Obtaining public and private grants is fundamental to establishing and maintaining pre-clinical research. In the United States perhaps the most prominent grantor is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its subsidiaries, such as the Food and Drug Administration. Alternate funding sources include other governmental agencies, private corporations, and foundations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Foundation. Each organization has its unique and specific grant application, compliance, and reporting processes and regulations. Being aware of these research funding opportunities and their requirements not only increases your chances of obtaining a grant for currently considered research, but also provides prompts to future research possibilities.
The NIH offers several types of grants applicable to pre-clinical research: research grants, career development awards, program projects, and resource grants. The most often awarded grants are in the research grant category. The Research Project Grant Program may fund fully realized clinical and pre-clinical trials, while the Small Grant Program and the Exploratory/Development Research Grant Award are typically better suited to pilot study funding.
Applying for grants is typically done online, either by filling out electronic forms on a web page or downloading application packages on PDF. Grants.gov is an invaluable resource for ferreting out grant opportunities through refinable database searches. FastLane is the grant database for the National Science Foundation. Government grantors usually require your company to have both a DUNS number and a Central Contractor Registration (CCR) number. CCR registration is required for all vendors working with the U.S. government. Other necessary information includes an EIN or TIN number, as well as the designation of an Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) who acts as the official liaison between the grantor and your organization. Non-governmental grantors may require additional information.
A variety of obstacles may impede your ability to obtain a grant for your pre-clinical research. Some are out of your control, for example, a shortage of overall grant monies or limited funding in your specific area. The primary obstacle to funding success, however, is something you can control—your proposal. Successful grant applications include clear, succinct, detailed information comprehensible to both expert and lay readers. The most important section of the proposal is the Methods section which typically contains half of the paper’s content. Reviewers rely on this section to get a complete and functional picture of the proposed research project. For example, defining your study sample, including inclusion and exclusion expectations and procedures, is crucial. NIH reviewers report that failure to present a proper Methods section is the number one error they observe.
Another critical element in a grant proposal is the section that explains the significance of your research project. Does your work refine previous studies? Are you breaking new ground? Will your findings add substantively to the current research literature? A detailed overview of writing grant proposals for projects such as medical device testing, “An Evidence-Based Guide to Writing Grant Proposals for Clinical Research” published in Annals of Internal Medicine by Drs. Inouye and Fiellin in 2005 is a comprehensive resource.
Once you receive a grant to conduct pre-clinical research, specific protocols must be followed in order to comply with the requirements of the grantor. On-schedule, well-formatted, and comprehensive responses assure the grantor that your study was carried out properly and to best practices standards. Even if the grantor does not require an end-of-project report, offer one anyway. Doing this may increase your chances of procuring an additional grant from this source in the future.