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The NIH Common Fund Venture Program

The Common Fund Venture Program is a new area of Common Fund support that provides a framework for development of short-term Common Fund initiatives that embrace scientific risk and are responsive to the shared priorities of NIH Institutes, Centers, and the Office of the Director.

Venture initiatives are Common Fund investments and so must meet Common Fund criteria, as expressed below. However, additional criteria also apply, emphasizing brief, modest investments that can be implemented quickly in response to emerging opportunities. Venture investments should be lightweight and nimble while having a strong potential to accelerate science quickly.

The Venture Program launched in Fiscal Year 2024 with two new initiatives: Oculomics and SysBio.

What makes Venture initiatives special?

  • They are brief, focused investments in a clearly-defined, cross-cutting topic (3 years, non-renewable)
  • They are designed to be simple initiatives with a single funding opportunity
  • They focus on bold projects that embrace scientific risk with the potential for significant scientific impact that outsizes the investment
  • They are milestone driven, with clear, concrete goals focused on a specific outcome, in the form of new knowledge, methods, or technologies
  • They have a modest investment of up to $5M per year

What makes Venture initiatives consistent with the Common Fund?

Common Fund criteria will apply to Venture investments, with accelerated timelines and nimble project management. Venture initiatives will be:

  • Transformative: Projects are expected to have exceptionally high and broadly applicable impact
  • Catalytic, Short-term, and Milestone-driven: Projects will be brief in span (3 years, non-renewable) with clear goals and milestones
  • Synergistic/Enabling: Programs will add value to the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs)
  • Cross-cutting: Programs must be relevant to multiple ICOs
  • Novel/Innovative: A high level of innovation is required for each project

Venture initiatives are not:

  • Pilot programs to prepare for larger Common Fund investments
  • A means to address high-priority projects for individual ICOs
  • Support for exploratory, open-ended research without specific goals and milestones


Ideas for new Venture initiatives are submitted through the ICO Directors to the Office of Strategic Coordination, which oversees the NIH Common Fund, leveraging public input as appropriate. Initiative idea submissions can derive from any areas of biomedical and behavioral research. All proposals are evaluated for responsiveness to the Common Fund and Venture criteria, and considered by the Venture Board, made up of ICO Directors. Promising ideas are recommended by the Board for full development. The NIH Director provides final approval. Updates on the progress of Venture initiatives will be described on their websites. 

News & Announcements

On January 25th, the NIH Council of Councils approved the concept of the NIH Common Fund's Venture Program. Find out more by browsing the presentation slides and program description. Or watch the videocast

Have a question about the Venture Program? Email:


This page last reviewed on April 15, 2024