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The Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT)(R37) Award provides longer term grant support to Early Stage Investigators (ESIs)* beginning with new, competing awards issued in FY 2018. Eligible investigators may obtain up to seven years of support in two segments: an initial five-year award and an opportunity for an extension of up to two additional years, based on an expedited NCI review of the accomplishments during the initial funding segment.

Investigators may not apply for an ESI MERIT award. ESIs who have submitted a single-Principal Investigator (PI) R01 application that received a score within the NCI payline are eligible for consideration. NCI program staff members will identify eligible candidate applications for the award and submit them to the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB) for consideration. If recommended by NCAB and approved by NCI leadership, the ESI R01 will be converted to an ESI MERIT Award (R37) for the initial five-year funding segment.

The ESI MERIT Award extension application will be submitted to the NCI 18 months prior to the end of the initial five-year project period. The extension application will be reviewed by NCI staff and submitted to NCAB for review and recommendation. If an extension is granted, the ESI MERIT Awardee will be notified of the length of time of the extension and the approved budget. If a proposed award does not receive an extension, the awardee may submit an application for review as a regular competing research grant application.

By providing ESIs with this prospect for longer term support, NCI intends to give awardees the opportunity for greater flexibility, creativity, and innovation in their research, as well as additional time to become more established before having to submit renewal applications.

* An Early Stage Investigator is a program director /principal investigator (PD/PI) who has completed his or her terminal research degree or end of post-graduate clinical training, whichever date is later, within the past 10 years and has not previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award. 

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