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NIEHS Announces Superfund Multidisciplinary Grants Competition

Opened:November 17, 1998
Letter of Intent by January 29, 1999
Completed Application by May 11, 1999

NIEHS/EPA Superfund Hazardous Substances Basic Research Program (SBRP), is a university-based, multidisciplinary Program linking biomedical research with related engineering, hydrogeologic, and ecologic components to address problems typically found at Superfund hazardous waste sites. The Principal Investigator for an SBRP grant application must be affiliated with an accredited institution of higher education; project leaders or other participants for individual research projects may reside with other public or private organizations, as necessary to conduct portions of the research. The NIEHS will hold Applicant Information Meetings on December 10 and 16 to provide potential applicants the opportunity to learn more about the SBRP and the application process. Prospective applicants should submit a Letter of Intent by January 29, 1999, and must submit a completed application by May 11, 1999. The Anticipated Start Date for funded research is April 1, 2000. The complete Request for Applications ES-99-001 (RFA) may be found in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts for the week ending November 20, 1998, at http://www.nih.gov/grants/guide/index.html. The RFA and supporting information for applicants, including specifics on the Applicant Information Meetings, is on the NIEHS SBRP Web site at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/sbrp/home.htm. Send E-mail inquiries to bennett7@niehs.nih.gov.

The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 mandates that research funded by the SBRP should include development of: methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment; advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effect on human health of hazardous substances; methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances; and basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances. Accordingly, NIEHS is proposing the continuation of a special Program to address these mandates. Grants made under the SBRP will be for coordinated, multiproject, multidisciplinary programs.

In establishing the SBRP, NIEHS chose to create a network of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary teams of researchers to provide a broad perspective on environmental health research. The goal of establishing multidisciplinary programs is to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the complex environmental issues in order to support State, local, and Federal agencies and private organizations and industry in making decisions related to the management of hazardous substances. Assembling researchers from diverse disciplines to focus on a unifying theme provides the opportunity to advance the science in a more effective manner than could be accomplished by single unrelated projects. The NIEHS particularly intends that the SBRP provide a fundamentally sound science base for the "applied" objectives of Superfund programs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Presently, the Program funds 18 grants at 70 universities and institutions encompassing 140 individual research projects and 60 support cores involving more than 850 scientists and technical staff addressing its legislated mandates. Many or all of these programs will be submitting applications for the competitive renewal of their grants. Nonetheless, this competition is open to all institutions meeting the criteria defined in the RFA.

Although the SBRP has provided long-term investments in basic research, it is critical that the research findings be translated into useful applications directed toward attenuation and prevention of adverse effects on human health, ecological health and the environment. This translation of basic research findings can take many forms. For example, community-based prevention and intervention research projects "allow" the community an opportunity to help shape research, in close collaboration with laboratory investigators, that has potential relevance to their community. Similarly, technology transfer provides the opportunity for collaborations between laboratory investigators and government or industry representatives to transfer an innovative remediation strategy from basic research, to incremental scale up, to a demonstration project at a contaminated site.

The NIEHS expects to commit approximately $37,000,000 in FY 2000 to fund 15 to 20 new grants or competitive continuation grants in response to this RFA. An applicant is requested to submit a grant proposal with a project period of five years. Because the nature and scope of the research proposed may vary, it is anticipated that the size of each award will also vary.

Superfund authorization expired in 1994, and since that time the SBRP has been operating under the authority granted by annual appropriations. The FY99 appropriated level for this program is $37 million. The NIEHS is uncertain at this time about the status of reauthorization of this Program, and, therefore, as to future funding levels. Nonetheless, actual amounts will be appropriated each year according to the Federal budget process. Because the funding level of this Program may vary from year to year, actual award levels for approved and funded applications will be based on Program balance and the availability of funds, in addition to the scientific merit considerations of the review process.

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