News Release

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NIH initiates pilot grant program for innovative neurological research

Pilot award strategy designed to enhance funding stability to researchers.

“These grants are aimed at enabling them to focus their creativity and time on performing groundbreaking research.”

Dr. Robert Finkelstein, Ph.D., Director, Division of Extramural Activities, NINDS

The first 30 recipients of the new R35 Research Program Award (RPA), a pilot program designed to encourage creative research by enhancing funding stability, have been announced by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health. NINDS-supported investigators who secure an RPA will have their research funded for a period of five years, with the potential to have that funding extended for up to an additional three years. This funding initiative was developed to provide support for a grantee’s overall research program, not just individual projects. 

“NINDS created this pilot program to improve the value of the research it funds by enabling proven investigators to pursue long-range, innovative research instead of continually writing and submitting grant applications,” said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., the NINDS director.

Traditionally, the R01 Research Project Grant has been the primary source of NIH funding for laboratories. However, R01 awards provide support for up to five years for a specific set of experiments, and multiple R01s are often necessary to fund a laboratory’s body of work. The RPA, which uses the R35 award mechanism differs in that it enhances funding stability by providing longer, consolidated support for a grantee’s overall research program, rather than for individual projects.

The RPA will support the entirety of an investigator’s program of NINDS mission-related research. The grantee’s current NINDS funding will be consolidated into the RPA and extended over a longer period. During the fifth year of the award, progress will be reviewed to ensure that the research program is staying on course. NINDS anticipates that most RPA awardees will be given the option to continue receiving funding for three additional years.

Applications for the R35 RPA were reviewed according to NIH peer review standards, which include an assessment of investigators’ track records and the significance and relevance of their proposed research programs. The 30 awardees include principal investigators at a variety of career stages and a range of topics that include the use of models such as fruit flies and yeast to better understand neurodegenerative disease; how the human brain forms and grows during development; the molecular and cellular changes that give rise to memory; whole-genome studies to determine how to promote neural repair; mechanisms of pain; and diseases of the brain.  

“Our goal with the R35 Research Program Award is to fund the research of both well-established investigators who already have multiple grants, as well as earlier stage researchers with single R01s and a track record of significant impact in their field of study,” said Dr. Robert Finkelstein, Ph.D., director of the Division of Extramural Activities, NINDS, “These grants are aimed at enabling them to focus their creativity and time on performing groundbreaking research.”

The first 30 recipients of the NINDS R35 Research Program Award are:

Katerina Akassoglou, Ph.D.
J. David Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco
Neurovascular interactions: mechanisms, imaging, therapeutic potential

Allan I. Basbaum, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
From the spinal cord to the brain: Neurology of the pain and itch neurons

Greg J. Bashaw, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Molecular mechanisms of axon guidance receptor regulation and signaling

Nancy M. Bonini, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Molecular genetic insight into neurodegenerative disease from drosophila

Manuel A. Castro-Alamancos, Ph.D.
Drexel University, Philadelphia
Sensory pathways for stimulus detection during behavior

Edwin R. Chapman, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Structure and dynamics of exocytotic fusion pores

Robert B. Darnell, M.D., Ph.D.
Rockefeller University, New York City
Combining new molecular and informatic strategies to find hidden ways to treat brain disease

Graeme W. Davis, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Homeostatic stabilization of neural function in health and disease

Ronald L. Davis, Ph.D.
Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, Florida
Biology of memory

Donna M. Ferriero, M.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Precision therapy for neonatal brain injury

David D. Ginty, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School, Boston
Elucidating cutaneous mechanosensory circuits, from development to disease

Aaron D. Gitler, Ph.D.
Stanford University, Palo Alto, California
Innovating yeast and human genetics approaches to define mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease

David H. Gutmann, M.D., Ph.D.
Washington University, St. Louis
Defining the mechanistic basis for Neurofibromatosis-1 nervous system disease heterogeneity

Yuh-Nung Jan, Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Dendrite morphogenesis, function and regeneration

David Kleinfeld, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego
Resilient versus fragile aspects of blood flow in the mammalian brain

Arnold Kriegstein, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California, San Francisco
Development and expansion of the human cerebral cortex

Seok-Yong Lee, Ph.D.
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Structure, function, and pharmacology of neuronal membrane transport proteins

Eve E. Marder, Ph.D.
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts
Neuromodulation and robustness of neurons and networks

David A. McCormick, Ph.D.
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Cortical dynamics and neural/behavioral performance

Guo-Li Ming, M.D., Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
Functional roles of genetic risk factors for brain disorders in neurogenesis and neurodevelopment

Leonard Petrucelli, Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida
Expanding insights into FTD disease mechanisms

Rosa Rademakers, Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida
Genetic discovery and pathobiology of frontotemporal lobar degeneration and related TDP-43 proteinopathies

Wade G. Regehr, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School, Boston
Mechanisms and Functions of Synapses and Circuits

Jose Rizo-Rey, Ph.D.
UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
Mechanisms of neurotransmitter release and its regulation

Stephen M. Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Genome-wide discovery and translational research for neural repair

J. Paul Taylor, M.D., Ph.D.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
Dynamic RNA-protein assemblies and neurological disease

Sally Temple, Ph.D.
Regenerative Research Foundation, Rensselaer, New York
Defining characteristics of cortical progenitor cells over time in mouse and human

Bruce D. Trapp, Ph.D.
Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute
Pathogenesis of neurological disability in primary diseases of myelin

Charles J. Wilson, Ph.D.
University of Texas, San Antonio
Oscillations and resonance in basal ganglia circuits

Paul F. Worley, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
De novo synthesis and memory

NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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