Deadline Info: anytime

Agency/Sponsor: Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health



The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is continuing to make a special effort to stimulate research at educational institutions that provide baccalaureate and/or advanced degrees for a significant number of the Nation's research scientists, but that have not been major recipients of NIH support.  Since Fiscal Year (FY) 1985, Congressional appropriations for the NIH have included funds for this initiative, which NIH has implemented through the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program.  Based on the expectation that funds will continue to be available each year, the NIH invites applications for AREA (R15) grants through this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).  AREA funds are intended to support new and renewal biomedical and behavioral research projects proposed by faculty members of eligible colleges, universities, schools, and components of domestic institutions.

The AREA program will enable qualified scientists to receive support for small-scale research projects.  These grants are intended to create a research opportunity for scientists and institutions otherwise unlikely to participate extensively in NIH programs that support the Nation's biomedical and behavioral research effort.  It is anticipated that investigators supported under the AREA program will benefit from the opportunity to conduct independent research; that the grantee institution will benefit from a research environment strengthened through AREA grants and furthered by participation in the diverse extramural programs of the NIH; and that students at recipient institutions will benefit from exposure to and participation in scientific research in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.

The application should include plans to involve undergraduate or graduate students in the proposed research. However, the AREA program is a research grant program, not a training or fellowship program.  The application should include plans to expose students to hands-on research and should not include training plans.

Research Objectives of the NIH Institutes and Centers

The AREA program website provides information about each of the participating Institutes and Centers (ICs), including each IC's AREA-specific research interests and staff contacts.  For additional scientific program information and for pre-application guidance, a potential applicant is encouraged to contact the person listed for the particular NIH IC(s) with research interests relevant to the applicant's proposed topic.


1. Eligible Applicants

Eligible Organizations

Higher Education Institutions

  • Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
  • Private Institutions of Higher Education

The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:

  • Hispanic-serving Institutions
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
  • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
  • Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)

In addition, all organizations must meet the following two criteria:

  • The applicant organization must offer baccalaureate or advanced degrees in the biomedical or behavioral sciences
  • The applicant organization may not receive research support from the NIH totaling more than $6 million per year (in both direct and F&A/indirect costs) in each of 4 of the last 7 years.
  • Note that the following activity codes are excluded: C06, S10, and all activity codes starting with a G.

Institutions with Multiple Schools or Colleges

For institutions composed of multiple schools or colleges, the criterion of financial eligibility is based on the amount of NIH support received, not by the institution (university or college) as a whole, but by the individual school/college or aggregation of "other academic components" (as defined in this section) where the PD(s)/PI(s) has a primary appointment (e.g., School of Medicine, College of Nursing, etc.). Thus, each of the following should be considered independently when determining the financial eligibility of the applicant organization.

  • Health professional school/college: Accredited public or non-profit private school that provides a terminal degree related to the health sciences granted by that school (e.g., PhD, MD, DDS, MPT, DC, ND, BSN).  The term "accredited" means a school or program that is accredited by a recognized body or bodies approved for such purposes by the Secretary of Education.
  • Includes schools or colleges of medicine, dentistry, osteopathy, pharmacy, nursing, veterinary medicine, public health, optometry, allied health, chiropractic, naturopathy and podiatry
  • Other academic components: Once the health professional schools have been excluded, “other academic components” refers to all remaining schools, colleges, and free-standing institutes of the institution taken as a single component.

Additional Eligibility Guidance

To determine the eligibility of an institution, applicants should consult the list of ineligible institutions ( on the AREA program website.  If the name of the institution does not appear on the list, it is likely eligible to apply for AREA grants.  Applicants should check with their own institutions if unsure.

An AREA grant is permitted to have a subcontract to a non-AREA-eligible institution. However, applicants should keep the goals of the AREA program in mind when preparing the application, which include strengthening the research environment of the institution and exposing students to research. 

Although foreign institutions are not eligible, applications may include a foreign collaboration, component, or consortium.

Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are not eligible to apply. Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are not eligible to apply.

Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are allowed.

Required Registrations

Applicant Organizations

Applicant organizations must complete and maintain the following registrations as described in the SF 424 (R&R) Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. Registration can take 6 weeks or more, so applicants should begin the registration process as soon as possible. The NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications states that failure to complete registrations in advance of a due date is not a valid reason for a late submission.

  • Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) - All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM and eRA Commons registrations. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the grant application.
  • System for Award Management (SAM) (formerly CCR) – Applicants must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires renewal at least annually. The renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations which have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.
  • NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) Code ( – Foreign organizations must obtain an NCAGE code (in lieu of a CAGE code) in order to register in SAM. 
  • eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the eRA Commons registration. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or registration. eRA Commons requires organizations to identify at least one Signing Official (SO) and at least one Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account in order to submit an application.
  • ( – Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the registration.

Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD(s)/PI(s))

All PD(s)/PI(s) must have an eRA Commons account and should work with their organizational officials to either create a new account or to affiliate an existing account with the applicant organization’s eRA Commons account. If the PD/PI is also the organizational Signing Official, they must have two distinct eRA Commons accounts, one for each role. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to 2 weeks.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal 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)) is invited to work with his/her 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.
For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PDs/PIs, visit the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

To be eligible for an AREA grant, the PD(s)/PI(s) must meet the following additional criteria.

  • The PD(s)/PI(s) must have a primary appointment at an AREA eligible institution.
  • The PD(s)/PI(s) may not be the PD(s)/PI(s) of any active NIH research grant, including another AREA grant, at the time of an AREA award (although he or she may be one of the project personnel for an active NIH grant held by another PD/PI).
  • The PD(s)/PI(s) may not be awarded more than one AREA grant at a time, although he or she may hold successive new or renewal AREA grants.

Note: These eligibility criteria only apply to the PD(s)/PI(s) of the application, not to other key personnel such as collaborators and consultants.

2. Cost Sharing

This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

3. Additional Information on Eligibility
Number of Applications

Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.

NIH will not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already reviewed within the past thirty-seven months (as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement), except for submission:

  • To an RFA of an application that was submitted previously as an investigator-initiated application but not paid;
  • Of an investigator-initiated application that was originally submitted to an RFA but not paid; or
  • Of an application with a changed grant activity code.

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