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ID#: RFA-AI-12-012 (Reissue of RFA-AI-05-001)     Posted: 27 Feb 2012
Leadership Group for a Clinical Research Network on Vaccines to Prevent HIV Infection (UM1)
Deadline: 28 Sep 2012
Apply Here
Type of Grant: Research
Topics/Fields of Support: Preclinical and clinical vaccine trials, Vaccine concepts and design
National Institutes of Health (NIH, NIAID, NIMH)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency—making important medical discoveries that improve health and save lives.

Thanks in large part to NIH-funded medical research, Americans today are living longer and healthier. Life expectancy in the United States has jumped from 47 years in 1900 to 77 years today, and disability in people over age 65 has dropped dramatically in the past 3 decades. In recent years, nationwide rates of new diagnoses and deaths from all cancers combined have fallen significantly.

Scientific Leadership

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More than 80% of the NIH's budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at over 3,000 universities and research institutions. In addition, about 6,000 scientists work in NIH’s own laboratories, most of which are on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The main campus is also home to the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research.

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The purpose of this FOA is to encourage applications for the Leadership Group (LG) for a Clinical Research Network on Vaccines to Prevent HIV Infection.  The LG will have overall responsibility for: (i) developing, implementing and adapting the network’s clinical research agenda to address NIAID’s HIV/AIDS scientific priorities described below in Part 2, Section I, 3, (ii) overseeing and managing the network’s scientific/clinical research activities and associated laboratory and statistical/data management support functions, (iii) allocating network resources, and (iv) evaluating network performance using a LG proposed/Division of AIDS (DAIDS) approved process and evaluation standards.

The Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) and senior/key personnel of the LOC, LC and SDMC together form the LG. The LG coupled with the PD(s)/PI(s) and senior/key personnel of the affiliated Clinical Trials Units/Clinical Research Sites (CTUs/CRSs) collectively constitute the Clinical Research Network on Vaccines to Prevent HIV Infection (herein referred to as the “network”). The three different parts of the LG, LOC, LC and SDMC will be required to work together collaboratively and with the network-affiliated CTUs/CRSs to carry out the activities that are essential to achieving the network’s clinical research agenda.

Clinical Trial Units (CTUs) provide the scientific and administrative expertise as well as the infrastructure to contribute to NIAID Clinical Research Networks.  A CTU is an organization/institution composed of at least one, but no more than eight CRSs that can contribute to at least two HIV/AIDS Clinical Research Networks.  The CTU PD(s)/PI(s) is/are responsible for all CTU/CRS activities and performance, and also serve(s) as scientific and administrative representative(s) to the CTU’s affiliated network(s).

A Clinical Research Site (CRS) is a component of a CTU and is defined as a discrete location (e.g. hospital, outpatient clinic, community health center, private practice, local health department clinic) with appropriate identified and characterized potential trial participants (e.g. demographics, incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS) where participant recruitment and retention, protocol management and other clinical research activities are conducted. The CRS must be staffed by qualified professionals capable of conducting clinical research for one or more clinical research networks in accordance with Good Clinical Practice (GCP), local regulatory requirements, and other applicable NIH requirements.  In addition, each CRS must participate in one or more HIV/AIDS clinical research network(s). The activities of each CRS will be directed by a CRS Leader with the experience and qualifications to oversee clinical activities and the day-to-day clinic operations will be overseen by a CRS Coordinator with relevant clinical research experience and qualifications.  An individual CRS and/or CRS Leader may be proposed in only one CTU application. 


NIAID currently supports six HIV/AIDS clinical research networks: the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG), the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), the HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN), the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network (IMPAACT), the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials (INSIGHT), and the Microbicide Trials Network (MTN).

Over the past 30 years, HIV/AIDS research has led to significant scientific advances.  Scientists uncovered the structure and genetic organization of HIV and began to understand the mechanisms by which HIV causes disease.  This understanding led to the development of (i) tests to detect HIV infection, measure HIV viral load and monitor immune function, and (ii) highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART).  In the field of HIV prevention, education, testing and behavior change have been the cornerstones since soon after the HIV epidemic was first recognized.  Recently, biomedical interventions, such as male circumcision, have demonstrated significant impact in reducing new HIV infections.  In addition, a growing body of evidence from several HIV biomedical intervention studies has shown that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV uninfected individuals and treatment of HIV infected individuals can decrease the risk of becoming infected or transmitting the infection, respectively.  The size of the effects seen ranged from 45% to over 90%, depending on the type of treatment and the population that received it.  As a result of these findings, the armamentarium for intervening in the course of the HIV epidemic has expanded.

Despite these scientific and biomedical advances, 33 million people globally are estimated to be living with HIV, of whom 22 million are living in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).  Slightly more than half of all people living with HIV are women and girls.  In sub-Saharan Africa, more women than men are living with HIV, and young women aged 15–24 years are as much as eight times more likely than men to be HIV-infected. In many parts of the world with generalized HIV/AIDS epidemics, new HIV infections far outpace access to effective antiretroviral treatment (ART).  Even in the U.S. and other industrialized nations, where the HIV epidemic continues unabated particularly in most at-risk populations, a large portion of individuals who meet treatment guidelines do not have access to ART.

Identification of a safe and effective preventive vaccine is an imperative if the global HIV/AIDS pandemic is to be controlled and ultimately stopped.  While there will always be a need for the important roles played by education, behavioral intervention and PrEP, the logistical implications of treating even just the most at-risk HIV uninfected individuals are staggering.  The availability, cost, long-term adherence and likely down-range virological, immunological and clinical effects of these interventions are potential impediments to their deployment alone bringing about the end of the pandemic.  Only a safe and efficacious HIV vaccine will be able to provide the necessary endgame for the pandemic.  Evidence suggests that even a partially efficacious vaccine could substantially alter the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in some areas by lowering infection rates, thus saving lives and at the same time being cost effective. 

The NIAID networks have provided a highly productive central resource to efficiently evaluate vaccine concepts, address scientific questions, and assess candidate reagents/vaccines developed through NIH funding, small independent enterprises (from academic to private), and large pharmaceutical companies.  NIAID-supported HIV vaccine clinical research activities have also resulted in the identification of a modestly effective vaccine (31%), which has reinvigorated the field, and stimulated interest in eliciting and exploring innate, mucosal, and both B- and T-cell responses. In addition, NIAID-supported activities have been instrumental in focusing the scientific agenda for HIV vaccines in response to new data and evolving scientific imperatives through investigations crucial to providing insight into efficacy trial results (both positive and negative), progress in mucosal sample processing and evaluation, and support of the development of trial designs for more efficient operations and use of resources.  Additional clinical research on novel vectors, vector inserts, proteins, adjuvants, methods of vaccine administration and vaccine combinations is required to build on the positive efficacy results, address critical scientific questions and evaluate other potentially improved candidate vaccines.

The continued support of an HIV vaccine clinical trials network is crucial to the realization of a safe and efficacious HIV vaccine.  Further, given the clinical trials capacity established by NIAID for the study of HIV and the impact of other infectious diseases on populations burdened by HIV, NIAID intends to leverage the HIV clinical research capacity for the study of vaccines against other diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB) and hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Research Priority Areas:

Through this solicitation, NIAID will support an HIV Vaccine LG that will work with network-affiliated CTUs/CRSs (funded under a separate FOA) to implement and update, as needed, a scientific strategic plan that addresses NIAID’s research priorities in the area of preventive HIV vaccines.

  • The scientific priorities of NIAID that should be addressed by the LG’s proposed scientific research agenda are as follows:
  • Design and conduct phase I and II clinical trials to address scientific questions critical to the development of efficacious HIV vaccines; perform standardized evaluation of candidate vaccines, combinations and adjuvants through common protocols, reagents and assays to permit comparisons of various approaches where possible; evaluate the impact of vector immunity; and assess new and innovative approaches that show promise in preclinical development (e.g., mucosal immunization, mechanisms to enhance innate immunity, and novel envelope immunogens).
  • Assess immune responses in Phase I and II clinical trials to determine which candidates/combinations are worthy of efficacy testing; develop methods to optimize immune response signals; develop and validate assays for pivotal trials and for the measurement of the breadth of induced immune responses; establish high-throughput immunogen screening programs; and implement QA/QC programs.
  • Design and conduct Phase IIb and III clinical trials to evaluate whether promising candidates can prevent HIV infection (and progression of infection); capitalize on the findings of previous phase IIB and III clinical studies to advance development of vaccine regimens (reagents and their optimal combination); and evaluate possible correlates of immune protection in the context of Phase IIb/III clinical trials that demonstrate vaccine efficacy.
  • Assess both virus and host genetic variability and their impact on immunogen response and efficacy
  • Collaborate with other prevention efforts to explore, design and conduct studies of vaccines in combination with other prevention modalities.
  • Regularly exchange information on progress and plans with researchers in basic science, particularly non-human primate researchers, to maximize the insight clinical and basic science provide each other to advance the field of HIV vaccine research and development.
  • Incorporate and foster research on the behavioral and social aspects of vaccine interventions in preventing HIV infection including acceptability and adherence.
  • Adherence to an agent as well as a clinical trial protocol is essential to the success of prevention and treatment-related protocols. It is therefore expected that protocol teams will seek relevant scientific guidance and expertise at the concept stage in order to assure that state-of-the-art interventions to support adherence and valid assessments to measure adherence are appropriately incorporated.
  • Although the main focus of the LG is HIV vaccines, the group will be expected to contribute to the scientific agenda and provide capacity for trials that support the development of vaccines against other infectious diseases that impact populations burdened by HIV, primarily TB and HCV. The scientific agenda for those efforts will be developed post-award through cross-network, joint leadership efforts in conjunction with DAIDS and the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID). 

Application Requirements

The LG will be responsible for all network activities and will ensure that all the constituent parts of the network fulfill their respective responsibilities in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  Each part of the LG linked application (LOC, LC, and SDMC) is expected to demonstrate scientific leadership, effective management and efficient utilization of resources.

Leadership Time Commitment.  When a single PD/PI is proposed in any of the three LG applications, the PD/PI will be required to devote at least 6 person months effort to the project.  Applications proposing Multiple PD(s)/PI(s) are permitted, but the roles and responsibilities of multiple PD(s)/PI(s) should be clearly delineated and justified.  If two or more PD(s)/PI(s) are named in any application, each PD/PI must devote at least 3.6 person months effort to the project.

The governance and organizational structure of the LG leadership team and the research project should be described, including communication plans, process for making decisions on scientific direction, and procedures for resolving conflicts. The roles and administrative, technical, and scientific responsibilities for the project or program should be delineated for the PD(s)/PI(s) and other collaborators.

Research Agenda.  The LG’s clinical research agenda should be clearly articulated and directly related to achieving NIAID’s scientific priorities.  The LG is required to monitor and evaluate the need to refine and revise the research agenda.  As part of this process, the LG is required to actively engage input from researchers and HIV-affected communities.

Governance and Management.  The LOC, LC and SDMC, in their areas of responsibility, must establish and define effective communication and decision making processes, identify clear lines of authority, and coordinate and collaborate effectively both within the network and with other NIH-supported networks or other Federal and private sector clinical research programs as appropriate to avoid redundancies and ensure efficiencies.  Governance or management by committees is permitted.  The governance and management should utilize effective approaches to project management, including project plans with identified key milestones; ongoing evaluation of projections against actual data and adjustments to project plans; and development and implementation of contingency plans. In addition, the LOC, LC and SDMC, in their area of responsibility, must establish processes to identify and resolve operational issues and develop training and education programs within the context of the network’s research agenda for network members, including new researchers, particularly from under-represented populations and those in low and middle income countries.

Bylaws, policies and standard operating procedures should not be included in the application, but must be provided, for approval, to NIAID within 90 days of Notice of Award.

Resource Utilization and Allocation.  The LOC, LC and SDMC, in their area of responsibility, must ensure optimal resource utilization and ensure that resource allocation supports the clinical research agenda.

Collaborative Responsibilities.  The LG will be strongly encouraged to collaborate with other NIH-supported networks and other Federal and private sector clinical research programs, and to interact with government and non-government organizations, including the private sector, and committees to effectively develop and implement a clinically relevant, interdisciplinary and cost-efficient clinical research network.  Such collaborations and interactions are essential for the development and implementation of a comprehensive research agenda that utilizes the strengths, experience and expertise of the various collaborating organizations.  The sharing of expertise, resources and procedures is expected in key areas, including: development of clinical infrastructure in low-income countries; harmonization of laboratory resources and specimen management; harmonization of common data elements and data entry interfaces; community engagement, including development, training and support of community advisory boards. Examples of additional entities the LG will need to collaborate and/or communicate with include, but are not limited to:  the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network (ATN), the NIAID Strategic Working Group (SWG), Scientific Review Committees (SRCs),  network LG Program Officers (NLGPOs) and Project Scientists, the Division of AIDS (DAIDS) Enterprise System (DAIDS-ES), Office of Clinical Site Oversight (OCSO), the DAIDS Clinical Laboratory Oversight Team (DCLOT), the HIV/AIDS Network Coordination Office (HANC), other HIV/AIDS Clinical Research Network groups and the non-HIV/AIDS Research Network.


Eligible Applicants

Eligible Organizations

Higher Education Institutions

  • Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
  • Private Institutions of Higher Education

The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:

  • Hispanic-serving Institutions
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
  • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions

Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education

  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)

For-Profit Organizations

  • Small Businesses
  • For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)


  • State Governments
  • County Governments
  • City or Township Governments
  • Special District Governments
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Federally Recognized)
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Other than Federally Recognized)
  • Eligible Agencies of the Federal Government
  • U.S. Territory or Possession


  • Independent School Districts
  • Public Housing Authorities/Indian Housing Authorities
  • Native American Tribal Organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
  • Faith-based or Community-based Organizations
  • Regional Organizations   

Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are not eligible to apply. 
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are eligible to apply.
Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are  allowed.

Required Registrations

Applicant organizations must complete the following registrations as described in the PHS398 Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. Applicants must have a valid Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number in order to begin each of the following registrations.

All Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) must also work with their institutional officials to register with the eRA Commons or ensure their existing eRA Commons account is affiliated with the eRA Commons account of the applicant organization.

All registrations must be completed by the application due date. Applicant organizations are strongly encouraged to start the registration process at least4-6 weeks prior to the application due date.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s))

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PD(s)/PI(s), visit the Multiple Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the PHS398 Application Guide.

When a single PD/PI is proposed in any of the three LG applications, the PD/PI will be required to devote at least 6 person months effort to the project.  If two or more PD(s)/PI(s) are named in any application, each PD/PI must devote at least 3.6 person months effort to the project.      


NIH encourages inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcomes the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.      

Application Submission Contacts

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Telephone 301-435-0714
TTY 301-451-5936

eRA Commons Help Desk(Questions regarding eRA Commons registration, tracking application status, post submission issues)
Phone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)
TTY: 301-451-5939

Scientific/Research Contact(s)


For LOC and SDMC:
Philip Renzullo, Ph.D., MPH
Division of AIDS
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Room 5132, MSC-7624
6700B Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-7624 (for Express Mail – 20817)
Telephone: 301-451-2764 (office)
FAX: 301-402-3684

For LC:

Patricia D’Souza, Ph.D.
Division of AIDS
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Room 5130, MSC-7624
6700B Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-7624 (for Express Mail – 20817)
Telephone: 301- 496-8379 (office)
FAX: 301-402-3684


Dr. Pim Brouwers
Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Room 6216, MSC-9619
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD  20892-9619
Telephone:  301-443-4526
FAX:  301-443-9719

Peer Review Contact(s)

Peter R. Jackson, Ph.D.
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Room 3133, MSC-7616
6700-B Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-7616 (for Express Mail – 20817)
Telephone 301-496-8426
FAX: 301-480-2310

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)


Vandhana Khurana
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Room 2121, MSC-7616
6700-B Rockledge Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-7616
Telephone:  301-402-6579
FAX:  301-493-0597


Rita Sisco
Division of Extramural Research
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Room 6120, MSC-9605 
6001 Executive Boulevard
Bethesda, MD  20892-9605
Telephone:  301-451-7380
FAX:  301-480-1956