Intramural Research Program

Ohio State cancer researchers can strengthen their chances of receiving grants from external organizations such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) by first applying for Intramural Research Program (IRP) pilot funding to help generate early supportive data for their research projects.

Developed by OSUCCC Deputy Director Peter Shields, MD, and chaired by Samson Jacob, PhD, the IRP centralizes internal cancer-grant mechanisms and ensures a transparent, high-quality, scientific peer review of IRP grant applications.

Once received, IRP awards foster innovation and discovery among OSUCCC – James researchers by giving them the seed money they need for developing their promising research projects enough to make them competitive for NCI grants.

“This is especially important at a time when external funding is increasingly difficult to obtain,” Shields says. “IRP awards give our scientists the financial boost they need to pursue projects that might not otherwise get off the ground.”

IRP funding comes from several sources, including: directed and non-directed donor funds; the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research; the Tressel Family Fund for Cancer Prevention Research; the Cancer Center Support Grant that is competitively renewed every five years by the NCI; and Pelotonia, the annual grassroots bicycle tour that raises millions of dollars for cancer research at the OSUCCC – James.

Drawing from these resources, the IRP twice annually provides funding opportunities open to OSUCCC – James members in six award categories:

OSUCCC – James administration coordinates the request-for-proposal process and the subsequent internal/external peer review, which involves sending each application to a minimum of three reviewers, including at least one from another university.

Administration also coordinates reviewer comments, organizes review sessions, records minutes, tabulates scores and produces a list of recommended awardees for review by Jacob and the OSUCCC – James associate directors, who collectively send their recommendations to the OSUCCC – James Executive Committee for final approval.

Only scientifically meritorious applications that meet the criteria for quality and success are funded. Funding criteria include the likelihood that the project will receive future NCI funding and that the work will involve collaboration among investigators of different disciplines. Projects also are judged on innovation, potential impact on cancer treatment, budget considerations, and contribution to the OSUCCC – James mission. All applications must be cancer-focused.

Applicants who are not funded in a particular cycle may submit a revised application just one time in a later cycle (except for those seeking bridge funding). Resubmissions must contain previous reviewer comments and show how they have been addressed. Applicants in each funding cycle who have received prior IRP funding must show that they have completed or made significant progress for earlier awards in terms of external grant submissions and publications in scientific journals. Poor progress on earlier awards may affect funding decisions.

The Administration finance team manages the funding awards and also receives and catalogs progress reports. Jacob reviews the progress reports and evaluates the work for continued funding.

IRP Funding Categories:

Team Science Awards (PeloTS)

Drawing from both Pelotonia and donor revenue, this mechanism funds the science and administrative support needed to establish a large multi-investigator and multi-project programmatic grant application to the NCI within two years.

Because these future NCI applications, which are typically for grants of more than $1 million (e.g., P01s, SPOREs, etc.) require the integration of many specialties into cancer and biomedical research teams, PeloTS applications must include at least three “team” investigators and projects supporting an overall scientific theme. At least one of the funded investigators for each of the three teams, plus the overall principal investigator(s), must have a strong track record of peer-reviewed funding (active R01 grant or equivalent). The scientific plans for each team also must describe how the IRP funds will provide study data that is critical to the future NCI application.

Funds may be requested for up to two years with an annual budget of up to $100,000. No indirect costs are allowed. The PI and at least one of the two team leaders for each team must be an OSUCCC – James cancer center member. The budget must include funds for an external advisory board ($2,000 per project) whose services must be used.

Idea Awards

These grants, which draw from Pelotonia, Spielman Fund and donor monies, provide early funding support for high-risk, high-payoff research for which external grants are very hard to obtain. Idea award applications must include at least two PIs from different scientific disciplines.

“Quantum leaps in science are frequently made by thinking ‘outside the box’ with little or no preliminary data,” Shields says. “These awards provide seed funding for ideas that can lead to critical preliminary data, new collaborations and discoveries that can result in breakthroughs in cancer treatment and prevention strategies, as well as NCI grants.

The PIs need not be OSUCCC – James cancer center members, but their applications must have a clear cancer focus and bridge the areas of population, basic and clinical sciences. Funds may be requested for up to two years with an annual budget of up to $50,000. No indirect costs are allowed. Applicants also must submit a timeline showing when they will apply for a multiple-PI NCI “R” level grant.

Community Partnership Awards

This category, involving both Pelotonia and donor funding, supports investigators who partner with a community entity to conduct a cancer-focused study that will lead to a peer-reviewed grant application to the NCI.

Community partners may include organizations such as local American Cancer Society units and community cancer coalitions, researchers involved in community-based research at other universities, and clinics that are not part of OSUCCC – James clinical entities (e.g., non-cancer clinics, community health centers, regional hospitals, etc.).

“The goal of these grants is to allow the community to be part of the research project,” Shields says, noting that Ohio State researchers in any area of scientific investigation may apply as long as the project is hypothesis-driven and focused on cancer research. The researchers need not be OSUCCC – James cancer center members.

Applicants may request funds for up to two years with an annual budget of up to $75,000 with no indirect costs. They also must submit a timeline showing when they will apply for an NCI “R” level grant.

Clinical Trial Awards (Protocol-Specific Research Support)

Clinical trials not only help develop new ways to prevent and treat cancer, but they also give participating patients access to some of the most advanced treatments available anywhere. Awards in this category, drawn from Pelotonia and/or Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) funding, support such studies.

“Our goal with these awards is to provide seed funding for investigator-initiated clinical trials that support novel concepts in cancer prevention and treatment,” Shields says, adding that the trials must be phase I or pilot studies that are not supported by industry (other than for drug supply) and that are associated with one of the five OSUCCC – James research programs. “Preference is given to trials that translate Ohio State basic science into the clinics.

Applicants may request funding for up to two years with an annual budget not to exceed $75,000 with no indirect costs. Funds may be sought for correlative science or for protocol-specific research (e.g., Clinical Trials Office support). Applicants also must include a timeline for when they will submit an NCI “R” level grant. Only projects ready to start at the time of the award will be funded. Applicants need not be OSUCCC – James cancer center members.

Bridge Funding

These funds are available to assist researchers with competitive renewal applications at the level of an NCI R01 grant or equivalent that were not funded on their first submission. IRP Bridge Funding also is available for competitive renewals for grants whose initial funding has expired.

The revised grant application or renewal must be resubmitted within a year of receiving the Bridge Funding. Funds may be requested for one year with a maximum budget of $50,000 that includes no indirect costs or PI salary support.

The Bridge Funding application must also include a timeline showing when an NCI “R” level grant will be (re)submitted. In addition, the PI must submit a midyear progress report before gaining remaining funds for the second half of the year.

Junior Investigator Awards

This award is designed to support the research of junior faculty with mentored career development plans that will lead to a cancer related grant, preferably an NCI R01 award. New Investigator is defined as a research or tenure track scientist who meets the NIH criteria as a new investigator. It is primarily meant to support exceptionally talented new investigators that have not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award (see link for full details). The criteria for this category are similar to that for Idea Awards, and are funded at the same level. In addition, the following items should be included to support the career development of the applicant.

  • A well-defined career development plan that must be specifically tailored to meet the needs of the candidate and the ultimate goals of attaining independence as a funded investigator
  • A background statement about the applicant, scientific vision for an independent research position, resources and space available to the applicant’s career development activities (coursework including grant writing, scientific meetings, workshops, etc.).
  • The applicant must select at least one mentor (preferably two mentors with complimentary research expertise), and will work together to develop a research program that will lead to a successful R01 or similar award in the cancer field. The selected mentor(s) must have a track record of funded research relevant to the selected research topic, and adequate experience as a mentor.
  • A strong letter of support from the mentor(s), co-signed by the department chair, stating the commitment to mentoring and how this will happen, affirmation that the applicant will work independently on the project and working toward an independent career, and availability of space and other resources.
  • Brief description of the plan for evaluation of his/her progress in the proposed research goals and how this will facilitate the potential transition to an independent research program.

For more details about the OSUCCC – James IRP and its award categories, contact Chris Scarcello at Christine.scarcello@osumc.edu.

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