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Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate your interest in the Extracellular RNA Communication Program funding opportunities and hope that you and your team will choose to submit an application. This list of frequently asked questions will be updated periodically as new questions from potential applicants are received. For information from a recently held technical webinar, Download slides here.

What is the NIH Common Fund?

The NIH Common Fund, managed by the Office of Strategic Coordination in the Office of the Director, supports cross-cutting trans-NIH programs that require participation by multiple Institutes and Centers. Common Fund programs are intended to be transformative, catalytic, synergistic, cross-cutting, and unique. This program is funded as a short-term, goal-driven strategic investment, with deliverables intended to catalyze research across multiple biomedical research disciplines. More information can be found at

Will the applicant webinar be posted online afterward?

No. However this list of common FAQs will be updated to reflect questions asked during the webinar. Applicants are encouraged to send in additional questions to: or the specific FOA scientific/research contact.

Would you please verify when the NIH application deadline is?

Proposals are due October 23, 2018 at 5 PM local time of applicant’s organization.

When are LOIs due and are they required?

September 23, 2018. A letter of intent is not required but is encouraged. A LOI is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

Are multi-PI applications allowed?


What would be the eligibility rules regarding foreign researchers and institutions?

All funding opportunities except RFA-RM-18-026 accept foreign applicants and foreign components. For additional information please see Section III.1 Eligible Applicants in each FOA.

Can NIH intramural investigators apply to any of the funding announcements?

Yes, intramural PIs are eligible to apply for all funding opportunities except RFA-RM-18-026.

What are “U” grants and how are they different from R01s?

The FOAs use the cooperative agreement funding mechanism. A cooperative agreement supports discrete, specified, circumscribed projects to be performed by investigators in an area representing their specific interest and competencies and is used when substantial NIH programmatic involvement is anticipated.

What is the maximum amount of direct costs available for each application?

  • RFA-RM-18-026: Application direct cost budgets are not limited but need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.
  • RFA-RM-18-027: Application budgets should not exceed $300,000 direct costs per year for the UG3 Phase (FY2019 and FY2020) and $650,000 direct costs per year for the UH3 Phase (FY2021 and FY2022).
  • RFA-RM-18-028: Application budgets should not exceed $300,000 direct costs per year for the UG3 Phase (FY2019 and FY2020) and $650,000 direct costs per year for the UH3 Phase (FY2021 and FY2022).

Do I have to abide by the timeline outlined in the FOA?

Milestones must be completed within the timeframe outlined in the FOA. However, milestones may be completed early.

Can I be a PI on an application for one FOA and also be a PI or multi-PI on an application submitted to another FOA?

These are separate FOAs. An investigator can be PI on one application and a PI or multi-PI on a second separate application.

What are the plans for data and resource sharing for this program?

The Steering Committee along with input from the NIH will discuss and set the guidelines. However, applicants are expect to comply with all existing NIH policies.

Can a reviewer submit a proposal to a particular funding announcement and still participate as a reviewer?

No. Applications will be reviewed by a Special Emphasis Panel for each funding opportunity, and reviewers may not have an application among those being reviewed.

Will the applications submitted to all the FOAs be reviewed in one study section?

No. These are separate FOAs. Separate Special Emphasis Panels will be convened for each FOA.

Can I submit just the UG3 portion to RFA-RM-18-027 or RFA-RM-18-028?

No, only applications for the combined mechanism (UG3/UH3) will be deemed responsive to this FOA.

If my application is fundable, will it be subject to Special Council Review (SCR) if I already have over $1M awarded in direct costs?

No. The exRNA funding announcements (RFAs) will not require SCR. For more information please see NOT-OD-12-140.

Can NIH provide additional guidance on including milestones in the application?

Milestones should be scientifically justified and well defined for each year of the project and be based on the proposed specific aims. Whenever feasible, milestones should provide quantitative benchmarks for comprehensively assessing the annual progress of the project. Milestones must not be simply a restatement of the specific aims. The specific aims describe the research goals of the project. Rather, the milestones should provide the means for assessing the progress made towards each aim and offer a timeline and a “pathway” for the testing of a discovery concept or development of a technology.

How do I know if I am proposing a technology/strategy that is not an incremental advance?

For RFA-RM-18-027 and RFA-RM-18-028, you must justify how your proposed technology/strategy will improve the state of the art by proposing a method that has previously not been possible or will dramatically improve (by at least 5-fold) our current abilities to increased purity, increased speed, or decreased cost.

Questions Generated from the Applicant Informational Webinar.

This page last reviewed on March 14, 2024