While we at PharmTech are very proud of our peer-review process for ensuring quality scientific articles, I was a bit humbled to learn of a massive endeavor by the National Institutes of Health to enlist the help of more than 18,000 scientists to help in their peer-review process. To put things in perspective, the process is in response to NIH receiving nearly 20,000 applications for Challenge Grants, a new program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). According to the organization, the number of applications is about equal to the total number of applications it receives in one of its three major review rounds every year. The number of applications and the peer review process is the largest response in NIH history, according to acting NIH director Raynard S. Kington.
The grants will be used to fund 15 broad areas of health science, including translational science, genomics, enhancing clinical trials, and regenerative medicine. According to NIH, applicants will be notified of their status in August.
In the meantime, the biotechnology industry is applauding an NIH announcement last week of two new grant programs, also supported by the AARS act, specifically for small R&D firms. Alan Eisenber, executive vice-president for emerging companies and business development at BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) pointed out in a prepared statement that many emerging biotech companies are struggling to raise the necessary capital to take their innovative research forward and therefore must leave promising work on the shelf and lay off scientists. Both grants were developed to help alleviate this problem. They are: RC3, “Recovery Act Limited Competition: Biomedical Research, Development, and Growth to Spur the Acceleration of New Technologies”; and R43, “Recovery Act Limited Competition: Small Business Catalyst Awards for Accelerating Innovative Research.”
Here’s to the restart of innovation.