Ongoing discussions of funding priorities and mechanisms for the National Institutes of Health in the press and among investigators have focused on several critical issues, such as increasing or decreasing funding for established research areas, improving the peer-review process, introducing grant mechanisms to foster young investigators, and developing strategies to identify and support productive new research opportunities. Indeed, efforts to address these and other issues at NIH (the major source of extramural support for biomedical research) are moving forward with promising results under the leadership of NIH Director Harold Varmus.

Discussions of funding mechanisms such as multicomponent, multidisciplinary grants that support centers and program projects have drawn less attention, but they have compelling strengths that may not be appreciated by many investigators who are not directly familiar with how these mechanisms work. Most of today's biological problems require multidisciplinary research strategies that entail the use of multiple, diverse methodologies that...

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