Frequently Asked Questions: PAR-19-128 Biomedical Research Facilities (C06)

Frequently Asked Questions: PAR-19-128 Biomedical Research Facilities (C06)

These FAQs provide an overview of the program and its requirements. We always encourage applicants to consult the text of the FOA when preparing an application and reach out to the program contacts with any questions.
 

ELIGIBILITY

  1. What institutions are eligible to submit applications in response to this FOA?
    Domestic public or private nonprofit institutions of higher education and nonprofits other than institutions of higher education are eligible.

    Hispanic-serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) are encouraged to apply.
     
  2. Are there any special budget considerations described in the FOA?
    Yes, NIH intends to commit 25% of the available budget to support meritorious projects from Institutions of Emerging Excellence (IEEs).
     
  3. What are Institutions of Emerging Excellence (IEEs)?
    Typically, IEEs receive low levels of NIH funding to support basic, clinical, and translational research. Often, IEEs are in geographical areas with deficits in research resources. Likewise, IEEs often serve individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. IEEs play a special role in advancing biomedical research by leveraging their research capabilities to address problems of special relevance or unmet health needs. For the full description of the characteristics of IEEs, consult USC 42 Section 283k and USC 42 Section 293.
     
  4. Is this funding opportunity limited to only research-intensive institutions and Institutions of Emerging Excellence?
    No. All domestic institutions of higher education (state-controlled and private nonprofit) and nonprofits other than institutions of higher education are eligible.
     
  5. Is the construction of animal facilities allowable in this program?
    Yes. The construction of animal facilities is allowable under this funding announcement.
     
  6. Who is eligible to be the Principal Investigator (PI) on the application?
    The PI should hold appropriate stature within the institutional administration structure and be able to oversee the various facets of the entire project. The PI should also demonstrate his/her leadership skills to recruit and guide expert Key Personnel with complementary scientific and technical skills to successfully plan, design, and carry out the construction project. The PI does not need to be NIH-funded at the time of application submission.
     
  7. Who are Key Personnel?
    Key Personnel should include an individual with engineering /architectural expertise who will communicate with investigators / facility users about the research-driven infrastructure needs and who will work with an outside engineering firm designing the facility. In addition, depending on the scope of the project, Key Personnel may include subject matter experts on specialized research infrastructure needs for their research; for example, a veterinarian may offer useful expertise if an animal facility is proposed, or a drug development and compounding expert may be relevant if a pharmacy facility to support human clinical trials is proposed.
     

PROJECTS

  1. Are new construction projects allowed under the FOA?
    Yes. The FOA offers support to modernize and improve existing research facilities (e.g., laboratory space, core, or animal facilities), or to construct new biomedical research space and furnish it with necessary fixed equipment to ensure the facilities are operational. Construction of unfinished shell space is not allowed.
     
  2. What types of projects are suitable for the FOA?
    Any project must be justified by needs of a broad research community, locally at the applicant institution or regionally. When completed, any project should offer long-term benefits by providing a modern research environment, accessible on a shared basis.

    Inappropriate requests are for
    • regular maintenance, replacement of aging or failing equipment, and other routine work;
    • facilities for billable medical care, office space, or classrooms;
    • upgrades of a space serving a single investigator.
    Inappropriate requests will be not be considered for funding.
     
  3. What are examples of suitable projects?

    A successful project will create a space serving multiple researchers from the applicant institution or neighboring institutions. Examples include construction of space housing a new core facility or a project consolidating core facilities to support an array of services. Likewise, remodeling of laboratory space serving college- or department-wide to support specialized workflows and environments (e.g., an animal surgical suite, a gnotobiotic barrier facility, space supporting biobehavioral studies linking observations, imaging, and molecular characterization) is another relevant example.

  4. Is a project to remodel two core facilities located in two separate buildings acceptable?
    No. Any project should be consolidated; for example, located in the same building.

  5. Does this mechanism need a particular research focus or another identifiable emphasis to be competitive?
    Projects that serve the institutional-wide biomedical research community are allowed. It is expected that every project will strengthen biomedical research programs, by bringing novel capacities to research infrastructure.
     
  6. Is it allowable to request funding for shell-space fit out of a specialized research laboratory that is part of a larger fit out project already underway?
    Yes. The proposed project must be clearly marked and distinguished from the larger non-application part of the overall plan.
     

BUDGET

  1. Are there budget considerations that apply?
    The budget should reflect the scope of the construction project and must be commensurate with institutional needs to upgrade biomedical research infrastructure.

    Awards will be issued in the range from $3 million to $8 million. Applications requesting projects with a budget of less than $3 million will not be considered. 

  2. Is cost sharing required?
    Cost sharing is not required or expected. If a proposed project is larger than the maximum award of $8 million, an institution may contribute non-federal funds towards the project. Contributing institutional funds does not make any request more meritorious.
     
  3. What is fixed equipment?
    Fixed equipment are assets that are attached and integral to the building’s structure and function. Building services equipment or systems, such as heating, ventilation, air-conditioning (HVAC), elevators, electrical plumbing, and water sprinkler systems are examples of fixed equipment. Also, equipment permanently attached to such building services or systems, necessary to enable technical functions, are generally allowable as fixed equipment. Examples of such fixed equipment include fume hoods, aquaculture system (including plumbing, filtration, pumps, and aquarium racks), walk-in cold-rooms, and cage/rack washers. However, plugging movable equipment into an electrical receptacle of a building does not confer on it a fixed equipment status. For example, freezers and refrigerators (typically on wheels) are not fixed equipment. Scientific instruments are not allowable within construction awards.
     
  4. Are costs related to bringing research facilities up to Federal regulatory requirements and State Codes (e.g., American Disability Act (ADA)) allowable?
    Yes. The proposed construction project must be fully functional and operational at the completion of construction and occupancy.
     
  5. Is it possible to request funds to establish/renovate a subset of cores from a larger multi-core integrated imaging facility?
    Yes. Funds may be requested for select space within a larger facility to be renovated.
     
  6.  Can soft costs be paid for using these funds?
    No. Only direct costs for the construction project are allowed. Facilities and Administration (F&A) cost are not allowed.
     

APPLICATIONS

  1. What is the page limit?

    The narrative page limit is 12 pages. This includes a one-page Summary (in lieu of Specific Aims). The remaining 11 pages should justify and describe the project. Additional line drawings and attachments which are required do not count towards this 12-page limit.

  2. What information is required to be included in the application narrative?
    The narrative should explain why biomedical investigators at the applicant institution needs the proposed facility/laboratory space and how the applicant institution will use it to advance their research.  Research needs should drive the proposed engineering solution and the application. Hence, the narrative should include a description of the technical design justifying the proposed engineering solutions and how they will meet the research needs.
     
  3. How is the research need justified?
    Research-intensive institutions should link the proposed construction projects to currently received NIH funded research awards and document institutional commitment for supporting research in these areas of science. There is no requirement of having secured NIH research funding for submitting an application to this FOA. IEEs should detail long-term institutional strategic plans for strengthening biomedical research programs and for support of identified areas of special need. Available expertise and projected growth should also be outlined.
     
  4. Are there specific required attachments?

    Yes. Required attachments include: the line drawings, tables with room dimensions and requested fixed equipment, project timeline, vendor quotes, an institutional support letter from a high-ranking institutional official, and a certification of Title to the Site - check the FOA for the complete list of required attachments. 

  5. Do the line drawings count towards the page limit?

    No. The line drawings do not count towards the page limit, but do not include additional text on the drawings to circumvent the limit. Line drawings are not “blueprints”; each drawing must fit on an 8.5”x11” sheet of paper.

  6. How does an applicant answer question # 16 on the Application for Federal Assistance, SF 424 (R&R) Cover page 2: “Is Application Subject to Review by State Executive Order 12372 Process?”
    If a state does not have a Single Point of Contact (SPOC), select NO to question # 16, box “Program is not covered by E.O. 12372.”
     
  7. Must applications include a Bibliography and References Cited section, a Facilities and Other Resources section, and an Equipment section?
    No.
     

TECHNICAL DESIGN

  1. Are there design requirements?
    The project design should follow federal, state, and local standards and codes for biomedical research facilities so that upon the completion of this project, the occupancy permit can be secured, and the facility can serve its research purpose. The NIH Design Requirements Manual (DRM) is a useful document that provides design guidelines for NIH-funded construction projects.
     
  2. What technologies and design approaches are encouraged?
    The use of modern engineering solutions and technologies is encouraged to make the constructed space compatible with the infrastructure needs of the state-of-the art research projects. Especially encouraged are the applications of green technologies offering efficient energy use, the reduction of waste, and the elimination of hazardous substances. Applicants are invited to follow sustainable design principles, leaving a minimal imprint on the environment.
     
  3. How are line drawings prepared for the application?
    The required line drawings which are part of the application, are not “blueprints” or complete design documents (compare APPLICATIONS Question 5). Nevertheless, the drawings should be of professional-level quality (e.g., to standards used by engineers or architects), to clearly indicate dimensions and functions of the areas affected by the project. The drawings should include details such as locations of equipment, safety clearances, egress routes, or changes/additions to existing mechanical and electrical systems. Do not add additional narrative on the drawing to circumvent the 12-page limit for the project narrative.
     
  4. Are requests for equipment allowed?
    Only fixed infrastructure equipment is allowed. Examples of such equipment include: fume hoods, surgical lights and procedure tables, ventilated racks, HVAC systems, water purification systems and so forth. Scientific instruments (e.g., mass spectrometers, microscopes, biomedical imagers) are not allowed under this FOA (compare BUDGET Question 3).
     

POST-SUBMISSION

  1. How will my application be reviewed?
    Applications will be reviewed for scientific merit by a study section whose membership will include PIs’ peers (researchers/administrators) and engineers/architects with expertise in the design of biomedical facilities. Merits of each application will be judged based on the review criteria listed in the FOA:
    • Scientific Merit and Organization of the Total Program and Its Component Parts to be Carried Out in the Facility;
    • Administrative and Leadership Capabilities of the Applicant’s Officers and Staff;
    • Administrative and Leadership Capabilities of the Applicant’s Officers and Staff;
    • Anticipated Effect of the Project on Other Relevant Research Programs and Facilities in the Geographic Area and Nationwide;
    • Need for the Project or Additional Space; 
    • Project Design.
    We encourage potential applicants to go over the description of these criteria in the FOA and to be sure to include in the application all relevant information upon which the application will be peer-reviewed.

    Following review by a study section, the applications will undergo a second level of review by the Council of Councils (CoC). The CoC is composed of both scientific and public representatives chosen for their expertise, interest, or activity in matters related to health and disease. The CoC will assess program priorities.
     
  2. How will my application be selected for funding?
    Only applications that are favorably recommended by both the study section and the Council of Council may be recommended for funding. Funding decisions are based on the outcome of peer review, relevance to the program priorities, portfolio balance, and budgetary considerations, among other factors as described in the FOA
     
  3. If my application is selected for funding, can I begin the project right away?
    The terms of the Notice of Award will state that only funds for the design of the construction project will be available immediately following the issuance of an award. The non-design funds are restricted until NIH approves the final construction design documents.
     
  4. Is the timeline for the design document review and disbursement of construction funds fixed or might it be accelerated by early completion of the design phase?
    For awarded projects, design documents may be submitted to the NIH for technical review immediately following the issuance of the Notice of Award. Generally, there are three design document submissions. It is possible to submit a combination of schematic and design development documents in the first submission (about 60% completions) or 95 to 100% completed construction documents.
     

OTHER

  1. Will this program be re-issued next year?
    Fund for NIH extramural construction requires a specific Congressional appropriation for construction.  When funds are available, a funding opportunity announcement will be published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.