November 3, 2006

Balser to lead committee for NIH awards

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Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D.

Balser to lead committee for NIH awards

Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been appointed chair of the committee that selects the annual NIH Director's Pioneer Awards.

Established in 2004 by Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, the awards are given to scientists “of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research.”

Each Pioneer Award provides $2.5 million in direct costs over five years. Thirty-five scientists have been funded in the first three years of the program, which is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

The application period for the 2007 awards opens on Dec. 1 and closes on Jan. 16, 2007. The NIH expects to announce five to 10 new Pioneer Awards next fall.

While fewer than 5 percent of the applications are funded, “this award allows faculty to explore their most compelling, innovative ideas in a manner that R01, and even P01 mechanisms are too conservative to support,” Balser said.

“Having served on the (selection) committee previously, I know that the competition is extraordinary,” he continued, “but then again, so is the Vanderbilt faculty.

“I would encourage all faculty with established NIH-funded research programs and highly innovative ideas they are eager to explore to strongly consider applying.”

The application, which can be completed online, includes a two-page biographical sketch, list of current research support, most significant accomplishment (usually a publication), three letters of reference and a three- to five-page essay.

Information about the Pioneer Award and how to apply can be found at

Balser said a group of senior faculty has been formed at Vanderbilt to provide feedback on applications and to help with letters of recommendation. To take advantage of this resource, contact Andrea Baruchin, Ph.D., chief of staff in the Office of Research, at