When the U.S. Congress passed the FY 2021 funding bill at the end of 2020, it recommitted its dedication to cancer research by increasing the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) budget by $120 million.

NCI is the world’s largest producer of cancer research grants, and since 2019, it has raised the payline, or funding cutoff points for grant applications, for R01 research awards by 35%, thanks to budget increases like this. The latest budget increase will allow NCI to raise the R01 payline by one percentile each year to reach the 15th percentile by 2025, as outlined in its annual plan and budget proposal for 2022.

Also, because of budget increases for two consecutive years, NCI has raised the grant payline for early-stage investigators (ESIs) by one percentile. Throughout 2021, NCI will continue to convert ESI R01 applications into R37 Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) awards, which provide two additional years of research funding beyond the initial award period.

“Our grants policy on ESIs reflects NCI’s commitment to developing and supporting researchers in the early stages of their careers, which helps ensure that we build and sustain the next generation of talented cancer researchers,” NCI Director Norman E. Sharpless, MD, said.