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Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI) National Institutes of Health  •  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

High-Risk Research


The past two decades have brought tremendous scientific advances that can greatly benefit medical research. While this unprecedented period of progress in the biological, behavioral, clinical, social, physical, chemical, engineering, and mathematical sciences will continue into the foreseeable future, human health and well-being would benefit from accelerating the current pace of discovery. One way to achieve this goal is to support scientists of exceptional creativity who propose highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research. By bringing their unique perspectives and abilities to bear on key research questions, these visionary scientists may develop seminal theories or technologies that will propel fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health.

NIH has traditionally supported research projects, not individual investigators. However, complementary means might be necessary to identify scientists with ideas that have the potential for high impact, but that may be too novel, span too diverse a range of disciplines, or be at a stage too early to fare well in the traditional peer review process.

To address this, the NIH Roadmap has created a new funding program, the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, to encourage creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas about biomedical research. Given the unique nature of this award, candidates will undergo a rigorous evaluation process to identify those investigators with the highest likelihood of pursuing a pioneering approach to a significant biomedical problem. Awardees will have the intellectual freedom to pursue their ideas and follow them in expected or even unexpected directions.

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This page last reviewed: October 24, 2008