Defense-Related Research Funding

NAEVR and ARVO Host Defense Research Funding Opportunities Webinar

CDMRP Vision Program Manager Tian Wang, PhD CDMRP Vision Program Manager Tian Wang, PhD

On June 2 NAEVR, along with the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), held a special Defense Research Funding Opportunities Webinar hosted by NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky. Featuring Q. Tian Wang, PhD, Program Manager for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Vision Research Program (VRP), this was the second year of this virtual event usually held as NAEVR’s annual Defense Research Funding Opportunities session at the ARVO Annual Meeting. More than 200 interested researchers registered for the event.

Dr. Wang discussed the VRP’s history, the two-stage process used for reviewing proposals—first a Scientific Peer Review, followed by a Programmatic Review as to how it meets DOD-identified research priorities—and the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Program Announcements, which were released on May 14. She detailed the VRP’s research priorities, funding mechanisms, application process, and dollar amounts and expected number of funded projects for each award from the total $20 million in funding provided by Congress—the third year in which the VRP has been funded at that level. The VRP is one of 35 medical research programs managed by the DOD's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). Since its establishment by Congress in FY2009 and through FY2020, the VRP has funded 118 projects for a total of $116 million, with FY2020 awards currently being negotiated.

Dr. Wang emphasized the need for better diagnostics, treatments, and restoration therapies for our nation’s wounded warriors noting, for example, that between year 2000 and third-quarter 2020, more than 430,000 U.S. service members had been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and that upwards of 75 percent of those who had suffered a TBI report some level of visual dysfunction.

The FY2021 VRP Program Announcements, which detail the funding mechanisms and research priorities, in addition to other key information for researchers, are available on the CDMRP Web site. For FY2021, the VRP is using four funding mechanisms:

  • Investigator Initiated Research Awards (IIRA, with two funding levels), with a maximum funding of $260,000 over 2 years/$750,000 over 3 years.
  • Translational Research Awards (TRA), with a maximum funding of $1 million over 3 years.
  • Focused Translational Team Science Awards (FTTSA), with a maximum funding of $4 million over 4 years.
  • A new Clinical Trial Award (CTA), with a maximum funding of $1.6 million over 3 years.

For all four awards, pre-proposals are due July 21, 2021. Researchers who are selected to submit a full proposal will be notified in September, and the deadline for full proposal submission is November 16, 2021. Final decisions on which proposals will be selected for funding will be made in March 2022.

Dr. Wang also briefly discussed other funding opportunities, such as the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program, and DOD Request for Information (RFI) /Request for Project Proposals (RPP).

After her presentation, Dr. Wang answered several of the many questions posed by the participants.

In his introductory comments, Mr. Jorkasky summarized the history of NAEVR’s advocacy efforts with Congress to secure DOD funding for eye and vision research, which resulted in the establishment of the VRP in FY2009 Defense appropriations and led to the current funding level of $20 million. For FY2022, NAEVR and its advocacy partners, including ARVO, have requested that Congress fund the VRP at $30 million, a $10 million increase over FY2021. He emphasized 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. Through ten different DOD funding programs, vision researchers have received upwards of $235 million since 2001, including the VRP.

A recording of the Webinar is posted for viewing on the NAEVR Web site. Researchers who would like to be informed about potential DOD funding opportunities should contact NAEVR’s David Epstein at to be added to NAEVR’s Defense Research Interest List.