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Research Funding Priorities
Note: Research funding priorities are subject to change in response to new scientific opportunities or public health needs.
On this page:
- Mechanisms of Action
- Exploratory Clinical Studies and Phase I and II Clinical Trials
- Areas of Special Interest
- Areas Subject to a Short "Pause" in New Funding
- Early Stage and New Investigators
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) regularly examines and redefines its research priorities. Priorities are set to fill gaps in the research portfolio, capitalize on emerging opportunities, and leverage resources. Using a formal semi-annual planning process, NCCAM considers the existing research portfolio, NCCAM's 5-year strategic plan, plans of other NIH institutes and centers, recommendations of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, as well as input from expert panels and other stakeholders to set its research priorities.
Mechanisms of Action
The research portfolio will have an increased emphasis on studies of the mechanisms underlying complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches. The reasons for this emphasis are:
- Elucidating the underlying mechanisms of action of CAM therapies will facilitate their integration into conventional medical care.
- Mechanistic studies of CAM therapies will improve the identification of key study endpoints and thus strengthen the design of CAM clinical trials.
Exploratory Clinical Studies and Phase I and II Clinical Trials
The research portfolio will have an increased emphasis on exploratory, Phase I and Phase II studies of CAM. The objectives of this focus are to:
- Determine active ingredients, pharmacology, bioavailability, and optimal dosing.
- Obtain preliminary data on safety and efficacy.
- Conduct exploratory clinical studies (e.g., case control, observational, qualitative and experimental studies) to elucidate mechanisms and test models.
The outcomes of these studies will form the basis for designing larger trials with an enhanced ability to detect a meaningful positive effect, if any, of the CAM modality under study.
Areas of Special Interest
Research areas currently of special interest are listed below. NCCAM continues to accept applications in areas not listed. All investigators are urged to discuss potential applications with the relevant NCCAM Program Officer.
- Anxiety and depression--basic and preclinical research on CAM approaches
- Cardiovascular diseases--preclinical and early phase clinical studies of CAM approaches to secondary prevention and management of hypertension, atherosclerosis, and congestive heart failure
- Ethnomedicine--identification, description, and study of potentially valuable, vanishing traditional or indigenous health care practices in geographic areas where there is little preservation
- Immune modulation/enhancement--basic and preclinical studies of CAM approaches that may enhance or inhibit immune responses, including inflammation
- Inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome--CAM approaches to these conditions
- Insomnia--CAM approaches to primary and secondary insomnia
- Liver--CAM approaches to liver diseases
- Obesity/metabolic syndrome--CAM modalities, particularly mind-body treatments, as adjuvant therapies, especially with respect to the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
- Respiratory diseases--CAM approaches to prevention and treatment of infectious respiratory diseases
NCCAM continues to be highly interested in research on minority and gender health and on health disparities.
Areas Subject to a Short "Pause" in New Funding
NCCAM is already investing substantial resources in the following areas of research. We will continue to fund novel and significant research on these topics. However, until results of the currently funded studies are available, many applications in these areas are likely to be considered of relatively lower program priority. Investigators are strongly urged to contact the relevant NCCAM Program Officer before submitting an application in any of the following areas:
- Phase III clinical trials
- Clinical trials of Ginkgo biloba for neurodegenerative diseases
- Clinical studies of placebo
- Clinical trials of saw palmetto and African plum (Pygeum) for benign prostate hypertrophy
- Basic and clinical trials of soy protein, including soy isolates
- Clinical trials of massage therapy for low back pain
- Clinical efficacy or effectiveness studies of low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss
- Clinical studies of silymarin for chronic liver diseases
- Clinical trials of acupuncture for osteoarthritis of the knee
NCCAM is strongly committed to assisting new and early stage investigators in establishing a research career. Early stage investigators are those within 10 years of completing their terminal research degree, or their medical residency, or its equivalent. New investigators are those who have yet to compete successfully for a substantial (e.g., R01) NIH research grant. Each Advisory Council round, based on available funds, NCCAM: 1) will consider early stage or new investigator status as one of the criteria for designating grant applications as being of high program priority and 2) may make additional R01 grant awards to new and early stage investigators with percentiles or scores beyond the formal payline.