We often work with clients who are developing a technology best suited for a medical application. As such the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a likely agency to target for SBIR funding. The NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, not all of which provide SBIR funds. These institutes and centers each have a focus on some specific body system or disease state, so if one of our client’s technologies matches a particular organ, system or disease targeted by an institute, it is a clear and easy decision to focus on funding from that institute. The institutes include National Cancer Institute; National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Drug Abuse as well as others. But what if a technology doesn’t exactly fit one of these specific groups?
It’s not unusual for a technology to be clearly medical or health related but not specific to any particular disease state or biological system. What can an applicant do or how can an applicant target a particular institute? Here are a couple of strategies that can help the decision.
One idea is to find one specific application that fits within the scope of a particular agency. This way the disease state becomes the focus more so than the general technology. For example, a medical imaging technology can be developed through the National Cancer Institute (NCI) if the proposal focuses on medical imaging of tumors or cancers.
A second strategy our clients may not be aware of is that there are institutes within the NIH that do indeed focus on broadly applicable technologies. Notably, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) supports research in biological processes broadly. So a medical imaging technology that can be used in multiple applications would be a good fit for NIGMS. There is also the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCCIH). This center is designed to fund diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of diseases and topics. Its goal is to translate basic research into useful devices and treatments in many areas.
Finally, another strategy that may be useful if a medical technology is broadly applicable to many conditions is to consider other completely different agencies other than NIH. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense both fund medical and health related technologies through their SBIR program. It’s always a good idea to reach out to those agencies and see if the technology will be of interest there. An applicant can definitely apply to multiple agencies for the same technology and work, though they can’t take funding from multiple agencies should the same work be selected for funding. We often recommend this as a strategy to increase chances of funding.