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A SBIR Program Director Offers Insights in Small Business Innovation Research “Grantsmanship” in the Life Sciences

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two new technologies—one for a new type of vaccine for preventing HIV infections and HIV-associated cancers, and the other for a new type of imaging to help optimize anti-angiogenic therapeutics. (A document detailing the solicitation is here.)

Michael Weingarten, director of the NCI SBIR Development Center, and Andalibi, who joined the center from NSF, don’t make the award decisions. Their only job, Andalibi told me, “is to work with the SBIR companies.”

Andalibi agreed in large part with advice that a panel of successful SBIR recipients offered three months ago to more than 140 people who attended an evening event organized by the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE).

“Getting the grant requires the ability to write a good proposal, and that’s called grantsmanship,” Andalibi said. Based on his past experience as a biomedical scientist, Andalibi said the key to winning an SBIR grant is a research program that is cleverly designed and a proposal that’s understandable.

He also offered a few tips to applicants:

—Have as much preliminary data as you can. “Preliminary data is what convinces scientists of the merit of an idea.”

—Significance is a key aspect of the proposal, so targeting a major disease is important.

—Solicit letters of support from prominent researchers in the field. “The right kind of support letters are important. The stronger they are, the better.”

—Be realistic. “It’s important to be realistic about what you can accomplish, and not over-propose or under-propose.

—Share your proposal with someone who has been successful in getting a grant. “My best friends were the ones who just tore apart my application.”

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