NIEHS Superfund Hazardous Substances_Basic Research and Education

To establish a unique program linking biomedical research with engineering, geoscience and ecological research.

The goals of the program are to establish and support an innovative program of basic research and training consisting of multi-project, interdisciplinary efforts and individual investigator

Areas of research may include: (1) methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment; (2) advance techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effects of hazardous substances on humans; (3) methods to assess the risks to human health presented by hazardous substances; and (4) and basic biological, chemical, and physical methods to reduce the amount and toxicity of hazardous substances.

It is intended that advanced or graduate training be integrated into the multi-project research program to provide opportunities in biomedical and environmental health, environmental sciences, ecology, and geosciences.

The Program encourages the integration of interdisciplinary training to ensure that its students are prepared to tackle the complex issues presented by hazardous waste sites.

Examples of Funded Projects

The Superfund Basic Research Program is university-based basic research and training program consisting of coordinated, multi-component interdisciplinary programs that link basic biomedical research with related engineering, hydrogenological epidemiological, and ecological studies.

This interdisciplinary program supports basic research in the following: (1) Development and use of methods and technologies to detect hazardous substances in the environment such as the development of a cell bioassay system that detects dioxin-like HAHs and PAHs in extracts of biological, environmental, and food and feed samples; (2) development of advanced techniques for the detection, assessment, and evaluation of the effects of human health of hazardous substances such as a number of projects focused on arsenic detection, biomarker development, mechanisms of action and remediation methods; (3) development of methods to assess the risk to human health presented by hazardous substances such as the projects focused on the human health effects associated with exposure to PCBs ; and (4) the development and use of basic biological, chemical, and physical methods and technologies to reduce the amount of toxicity of hazardous substance such as the development of bioremediation strategies using microbes and other organisms to reduce organics and metals from environmental media.

Agency - Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services is the Federal government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially to those who are least able to help themselves.

Program Accomplishments

The NIEHS Superfund Research Program utilizes three grant mechanisms to achieve its goals of advancing the understanding of human health effects of environmental exposures to hazardous substances and in developing innovative technologies for remediating these contaminants. One mechanism the Program uses is to support research through multi-project grant awards. In 2007, 15 ongoing grants were non-competitively renewed. No new awards were made in 2007. The Program released a Request for Applications in September 2006 to allow for the recompetition of this multi-project research program. As a result of this solicitation, in 2008, two existing grantees successfully recompeted and were awarded five-year awards. Another Request for Applications was released in September 2007 and it is anticipated that this solicitation will result in two or three awards in 2009. Examples of recent research advances suggest that nuclear hormone receptors may be affected by arsenic; that brines can be the source of groundwater contamination; that microwave technology can be used to degrade volatile organic compounds; and that folic acid supplementation may be an important intervention in lowering total blood arsenic to persons exposed to arsenic in drinking water. Additional research advances can be access on the Program's webpage: The second grant mechanism the Superfund Basic Research Program uses is individual investigator research project grants. Eight three-year awards were made using this mechanism in 2006 and were non competitively renewed in 2007. The focus of this research effort is to develop novel methods for environmental exposure assessment and site characterization, study bioavailability, and develop remediation/characterization methodologies of contaminants in sediments. In addition, in the fall of 2006 the Program released a Request for Applications which resulted in 4 new three-year awards being made in 2007 and an additional three new three-year awards made in 2008. The RFA specifically focused on innovative approaches for remediating sediments. In the fall of 2007, the Program released another RFA in the area of using nanomaterials to study the mechanisms of bioremediation. As a result of this announcement, it is anticipated that three or four awards will be made in the fall of 2008. The third mechanism used by the Superfund Research Program is the Small Business Innovative Research SBIR/STTR grant programs. The Superfund Research Program uses the NIH Omnibus solicitation to announce its areas of interest, which, to date, includes remediation and monitoring of hazardous substances. In 2007, one phase I SBIR, one phase 2 SBIR, and one phase 1 STTR awards were made. And one Phase 2 SBIR and one Phase 2 STTR grants were non-competitively renewed.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Research grants are intended to support the direct costs of a project, in accordance with an approved budget, plus an appropriate amount for indirect costs.

Grants made under this program are for university-based programs, and the objective is to establish and maintain coordinated research efforts that link basic biomedical research with related engineering, hydrogeological and ecological studies.

In addition, the Superfund Research Program supports small business research through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

The award and use of funds are subject to applicable provisions of basic statutory authorities, appropriations acts, pertinent regulations, and operating policies of the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

An accredited institution of higher education, as defined in the Higher Education Act, 20 U.S.C.

(annotated) 3381, may submit an application and receive a grant for support of research by a named principal investigator.

Subcontracts may be made with public and private organizations, including: generators of hazardous wastes; persons involved in the detection, assessment, evaluation, and treatment of hazardous substances; owners and operators of facilities at which hazardous substances are located; and State, local and Tribal governments.

Nonprofit organizations which are incorporated under 501(c)(4) are prohibited from receiving grants.

Organizations applying for a grant under the SBIR/STTR programs must qualify as a U.S.-owned Small Business Concern (SBC).

Beneficiary Eligibility

Any accredited institution of higher education engaged in biomedical research and/or engineering and ecological research. SBIR and STTR awards are restricted to small business that meet NIH's criteria for SBC. Tribal entities that meet these requirements are eligible to apply.


Applications must be signed by appropriate officials of the submitting institution. Costs will be determined in accordance with OMB Circular Nos. A-87 for State and local governments, A-21 for universities, and A-122 for private nonprofit other than universities. For-profit organizations, costs are determined in accordance with 48 CFR, Subpart 31.2 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. For other grantees, costs will be determined by HHS Regulations 45 CFR 74, Subpart Q.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Not applicable.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.


Application Procedures

Letter of Intent Prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent. Although it is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review. It is due one month prior to the receipt of the applications. Applications for the Superfund Research Program are accepted in response to funding opportunity announcements (FOA) which are posted on National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website ( under the tab "funding opportunities". Applications submitted in response to a multi component FOA must use the PHS 398 (version dated 11/07) paper submission. Application instructions are available at in an interactive format. Applications submitted in response to an individual investigator FOA must be submitted electronically through ( using the SF424 Research and Related (R&R) forms and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. SBIR/STTR grant applications are accepted in response to the NIH Omnibus solicitation using the SF424 electronic application process ( The grant solicitation is released in early spring of each year and has 3 receipt dates: April 5, August 5 and December 5.

Award Procedures

Grants are awarded on the basis of a dual review of the applications. The initial review for scientific merit is conducted by a Special Emphasis Panel of peers with appropriate scientific expertise; the second level of review is performed by the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council for program relevance and recommendations. The final approval of these recommendations and decisions concerning funding is made by the Director of NIEHS or, if in conflict, by appropriate NIH staff.


Contact Headquarters Office for deadlines information.


Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986, Title I, Section III, and Title II, Section 209, Public Law 99- 499, as amended; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980, as amended, Section 311(a), Public Law 96-510; Public Health Service Act, Section 301, Public Law 78-410, as amended; Public Law 99-500.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

From 9 to 12 months.


A principal investigator may question the substantive or procedural aspects of the review of his/her application by communicating with the staff of the Institute. A description of the NIH Peer Review Appeal procedures is available on the NIH home page


Renewal requests are subject to the same criteria as new applications.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

This program has no statutory formula or matching requirements.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Research Grants for the multi component and individual investigator may be awarded for up to 5 years, generally in 12-month budget periods. Funds are released primarily on the basis of an Electronic Transfer System. Grants made under the SBIR/STTR grants are made generally made for six months to two years.

Post Assistance Requirements


Annual and final progress reports and financial status reports are required.


In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-133 (Revised, June 27, 2003), "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations," nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $500,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $500,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in OMB Circular No. A-133. In addition, grants are subject to inspection and audits by DHHS and other Federal officials.


Expenditure and other financial and program records must be retained for 3 years from the day on which the grantee submits the final financial status report for the report period.

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Grants) FY 07 $46,821,724; FY 08 $46,092,440; and FY 09 est $46,061,885.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

$11,285 to $3,262,137; $1,377,110.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

42 CFR 52; 45 CFR 74; 45 CFR 92; NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts; NIH Grants Policy Statement March 1, 2001. Other publications, information, and applications and kits are available from the Office of Extramural Research, Outreach and Activities Resources, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, and the NIEHS (MD EC-22), P.O. Box 12233, 111 Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

Not applicable.

Headquarters Office

Program Contact: Dr. Claudia Thompson, Acting Director, Superfund Hazardous Substance Basic Research and Training Program, Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service, Department of Health and Human Services, P.O. Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. E-mail thomps14@niehs.nih-gov, Telephone: (919) 541-4638. Grants Management Contact: Dorothy G. Duke, Grants Management Officer, Grants Management Branch, Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, P.O. Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709. Telephone: (919) 541-2749; E-mail:

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Major factors considered in the evaluation of responsive applications include: (1) Scientific merit of each proposed project, including the novelty, originality, and feasibility of the approach and the adequacy of the experimental design; (2) technical merit and justification of each core unit; (3) competence of the investigators to accomplish the proposed research goals, their commitments, and the amount of time they will devote to the program; (4) scope of the overall effort in relation to the objective of the program to create unique interdisciplinary programs to eventually include, not only biomedical components, but also engineering, ecological and/or hydrogenological components; (5) adequacy of the facilities to perform the proposed research; (6) integration of the various projects and core units into an effective program and plans for interactions among investigators; (7) adequacy and commitment of institutional resources to administer an integrated, collaborative program; (8) appropriateness of the budget for the proposed program; (9) relevance of proposed research to problems associated with hazardous waste substances; and (10) progress of program to date for completing renewal applications.

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