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The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is an important National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding mechanism used to develop innovative solutions that address public health challenges. A major objective of the SBIR Program is to facilitate the commercialization of technologies developed by small business concerns (SBCs). Yet, the development of biomedical technology products is often impeded by a significant funding gap between the end of the SBIR/STTR Phase II award and the commercialization stage. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) invites SBCs to submit applications to further develop advanced stage research and development (referred to as Phase IIB) for promising projects that were previously funded by SBIR/STTR Phase II awards and will require eventual Federal regulatory approval/clearance. The goal of this FOA and the resulting Phase IIB awards is to assist applicants in pursuing the next appropriate milestone(s) necessary to advance a product/technology along a promising commercialization pathway by promoting partnerships between SBIR/STTR Phase II awardees and third-party investors and/or strategic partners.

  • This FOA will give competitive preference and funding priority to applications deemed likely to result in a commercial product as indicated by the applicant’s ability to secure independent third-party investor funds that equal or exceed the requested NHLBI funds (total costs).
  • This FOA is specifically intended to benefit clinical practice by accelerating the commercialization of novel products and technologies that are directly related to the NHLBI mission and that require ultimate approval/clearance by a Federal regulatory agency.
  • Proposed projects MUST be relevant to the NHLBI mission (see B. Scientific/Technical Scope).

Since its inception in 1982, the NIH SBIR/STTR program has provided the small business community with seed funding to support the development of a broad array of commercial products to detect, diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. It provides an important funding mechanism for bringing new interventions to patients and clinicians. The SBIR/STTR program is structured in three phases. The objective in Phase I is to establish the technical merit and feasibility of a proposed research and development (R&D) effort, while in Phase II it is to continue the R&D effort for successful Phase I projects. The expectation is that in Phase III a SBC will be able to complete commercialization with non-SBIR/STTR funds.

However, many projects initiated with SBIR/STTR funding require considerable financing beyond the SBIR/STTR Phase II award to complete the necessary validation studies required to arrive at Phase III. In particular, the development of therapeutics, medical devices, and combined technologies often requires a number of years and substantial capital investments because of the costs associated with conducting clinical trials and/or other steps mandated by the federal regulatory approval process. Thus, despite the extensive R&D efforts during Phase II projects in these areas, the results are often insufficient to attract private investments needed for the eventual commercialization of a product and many small businesses become cash-starved before reaching the next critical milestone along the path toward commercialization. Hence, this FOA is designed to address this funding gap between the end of the SBIR/STTR Phase II award and the point at which non-SBIR/STTR financing can be secured for the subsequent stages of product development.

A number of public and private organizations have begun to recognize the challenges associated with this funding gap and are taking steps to provide additional resources to advance a greater number of promising early-stage technologies toward commercialization. Importantly, many of these organizations are not only providing financial support but are also establishing programs to provide commercialization guidance. For example, in the area of drug development, a number of major pharmaceutical firms have developed corporate venture funds focused on supporting projects in the pre-clinical stages of development, and some of these firms have established technology incubators to provide development support, including regulatory guidance. In addition, a growing number of universities are creating venture funds to support innovative technologies developed by their resident investigators, and numerous state-sponsored technology funds have also been created across the U.S. to support start-up companies. Such programs can provide additional financing and commercialization support for SBIR/STTR awardees that have received initial seed funding and a rigorous technical evaluation through the NIH peer review process. As such, a major goal of this FOA is to provide a platform to incentivize partnerships between NIH-funded SBIR/STTR awardees and a broad range of potential third-party investors. It is anticipated that funding by third-party investors will be predicated on significant due diligence, thus encouraging awardees to formulate credible business plans for product commercialization. In addition, it is expected that third-party investors will maintain an active role in supporting the awardee during the product development phase and during pursuit of follow-on funding for the SBIR/STTR Phase III commercialization stage.

Specific Objectives for SBIR Phase IIB Bridge Award Applications

A. Independent Third-Party Investor Funds

This FOA specifically encourages business relationships between applicant SBCs and third-party investors/strategic partners who can provide substantial financing to help accelerate the commercialization of promising new products and technologies that were initiated with SBIR/STTR funding. In particular, applicants are expected to leverage their previous SBIR/STTR support, as well as the opportunity to compete for additional NHLBI funding under this FOA, to attract and negotiate third-party financing needed to advance a product or technology toward commercialization. The applicant’s ability to secure independent third-party investor funds that equal or exceed the total amount of the NHLBI funds being requested over the entire Phase IIB Bridge Award project period will help to validate the commercial potential that is essential for the SBIR projects solicited under this FOA. It is anticipated that many of the partnerships between applicant SBCs and third-party investors will involve a considerable level of project due diligence by the private sector, thereby increasing the likelihood of commercial success for the funded projects. In light of these goals, the NHLBI strongly encourages applicants to establish business relationships with investors and/or strategic partners that have appropriate prior experience in commercializing emerging biomedical technologies.

B. Scientific/Technical Scope

The technical and commercial objectives described in the SBIR Phase IIB Bridge Award application MUST represent an extension of the development efforts that were pursued in a previously funded SBIR/STTR Phase II award. It is essential that significant progress was accomplished during the current/preceding SBIR/STTR Phase II project and also that the proposed product/technology has significant commercial potential. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate that the proposed product/technology has a clear advantage over existing and/or competing products/technologies and should clearly define an appropriate path toward ultimate product commercialization.

This FOA is specifically designed to provide additional support for products/technologies that require ultimate approval/clearance by a Federal regulatory agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Although projects previously funded by another NIH Institute/Center or another Federal agency are eligible to apply under this FOA, proposed projects MUST be relevant to the NHLBI mission. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NHLBI to discuss whether their proposed project meets this criterion. The NHLBI supports development of technologies to detect, prevent, or treat cardiovascular, lung, blood and sleep disorders. It also supports research on the clinical use of blood and all aspects of the management and safety of blood resources. The NHLBI SBIR/STTR program fosters basic, applied, and clinical research on all product and service development related to the mission of the NHLBI. The NHLBI program priority areas for technology development research include:

Cardiovascular Diseases areas: heart failure, atherothrombosis, heart attack, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation along with other atrial and ventricular arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, adult and pediatric congenital heart disease, cardiovascular complications of diabetes and obesity, acquired heart valve disease, cardiomyopathies, and peripheral vascular diseases.

Lung Diseases areas: asthma, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, respiratory neurobiology, sleep-disordered breathing, critical care and acute lung injury, developmental biology and pediatric pulmonary diseases, immunologic and fibrotic pulmonary disease, rare lung disorders, pulmonary vascular disease, and pulmonary complications of AIDS and tuberculosis.

Blood Diseases and Resources areas: sickle cell disease (SCD), the thalassemias, Fanconi anemia, Diamond-Blackfan anemia and other bone marrow failure syndromes, iron chelation, fetal hemoglobin production, white blood cell disorders, myeloproliferative and myelodysplastic syndromes, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and novel cell-based therapies, transfusion medicine (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma) and blood banking including technologies to store, process, and screen blood, thrombosis and hemostatic disorders including but not limited to idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), hemophilia, and coagulation factor deficiencies and disorders.

The following guidelines provide examples of appropriate development activities to be proposed under this FOA. Responsive applications are not limited to the following areas.

For projects pertaining to the development of therapeutics, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of an Investigational New Drug (IND) application or clinical studies to support the filing of a New Drug Application (NDA) and/or Biological License Application (BLA).

For projects pertaining to imaging technologies, interventional devices, and in vivo diagnostics, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of a 510(k) application, Premarket Approval (PMA) application, or an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application.

For projects pertaining to ex vivo or in vitro diagnostics, prognostics, and screening tests, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of a 510(k) application, Premarket Approval (PMA) application, an Investigational New Drug (IND) application, and/or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application, as needed for the specific technology/system/assay.

This FOA is intended to support applications that propose activities to address any relevant requirements for clinical validation and regulatory approval, as necessary and required for commercialization of the technology.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NHLBI Scientific/Research Contact(s) listed in Section VII prior to submitting an application.  

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