Response to Independent Review Suggestions

Suggestions quoted directly from the Independent Review Report.
Two areas were identified which the Independent Panel felt would enhance the success of ANRF’s research program:

  • First, given that the number of funded grants, and the size of the awards, has been stable for a decade, it is evident that the ANRF will need to increase the magnitude and number of grants in the future if it is to retain its strong record of accessibility. Simply put, the need is increasing, and the ANRF will have to expand to meet this need if it is to remain a vibrant contributor to the success of young investigators.
  • Second, a recurring theme of those awardees who achieved partial or no success (although the percentage is small), is that they were awarded grants as postdoctoral fellows or research associates. Awardees that were more likely to be successful were those that received support at the assistant professor level and appeared to have some level of institutional commitment.
Increasing the number and dollar amount of ANRF grant awards

ANRF grant awards are based on two criteria:

  1. 1. The total amount of funding available for grants as determined annually by the Board of Directors.
  2. 2. The amount deemed acceptable to allow the funded scientist and science to move forward as outlined in their project proposal.

The maximum annual funding level of $75,000 has been maintained for six years. The logic behind this amount is that it enabled the investigator to hire a technician/graduate student and purchase the supplies necessary to pursue their cutting-edge idea. This “second set of hands” in the lab allows the scientist’s work to proceed twice as quickly toward meaningful results.

However, inflation in biomedical research costs has increased approximately 7-10% annually. In addition, the reduction in funding by national agencies such as the National Institutes of Health coupled with the threat of further reductions due to sequestration, make research funding even more critical.
The ANRF Board of Directors considered this information along with the following likely consequences that would result if a higher level of funding was provided:

  1. 1. Funded investigators will be able to test and reach their conclusions even more quickly.
  2. 2. The pool of applicants for ANRF grants would increase.
  3. 3. A higher level of funding to develop a lab gets us closer to a cure. In other words, more research dollars increases the likelihood of a breakthrough and success.

Response – At a meeting of the ANRF Board of Directors, the following initiative was passed:
The ANRF will increase its research grant funding level to a maximum of $100,000 per year beginning in 2014-15. ANRF’s goal is to fund 10-12 projects annually at this higher level.

Limiting grants to assistant professor level applicants

ANRF’s stated grant guidelines say that applicants must possess an M.D., Ph.D. and/or equivalent and that preference will be given to senior post-doctoral investigators transitioning to independent investigator status and new assistant professors.

While we appreciate the results of the independent review noting that the most success was achieved by those at the assistant professor level, ANRF is hesitant to limit the opportunity to support innovative scientific ideas to just this level of scientist. Our Scientific Advisory Board conducts a completely independent, NIH-level review of all applicants each year and ranks them according to the project’s merit and that of the investigator (background, experience and lab environment and support). As long as the Scientific Advisory Board continues to rank an investigator in the top percentile of fundable scores, ANRF will take their expert advice into consideration when deciding the final funding.

Response – At this time, ANRF wishes to maintain a broad landscape for innovative ideas to move the science closer to a cure for arthritis.

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