announcements to prepare far in advance.
Research focus areas within each program vary from year to year. Many of the CDMRP programs focus on a specific set of conditions or illnesses, as indicated by their names (e.g., Breast Cancer, Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, and many more). Most topics have fairly predictable research interests. However, some programs, such as the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP), have a broad range of research interests that can change significantly each year. Examples of topic areas from the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) FY15 solicitation, but not FY16, include advanced prosthetics, arthritis, and cardiovascular health. Topic areas which are new to the FY16 solicitation since last year include influenza, non-opioid pain management, and Rett syndrome. However, there are many more topics which have carried over from FY15 to FY16.
Choosing an Award Mechanism
Each CDMRP program announcement typically offers multiple award mechanism categories (i.e., award types) that proposers must select from to submit a solicitation response package. A few examples include the Breakthrough Awards, Idea Development Awards, Investigator-Initiated Research Awards, Technology/Therapeutic Development Awards, and many others. These are often further delineated by factors such as applicant eligibility requirements (New Investigator, Established Investigator, Multiple PI Option, etc.) and the necessary level of funding (Funding Level 1, 2, etc.). It is important to have a clear understanding of the differences between award mechanisms offered within the program that your company is pursuing in order to optimize the likelihood of award approval and success.
Submission of a pre-application is a required step in the CDMRP funding application process (this is not true of all DoD NDF solicitations). Depending on the award mechanism, the required pre-application may be either a Letter of Intent (LOI) or, more commonly, a pre-application proposal (pre-proposal). All pre-applications must be submitted through the Electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal (eBRAP), and so your organization must be registered in eBRAP prior to applying. It is important to keep on top of the required registrations needed in order to prevent submission delays or missed application deadlines.
After successful submission of a pre-proposal, the CDMRP will send out invitations to submit full applications (typically 1-2 months after pre-app submission). Note that LOI submissions do not require invitations in order to continue with the application process. Again, the timeframe from invitation to the deadline for submission is typically very short, so it is important to be prepared. Full applications for the CDMRP are submitted through Grants.gov.
The CDMRP utilizes a two-tier review process and a consumer review:
- A Peer Review to determine the technical merit of applications. Each program announcement outlines which scored criteria are of importance during evaluation – it is worthwhile to be aware and conscious of these while drafting your applications.
- A Programmatic Review to make funding recommendations and select applications, based on the ratings and evaluations of the peer reviewers and the relevance to the mission of the program compared to all other applications received.
- A Consumer Review to evaluate the program compared to other applications received. To be a consumer reviewer the individual must be a person living with or a family member/caregiver of a person living with the condition or topic of the CDMRP program.
Hopefully you now have a better understanding of that the CDMRP is and how your organization can take advantage of the extensive funding opportunities available through this agency. For additional information on the application process and tips for success, please see CDMRP’s useful guide on How to Apply.
If you are interested in learning more about what Tier Seven has to offer, please contact us.
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