Frequently Asked Questions about the NIBIB R21 Trailblazer

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Who is eligible to apply for the R21 Trailblazer?

Independent researchers who are New Investigators (NI) according to the NIH definition:

(Note: an Early Stage Investigator (ESI) is a new investigator within 10 years of their terminal degree, so ESIs are also eligible for this award. ESI is a subset of NI) If this is a multiple-PD/PI model proposal, all multiple-PD/PIs must fit this definition. Key personnel need not meet the criteria for NI.

When is NI eligibility status for this FOA determined in the application cycle?

Eligibility to receive the award is determined at the time of award. Applicants who receive a disqualifying award prior to issuance of the Notice of Award are not eligible to receive the award. An investigator will retain their NI status if they receive any of the smaller research grants, training, infrastructure, and career awards that appear on this list smaller grants.

Can someone in a postdoctoral position apply as the PD/PI? Would this be considered independent researcher?

The R21 Trailblazer FOA (Funding Opportunity Announcement) targets investigators at the early stage of their independent research careers, who have not received prior NIH funding. The PD/PI should be an independent early stage investigator. Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) are invited to work with their organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support. If the potential PD/PI is currently in a postdoctoral fellow position, there should be a clear indication that a transition away from the mentor is being initiated and that the postdoctoral fellow will be a fully independent researcher at the time of the R21’s award. A commitment letter from the institution certifying this should be included in the letter of support section of the application.

Application Mechanism and Mission Relevance

Can I submit more than one R21 Trailblazer application in the same cycle if the proposed projects are different?

The NIBIB R21 Trailblazer FOA (PAR-20-084) specifies that only one NIBIB Trailblazer Award for New and Early Stage Investigator application may be submitted by a PD/PI per due date. Applicants will be considered ineligible for this funding opportunity if they have submitted an R01, R15 or any other R21 application, with NIBIB as the primary IC, for the same review cycle as their NIBIB Trailblazer Award application.

How do I know if my R21 Trailblazer application fits the NIBIB mission?

We encourage applicants to contact an appropriate Program Official as soon as possible. Applicants will be asked to supply a draft of their Specific Aims page to facilitate the discussion. Information is available at:


Research Funding

Preliminary Data

Are preliminary data required, and if so, how much preliminary data are allowed for an R21 application?

For the NIBIB Trailblazer Award for New and Early Stage Investigators (PAR-20-084), preliminary data are not required, expected, or encouraged.  However, if necessary, minimal preliminary data are allowed in support of the feasibility of the research approach.  Minimal preliminary data are defined as material which the applicant has independently produced and not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal. For example, unpublished data or data presented in an abstract for a scientific meeting or used in an oral or poster presentation are acceptable.  Such evidence, if provided, should only be used to bolster and help establish the foundational premise for the Trailblazer application. All preliminary data should be clearly marked and limited to one-half page which may include one figure. Applications including preliminary data more than one-half page or more than one figure, will be considered noncompliant with the FOA instructions.

Funding Process

What is the current payline for the R21 grants?

R21 grants no longer uses an automatic payline to determine fundable grants. NIBIB has moved to a selective funding process for R21 applications NOT-EB-16-009.  This means you cannot infer funding based on previous year's funding levels.


Under the R21 Trailblazer PAR PAR-20-084, is the $200,000 limit in any single year a direct cost or total cost cap?

The $200,000 limit per year is a direct cost cap.

Under the R21 Trailblazer PAR-20-084, is a Modular Budget Form required?

As outlined in the SF424 (R&R) General Instructions modular budgets are required for applications requesting less than $250,000 in direct costs and are therefore required for the R21 Trailblazer PAR-20-084.

Are subaward/consortium indirect or facilities and administrative (F&A) costs included in direct cost limits?

Subaward/consortium indirect or F&A Costs are not included in the PAR’s direct cost limit. This policy is found in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-04-040 which was later expanded in NIH Guide Notice NOT NOT-OD-05-004.