On the Road to Grant Success- Steering Your NIH SBIR Grant Application Through the Review Process

by ScienceDocs SBIR Grant Writer / NIH Study Section Reviewer Dr. Marcy

Once your NIH SBIR grant application has been submitted, its fate is beyond your control, but you can take steps in the application process to make sure it is routed to the most appropriate Institute/Center and review group.

Find an Institute Match

Your best chance at getting an NIH SBIR grant funded is having your research interests aligned with the priorities of an NIH Institute or Center. At the earliest stage of preparation for the application, it’s important to determine the best match of the overall research goals with those of an Institute or Center which funds SBIR grants (see list at https://sbir.nih.gov/). Each Institute or Center has a website that describes its mission along with a list of research areas of interest, including diseases/conditions and their prevention, interventions/therapies, screening, diagnostics, biological tools, assessments, and biochemical pathways. There may be more than one Institute or Center that would be appropriate for your application. An important next step is to contact the Institute’s SBIR/STTR Program Officer, through the Agency Contact Information site below, and verify that your application falls within their purview. To facilitate this conversation, be prepared to share a one-page document describing a brief background for your research and the planned Specific Aims for the application. You will be looking for reassurance that your application is aligned with the Institute’s research priorities. Additionally, the Program Officer may provide information about other Request for Applications and Program Announcement funding opportunities that may be appropriate for your company. The Program Officer can also suggest an appropriate Scientific Review Group (SRG) to handle the review once the application is submitted.

What’s a Scientific Review Group?

Similar to matching a grant application to an NIH Institute/Center, the review process needs to be aligned as well. A Scientific Review Group (SRG) or study section is a collection of reviewers who will provide written feedback on your grant and assign it an Impact Score between 10 and 90. An SRG for SBIR/STTR applications has experienced professionals from both academia and industry and exclusively reviews only this type of grants. Unlike review groups for several academic grants, there are no standing members of SBIR/STTR Study Sections, and reviewers can cycle on and off as their expertise may or may not be required for a set of applications. The SBIR/STTR Study Section website below has a list of SRGs, meeting attendees and research areas of focus. From the SRGs that match your grant’s research area, check the bios of reviewers for their training and expertise at either academic websites or from profiles on LinkedIn. Seek out SRGs that have at least a few reviewers who are likely to understand the scientific basis for your application and thus be well positioned to provide a meaningful evaluation. It is possible that your grant may be appropriate for more than one SRG, and a Program Officer may suggest an optimal match.

Once you’ve gone through this selection process, you can indicate one or more preferences for an Institute/Center and SRG within the grant application using the optional ‘PHS Assignment Request Form’. This is also the place to suggest up to five areas of reviewer expertise needed for an effective evaluation, and to identify individuals that may not be suitable as a reviewer for your application. Note that this section of the application will not be visible to reviewers. Depending on workload and NIH referral guidelines, these requests may or may not be honored, but based on your pre-submission work, you’ll have done everything possible to assure an optimal review.

Useful Sources

NIH SBIR/STTR Agency Contact Information


Small Business and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Study Section


PHS Assignment Request Form (page 148)


ScienceDocs SBIR Grant Consult Services

Learn more about SBIR Grant Consultant Dr. Marcy

Share This!