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NIH Director's Pioneer Award logo.

Program Snapshot

Part of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, the award supports scientists with outstanding records of creativity pursuing new research directions to develop pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical, social science, and behavioral research.

  • Open to all career stages
  • Single PI only
  • No preliminary data required
  • Must be new scientific research direction
  • Minimum of 51% research effort in first 3 years
  • 3 Letters of Reference required
  • $700,000 in direct costs per year for up to 5 years

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (DP1 mechanism), established in 2004, supports highly innovative researchers at any career stage who propose bold research projects with unusually broad scientific impact. To be considered “pioneering,” the proposed research must reflect ideas that are substantially different from those being pursued in the investigator’s research program or elsewhere. No detailed experimental plan or detailed budget is expected, and the major component of the application is a five-page essay describing the project and its innovation and significance, the investigator’s history of being highly innovative, and why the proposed project is suitable for the award. Three letters of reference must also be provided and discuss the applicant’s scientific innovativeness and creativity.

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NIH Director's Pioneer Award

Applications due September 8, 2023

HRHR Research and NIH Director's Awards

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award is part of the Common Fund’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research program, which was created to accelerate the pace of biomedical, behavioral, and social science discoveries by supporting exceptionally creative scientists with highly innovative research. The program seeks to identify scientists with high-impact ideas that may be risky or at a stage too early to fare well in the traditional peer review process. The program encourages creative, outside-the-box thinkers to pursue exciting and innovative ideas in any area of biomedical, behavioral or social science research relevant to the NIH mission. The program houses three additional awards – the NIH Director’s New Innovator AwardNIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, and NIH Director’s Early Independence Award  – and is managed by the Office of the Director in partnership with other component NIH Institutes and Centers.

This page last reviewed on September 14, 2023