NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5 Clinical Trial Optional)

Funding Agency:
National Institutes of Health

The NIH Director's Early Independence Award supports rigorous and promising investigators who wish to pursue independent research soon after completion of their terminal doctoral degree or post-graduate clinical training, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. To support innovative and novel research across the vast NIH mission, individuals from diverse backgrounds (including those from underrepresented groups; see Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity) and from the full spectrum of eligible institutions in all geographic locations are encouraged to apply. Applications in all topics relevant to the broad mission of NIH are welcome, including, but not limited to, topics in the behavioral, social, biomedical, applied, and formal sciences and topics that may involve basic, translational, or clinical research. The NIH Director's Early Independence Award is a component of the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program of the NIH Common Fund.

Only two applications per institution (normally identified by having a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number or NIH IPF number) are allowed.


  • Duke Internal: April 29, 2024

  • Letter of Intent Due Date(s): August 6, 2024

  • Application Due Date(s): September 6, 2024

  • AIDS Application Due Date(s): September 6, 2024

RFA-RM-24-005 Expiration Date  September 07, 2024

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements


  • Single PD/PI: Only single PD/PI applications are allowed. Multiple PD/PIs applications will not be accepted. Only the PD/PI may be listed as a Senior/Key Person and provide a Biographical Sketch.
  • Citizenship: U.S. citizenship is not required. For non-U.S. citizens, the applicant institution is responsible for ensuring the PD/PI's U.S. visa status will allow them to conduct the proposed research at the applicant institution for the entire project period.
  • Degree Receipt Date: The receipt date of the PD/PI’s terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training must be between May 1, 2023, and September 30, 2025. The degree receipt date is that which appears on the official transcript for the degree. The end of post-graduate clinical training includes residency and fellowship periods. At the time of award, either:
  1. The PD/PI must have received a PhD, MD, DO, DC, DDS, DVM, OD, DPM, ScD, EngD, DrPH, DNSc, ND (Doctor of Naturopathy), PharmD, DSW, PsyD, or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited domestic or foreign institution (it is the responsibility of the sponsoring institution to determine if a foreign doctoral degree is equivalent).
  2. Or an authorized official of the degree-granting or training institution must certify that all degree requirements have been met and that the receipt date of the degree (as will appear on the transcript) will be before September 30, 2025. An authorized official of the host institution must certify that the PD/PI will be able to conduct independent research at the institution at the time of the project start date.
  • Post-doctoral Experience: The PD/PI must not have served as a post-doctoral fellow for more than 12 months following a previous, non-terminal doctoral degree (this only applies to PD/PIs with multiple doctoral degrees who served in a 12+ month post-doctoral fellowship before their terminal degree).
  • Level of Effort: In the first and second years of the project period, the PD/PI must commit at least 9.6 person-months of effort to the Early Independence Award project each year (80% effort per year). In years 3-5 of the project period, the PD/PI may reduce their effort on the Early Independence Award project but must still conduct at least 9.6 person-months of general independent research each year (80% effort per year). General independent research includes the effort spent on the Early Independence Award project and any other independent research projects the PD/PI is working on.
  • Non-independence at Time of Application: Individuals are eligible only if they do not have research independence at the time of application submission. Research non-independence is defined functionally rather than by position title and must have all the following characteristics:
    1. The PD/PI's current research agenda is set through concurrence with mentors.
    2. The PD/PI's research is funded primarily through support to other investigators (mentored fellowships such as NIH F31 or F32 Fellowships or NSF Graduate Research Fellowships do not preclude eligibility).
    3. The PD/PI does not have any space assigned directly by the institution for the conduct of their research.
    4. The PD/PI cannot apply for an NIH R01 grant without a special waiver or exemption from the institution according to institutional policy.

Though PD/PIs must not be functionally independent at the time of application submission, they may become functionally independent prior to time of award and still retain eligibility.

  • Independent Research Position: An independent research position at a host institution is required, and the PD/PI must be able to begin independent research by the project start date. The position need not be permanent or tenure-track and may be contingent upon receipt of the Early Independence Award. Prospective PD/PIs should contact appropriate institutional leaders to seek an appointment to an independent research position. Alternatively, institutions may actively recruit eligible scientists to apply for support through this initiative. In either case, the institution is expected to provide substantial support to the PD/PI as detailed in the Facilities & Other Resources section. To foster independence, PD/PIs may benefit from being hosted by an institution at which they have not previously studied or trained.
  • Career Awards: PD/PIs may apply for a research career development (K) award and DP5 at the same time, but NIH policy prohibits scientific overlap. A PD/PI may not hold a DP5 and career development award concurrently: The career development award must be relinquished to receive the DP5.
  • Site Visit: NIH staff will conduct a one-time site visit at the end of the first year to assess the PD/PI's progress and to ensure they are receiving the institutional resources and support outlined in the application. NIH staff will meet with the PD/PI, lab personnel, mentors, faculty, and institutional leadership. Failure to provide independence and/or support may lead to NIH actions, including reduction of funds.




Amount Description

Awards will be for up to $250,000 in direct costs per year, plus applicable Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs.

The project period is limited to five years.

Funding Type



Medical Fellow/Resident
Post Doctoral Fellows


Medical - Basic Science
Medical - Clinical Science
Medical - Translational

Internal Nomination

Owing to the sponsor's restriction on the number of applications that may be submitted from Duke, anyone wishing to pursue nomination should submit the following materials as one PDF:

Statement of PI Eligibility from the department chair:

  • Verifying terminal doctoral degree or end of post-graduate clinical training happened between May 1, 2023, and September 30, 2025.
  • Affirming that the PI will be able to begin independent research by the project start date (anticipate when that might be).

Specific Aims (1 page) with the following 3 sections:

  • Research Objectives: State your research topic and overall approach. Why is this area of research significant? If you have an overarching hypothesis, what is it? What impact will your research have if successful? What are the major conceptual or technical innovations you are introducing into this research area?
  • Institutional Support: How will the institutional support, including the assurance of research independence, facilitate the accomplishment of your research objectives?
  • Early Independence Rationale: How will your scientific and technical background, research accomplishments, leadership/mentorship attributes, and scientific vision be leveraged to accomplish the research objectives?


Please submit internal materials through My Research Proposal. (Code: ILN)

Instructions for creating an account (if needed) and submitting your materials:

Internal Deadline

April 29, 2024

External Deadline

September 6, 2024