The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the biggest funders of medical research in the US, and projects it has funded have touched almost every Duchenne therapeutic in development now in some way. In FY2016, the NIH is investing nearly $32.3 billion in medical research, and of that $80 million (estimated) is going towards muscular dystrophy research, which includes Duchenne. Despite its large budget, each year NIH receives thousands of grant applications yet only funds a small percentage of these applications. For example in 2014, NIH received 51,073 research project grant (RPG) applications, out of which 9,241, were funded, resulting in a success rate of 18.1 percent. It is a very competitive process.
But what happens to all those grant applications that scored very well and represent good science but did not get funded?
Until now, nothing. Investigators could resubmit at a later time, rejigger their application, seek funding elsewhere, or move on to something else. But clearly this is a missed opportunity. Leidos, a life sciences company launched the Online Partnership to Accelerate Research or OnPAR, a public-partnership between NIH, biomedical foundations, and industry that will provide innovative and exceptional research applications with a second opportunity for funding.
OnPAR will match high-scoring, unfunded NIH proposals with private biomedical foundations and/or industries seeking to fund promising research.
PPMD is one of seven initial foundation partners, participating in this first ever chance to have access to peer-reviewed research proposals. PPMD will have access to any project that directly relates to Duchenne research. We hope that OnPAR will provide us with an efficient way to solicit early stage and translational Duchenne research proposals, see the breadth of research in Duchenne, and gain access to novel research strategies. Projects that come to us via OnPAR will have gone through the rigorous NIH peer review process which serves as an added level of scientific scrutiny.
We look forward to reporting back to the community with updates on this collaboration. To learn more about OnPAR, visit the website or read some of the recent articles outlining the goals of this unique funding mechanism.