Session Topic: Science Management Forum — Leveraging and Strategic Funding Collaborations


Extramural collaborative funding is an important strategy that can be used to maximize NIAMS resources to meet expanding research needs and opportunities. "Collaborative funding" occurs when two or more organizations "share" the funding (co-funding) or when they each provide funding separately to individual or related projects (complementary funding). Collaborative funding can be an effective means of supporting research projects, critical resources, and infrastructure for biomedical and biopsychosocial research, as well as science transfer, health promotion and education, and information dissemination.

The benefits of collaborative funding can outweigh many perceived risks. Especially in a time of budget austerity, collaboration with organizations within and outside the NIH can help NIAMS manage its own research costs, while enhancing its research base, stabilizing its own investment, attracting new investigators to biomedical and behavioral sciences, and potentially stimulating innovative research that may not otherwise be supported. Extramural collaborative funding also offers attractive possibilities for supporting the high costs of interdisciplinary, high throughput technology-based research approaches and the increasing costs of clinical trials.

Collaborative funding could involve other components of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and other federal agencies; private, not-for-profit organizations, such as foundations and professional and patient advocacy groups; and private, for-profit organizations.

As stated on the NIH Public-Private Partnership (PPP) website, collaborative arrangements are primarily driven by a well-defined scientific goal: "Partnerships are science-driven, aim to improve the public health, and are structured to uphold the principles of transparency, fairness, inclusiveness, scientific rigor, and compliance with federal laws and NIH policy." Accordingly, each of the three sessions in the Forum will begin with a discussion of scientific themes, goals, or projects (presented as examples) that will help participants explore the issues relevant to potential or existing collaborations. We will discuss how NIAMS can identify and pursue, through collaborative funding, scientific areas of high priority. In addition, we will explore what strategies could be used to engage potential partners and collaborators in productive interactions, leading to funding of high impact projects.

The purpose of this Forum is to review and explore creative strategies to enhance collaborative funding and development of new partnerships, within NIH and with non-NIH organizations, to advance the mission of NIAMS. In an environment of increasing budget constraints, growing scientific opportunities, and competing public health priorities, it is especially important to focus on leveraging our resources to support innovative and highly relevant scientific projects. We will also address what approaches the Institute may use to increase the competitiveness of NIAMS submissions to central NIH funding opportunities created by the Common Fund (CF) or the NIH Office of the Director (NIH OD).

Important issues when considering collaborative arrangements, in relation to the type of project and collaborative funding model, will be discussed during Sessions 1-3. They include:

  • Organizational culture
  • Concept planning and development
  • Review process
  • Funding decisions
  • Announcement and publicity regarding the award
  • Monitoring progress
  • Accountability
  • Credit
  • Conflict of interest (COI)
  • Evaluation

Since their relevance may differ, depending on the nature of the project and the characteristics of the collaborating organization, the Forum will be presented in three complementary sessions, focused on opportunities and strategies to be considered in interactions with 1) ICs/NIH OD offices/other federal agencies in collaborations and co-funding, 2) not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) and, 3) PPPs with industry. In each session, one or more projects or activities will be featured to illustrate relevant examples, outcomes, and lessons learned. A set of questions is provided for each session to guide the discussion.

At the end of the Forum, participants are expected to:

  • Understand the issues that facilitate and impede establishing effective collaborations and partnerships
  • Identify strategies for the timely identification of scientific areas suited for partnerships and collaborations
  • Learn how the Institute’s culture affects our ability to execute successful collaborations

Session 1. Topics and Strategies for Collaborative Funding with the NIH OD and other NIH ICs

Collaborative funding provides a unique opportunity for leveraging NIAMS resources and for extending our research base. Funding opportunities appropriate for collaborative funding are generated by NIAMS, by other ICs, and by special initiatives of the NIH OD, such as the Common Fund. During this session, we will discuss how we could revise and improve our strategies to identify, select, and submit proposals in a way that maximizes the competitiveness of NIAMS scientific priorities.

The following cases will be presented:

  • Advancing induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology applications for skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle diseases: intramural-extramural collaborations
  • Co-morbidities: Diabetes and cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Questions for Discussion

  1. What are the most promising high priority scientific areas where we need to explore collaborations to accomplish our scientific goals?
  2. Which of these scientific areas are most appropriate for funding/co-funding by the NIH OD and/or CF?
  3. Which of these scientific opportunities are better suited for collaboration with other ICs?
  4. How can we identify areas of common interest with other ICs and leverage these common interests to engage other ICs for collaboration?
  5. What approaches can we use to pioneer new forms of IC/IC collaborations in early stages of project development?

Session 2. Topics and Strategies for Collaborative Funding with Not-for-Profit Organizations (NPOs)

NIAMS and many of the NPOs in the NIAMS Coalition share areas of scientific interest and, in some cases, the research priorities and information dissemination goals of the individual NPO and NIAMS are closely aligned. The Institute has had many productive and successful collaborative interactions and funding agreements with NPOs that have resulted in significant advances in research in particular disease areas.

Many NPOs implement funding programs in areas in which they perceive research may be lagging or where special new opportunities exist. Often, new programs are initiated to provide limited support to novel new research projects in focused disease areas. In some cases, an analysis by the funding entity has found that the program led to significant leveraging, with their funding of "seed" projects leading to the award of larger NIH grants.

For the retreat, staff will review two examples of the transition of investigators and their projects from the NPO seed money to NIH funding. In addition to helping us understand what can be gleaned from such tracking, we will address the following questions:

Case presentation: Funding in RA and lupus

Questions for Discussion
  1. What factors influenced the competitiveness at the NIH funding level of the novel ("seed") projects?
  2. What strategies were effective in developing new research avenues?
  3. What are the lessons learned that can be applicable to other diseases and research funding organizations?
  4. What are the strategies that NIAMS could use to maximize the expansion of research created by funding provided by others?

The second part of this session will focus on current and future projects that might be appropriate for leveraging with NPOs.

Case Presentation: Pre-clinical autoimmunity

Questions for Discussion
  1. What are the current NIAMS projects/initiatives where engagement of the NPOs could make important projects feasible and affordable?
  2. How do we engage the stakeholders?
  3. What are the COI and fairness issues, especially if we are considering single large projects?
  4. Why do NPOs choose not to engage in funding agreements with NIAMS, even in areas of shared scientific interest and priority?

Session 3. Topics and Strategies to Collaborative Funding with Industry

Many factors come into consideration prior to establishing a PPP. In general, a large governing structure, agreed upon by the partners, is put in place to guide the activities of the partnership. This necessitates a more prolonged negotiation between the partners and often requires a more elaborate process for decision-making to ensure that the interests of all are considered. As stated at the NIH PPP website, partnerships can:

  • "Be established directly between the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - as a whole or through one or more Institutes and Centers (ICs) - and one or more outside entities.
  • Be developed via the Foundation for NIH (FNIH). The FNIH is an independent public charitable foundation established by Congress to support the activities of the NIH. The FNIH can be an important ally in building effective partnerships.
  • Involve one or more other charitable foundations. Each partnership is based on agreements between or among the partners regarding the aims and goals of the partnership, roles of the partners, and governance. Other issues such as the management of intellectual property, data access and data sharing, and human subjects concerns require careful consideration and planning. The NIH Manual Chapter 1167 provides further guidance regarding when and how to consider PPPs."

Case Presentations:

  • Biomarkers Consortium
    • Osteoarthritis (OA) Biomarkers
    • RA Biomarkers
  • The Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI): Lessons Learned and the Role of Leadership
Questions for Discussion
  1. What are the most important scientific opportunities that NIAMS could pursue with industry?
  2. How early in the process of exploring an initiative should collaborative funding be sought?
  3. What are the liabilities of potential collaborative arrangements with industry?
  4. When is a PPP (which has an organizational governing body for operations and decision-making, e.g., the OAI) the appropriate framework for a collaborative arrangement between NIAMS and other entities?

Additional Reading Materials