Skip to main content

NCCIH Research Blog

High-Risk, High-Reward Program Offers Unique Opportunities

August 28, 2019

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Application deadlines are coming up in the next few weeks to apply for several of NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research (HRHR) funding opportunities. If you aren’t familiar with these exceptional grants, let me tell you a bit about them and NCCIH’s participation.

The HRHR program catalyzes scientific discovery by supporting compelling, high-risk research proposals that are cross-cutting and have transformative potential but might not fare well in the traditional peer-review process. Applicants are encouraged to “think outside the box” and propose ideas in any topic area relevant to the NIH mission. Funding for the awards comes from the NIH Common Fund and other NIH Office of the Director appropriations, such as to NIH institutes and centers, including NCCIH.

There are four types of funding opportunities that are part of the HRHR program:

  • The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award enables investigators at all career levels to pursue new research directions and develop groundbreaking, high-impact approaches to a broad topic area.
  • The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award supports especially innovative research from early-career investigators who are within 10 years of their final degree or clinical residency and have not yet received a research project grant or equivalent NIH grant.
  • The NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.
  • The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award is for exceptional junior scientists who have recently received their doctoral degree or completed their medical residency, so that they may skip postdoctoral training and move into independent research positions.

I have been a longtime member of the trans-NIH committee for these programs. At NCCIH we have been fortunate to have awardees in each category. The program has been a great way for NCCIH to bring outstanding investigators to our portfolio and leverage some Common Fund resources. The awardees study areas highly relevant to the NCCIH mission, and the Center also engages with them in other ways such as inviting them to lecture on the NIH campus or speak at workshops.

At our national advisory council meeting in June, two grantees who received HRHR grants presented their research and discussed the impact of receiving these unique awards:

  • Alia Crum, Ph.D., Stanford University, a New Innovator awardee, is studying the role of people’s mindsets in shaping their health and well-being. (View her archived talk.)
  • Peter Strick, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, recipient of a Transformative Research Award, is elucidating the neural basis of the brain-and-body connection—work that has implications for the way we view and treat “functional” or “psychosomatic” disorders. (View his archived talk.)

We invite you to learn more about the HRHR program awards and help NCCIH get the word out about them.

More Information
View HRHR funding opportunity announcements
View HRHR funded projects


Comments are now closed for this post.