Program Officers


The Program Officer (PO) is the most important person at the NIH for helping you to get your grant application funded. Even if the PO does not support your grant application, it can still get funded if your priority score is meritorious enough, however there is a range of scores (about 170-290, depending on the Institute and how close one is to the end of the budget year) over which the PO can either advocate for your application or not advocate for your application.

Therefore, it is helpful to be sure that you find a PO at an Institute who is supportive of your application. It is my experience that the POs are very helpful. If a specific PO is not supportive of your application, the PO will usually help you find an Institute and a PO who is in favor of your application, as long as the application has intrinsic merit etc.

So you have a grant application or an idea and now you want to start a relationship with a PO who is supportive of your application. How do you do this? It is very simple. There are many ways, but here is one way.

Search for announcements specific to your idea. To do this go to this site and search for PAs or RFAs. When you go to the PA or RFA search site, use the Advanced Funding Ops not use the simple search, it will not work well....The advanced search button is located at the upper right on the page. This button will take you to a complex page, but you only need to focus on two items: (1) The Search Term right at the top, put in Cancer for example, and (2) Activity Code (the seventh choice down), put in R41 or another appropriate Code. Now you will find PAs written by specific Institutes for your area of interest. Find the PA (RFA) that is closest to your area of interest.

Click on the PA of interest to you. Near the top of the PA will be listed the NIH Institutes that are participating in that PA (RFAs will usually have a point person listed whom you can call directly). Click on the provided links and go to the Institute that you think is closest to the work in your application. Now it gets tricky.

Each Institute has its own web page format. Find Funding Opportunities (or a similar description) on that Institute's web page. Click there and explore until you find SBIR or SBIT/STTR opportunities and click there. Keep exploring in this manner until you find the SBIR/STTR contact person for that Institute. Call or email that contact, which will help you to eventually find the best PO for your application.

Now you are ready to go! If you do not find an announcement that is specific to your idea, that is fine as well. Find an announcement that is closest and call the PO. Start from there or go directly to the Institute that is closest to the area covered in your application and find the SBIR/STTR pages as described above.

Remember, just because your application is closest in relevance to a specific Institute; that does not mean it is the best Institute for funding your application, for many reasons. Usually however, the PO at an Institute will help you find the best funding opportunity at the NIH, so do not be surprised if the Cancer Institute sends you to the Heart and Lung Institute for a cancer screening method. The PO may know that Heart and Lung has extra funds for that type of application while the Cancer Institute does not, for example. Remember that Heart and Lung is interested in lung cancer as well.

Anyways, I am sure you got the idea by now, so good hunting!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

Click on this link to read about my E-Book: High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

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