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NAEVR Defense Funding Session Features DOD Vision Program Manager, Insights into the FY2019 Program Announcement


New CDMRP Vision Program Manager Tian Wang, PhD addresses the audience

NAEVR's April 29 Defense-Related Vision Research Opportunities session at the ARVO Annual Meeting in Vancouver featured Department of Defense (DOD) Vision Research Program (VRP) Manager Q. Tian Wang, PhD, who spoke about the history and priorities of the VRP, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 awards that were recently selected by the VRP Program Committee (see box below), and the expected FY2019 VRP Program Announcement.

The VRP is one of 33 medical research programs managed by the DOD's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). Since its establishment by Congress in FY2009 and through FY2017, the VRP has funded 85 projects for a total of $85 million. Although Congress has only appropriated $70 million in that timeframe, the VRP has been able to fund more projects due to the transfer of approximately $16 million to support meritorious projects from other DOD research programs, such as the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) program.

At NAEVR's session Dr. Wang emphasized that, unlike the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant review process, CDMRP uses a two-tier review process: Peer Review first for scientific merit, and then Programmatic Review for military relevance, especially that which responds to DOD-identified research gaps identified in the Program Announcement.

Dr. Wang acknowledged that the Pre-Announcement for the FY2019 VRP funding cycle was released on April 5 shortly before the ARVO Annual Meeting, and that a full Program Announcement is expected by late May. For the first time, the VRP is funded at a level of $20 million in FY2019—an increase of $5 million over FY2018. Per the Pre-Announcement, the VRP will employ three award mechanisms: the Focused Translational Team Science Award (FTTSA), the Investigator-Initiated Research Award (IIRA, with two funding levels), and the Translational Research Award (TRA). For the TRA, the VRP encourages previously funded VRP awardees to apply for an Expansion Award (EA) to continue their research.

After reviewing the FY2019 VRP process, Dr. Wang discussed other DOD funding opportunities, such as the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program and the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), the latter of which has been particularly supportive of vision research, managing 12 awards totaling $24.66 million between FY2009 and FY2018.

NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky emphasized to the audience that DOD funding opportunities are available to domestic and international researchers, and that those who navigate the VRP are more likely to apply for funding from other DOD programs with key words such as sensory and  rehabilitation and for diseases with a vision impact.

In addition to her appearance at NAEVR's session, Dr. Wang, along with VRP Science Officer Marc Mitchell, attended the ARVO Annual Meeting and met one-on-one with researchers from Sunday through Wednesday at a dedicated CDMRP booth. These meetings allowed researchers to discuss their ideas for projects and gauge the potential interest of the VRP. Subsequent to the session, Dr. Wang let NAEVR know that the National Eye Institute (NEI), per the DOD-NEI Vision Research Collaborative (VRC) agreement, along with VRP's own careful financial management, will result in additional FY2018 VRP projects being funded which were originally on the alternates list although the exact number is not finalized. The VRC will also be in effect for the FY2019 funding cycle, meaning that the NEI will again have the option to fund high-scoring grants that cannot be funded due to limitations on VRP funding.

At NAEVR’s session, VRP Science Officer Marc Mitchell speaks with Anton Reiner, PhD (University of Tennessee Health Science Center) who received funding from the DOD’s Psychological Health-Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program in FY2015
At NAEVR's session, VRP Science Officer Marc Mitchell speaks with Anton Reiner, PhD (University of Tennessee Health Science Center) who received funding from the DOD's Psychological Health-Traumatic Brain Injury Research Program in FY2015

 

On March 26, just one month prior to the ARVO Annual Meeting, NAEVR's David Epstein was an invited guest attendee at a meeting of the VRP Program Committee, which reviewed the adequacy of the current list of DOD-identified vision trauma research gaps, discussed the proposals that were submitted to the FY2018 VRP funding cycle, and selected a list of ten projects for funding, as well as a list of alternates that would be funded if extra money became available.

VRP Program Committee members Colonel Mark Reynolds, Chief of the joint DOD/Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) with Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Board President Tom Zampieri, PhD
VRP Program Committee members Colonel Mark Reynolds, Chief of the joint DOD/Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Vision Center of Excellence (VCE) with Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) Board President Tom Zampieri, PhD