Skip to main content

NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5 Clinical Trial Optional)

Posted by on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Announcements .

Eligible candidates interested in being one of VU’s or VUMC’s nominees should contact as soon as possible. Institutional nomination is required.



VUMC may submit two applications to the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award. The award, part of the NIH High-Risk High-Reward Research program, supports exceptional investigators who wish to pursue independent research essentially after completion of their terminal doctoral/research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. For the program to support the best possible researchers and research, applications are sought which reflect the full diversity of the research workforce.


Those wishing to apply for the NIH Director’s Emergency Early Independence Award for SARS-CoV-2-related research must apply in response to the competition titled “NIH Director’s COVID-19 Emergency Early Independence Awards (DP5 Clinical Trial Optional)”


Though most newly graduated doctoral-level researchers would benefit from post-doctoral training, a small number of outstanding junior investigators are capable of launching directly into an independent research career. For those select junior investigators who already have established a record of scientific innovation and research productivity and who have demonstrated unusual scientific vision and maturity, typical post-doctoral training would unnecessarily delay their entry into independent research. The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award also provides an opportunity for institutions to invigorate their research programs by bringing in fresh scientific perspectives of the awardees they host.

By the end of the award period, the Early Independence Award investigator is expected to be competitive for continued funding of his/her research program through other NIH funding activities and for a permanent research-oriented position. See the program announcement for more information


Budget Info: Awards will be for up to $250,000 direct costs per year for 5 years.



  • Applications are welcome in all biomedical research topics that have the potential ultimately to have a substantial impact on human health. In addition to the nominal biomedical sciences, these include, but are not limited to, relevant research topics in the behavioral, social, applied, and formal sciences. The potential for impact on human health may be near term (clinical or translational research) or long term (basic research).
  • Time window for eligibility: The receipt date of the terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training of the PD/PI must be between June 1, 2019 and September 30, 2021. The degree receipt date is that which appears on the official transcript for the degree. The end of post-graduate clinical training includes residency and fellowship periods.
  • At the time of application, the PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow following a previous (not the most recent) doctoral degree for more than twelve months. To be consistent with the updated NIH definition of Early Stage Investigators, eligible clinical training includes clinical residency and clinical fellowship.
  • Research independence at time of application: Individuals are eligible only if they, at the time of application submission, do not have research independence. Eligible individuals must have all the following characteristics: The PD/PI’s current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors; the PD/PI’s research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility); the PD/PI does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of his/her research; the PD/PI, according to institutional policy, cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without special waiver or exemption from the institution.
  • There is no U.S. citizenship requirement for PDs/PIs.


Level of effort: Individuals must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) to the Early Independence Award project in years 1-2 of the project period. In years 3-5, awardees may reduce effort towards the Early Independence Award project but must commit at least 9.6 person-months each year (i.e., 80% effort of a 12-month appointment) to independent research in general.


Any questions about this opportunity or the LSO process may be directed to