CCR FLEX Program

The CCR FLEX Program is an intramural funding mechanism. The objective is to facilitate the ability of CCR PIs to pursue high-risk, high-impact projects outside of a laboratory’s base allocations. 

The FLEX program seeks to promote all areas of cancer research. Proposals can cover any aspect of the CCR research portfolio (basic, translational and/or clinical), but should clearly define how the proposed work will generate groundbreaking advances of relevance to cancer research. This also applies to COVID-19 related projects, which must demonstrate they directly add to our understanding of cancer biology or the development of treatments for cancer patients.

A list of projects that have been funded through the FLEX Program can be found at this Link.  Some highlights of outcomes from the FLEX program can be found here.  To access the recent informational meeting on the FLEX program, please see these links to the recorded talk as well as a pdf version of the slides. 

Hallmarks of the FLEX Program are:

  • Innovation and Creativity: FLEX Program projects should have a high degree of innovation and creativity.
  • High-impact: FLEX Program projects should have the potential to lead to high-impact results.
  • Defined by milestones: FLEX Program projects have clearly articulated milestones.
  • Time-limited: FLEX Program projects are time-limited, typically up to 3 years.
  • Highly selective: Selection of FLEX Program projects involves a two-stage open competition overseen by the CCR Science Board.

Stage 1) Evaluation of Letters of Intent (LOIs)

Stage 2) Evaluation of invited full proposals (estimated ~20% of LOIs)

General Review Criteria. Projects felt to have the potential to be high impact in a cancer-related field will be given highest priority. This means that if successful, the work is likely to have a sustained, powerful influence on the proposed research field(s). For all the Award categories except the New Directions, the proposed work can be related to ongoing work in the PI’s lab however the project must be distinct from that work. For the New Directions Award, the project must be a significant departure from ongoing work.  The proposed work must be relevant to cancer research.

In addition, the following criteria will be assessed for each project:

    • Innovation
    • Significance. Does the project have the potential to address a significant question related to cancer research?
    • Approach. Does the proposed work employ appropriate research approaches? Has there been discussion of the use of alternative approaches? This is important given that the project must also propose high-risk, high-impact research. Are the specific aims independent of each other but is the overall proposal cohesive?
    • Milestones: The proposal should list clearly defined milestones and identify at least annual go/no-go decision points.
    • Award-specific Criteria. Please look carefully at the information relating to the award category you are submitting to make sure the LOI/Proposal addresses all the necessary criteria. 

All CCR PIs are eligible to apply for FLEX Program funding. The primary PI for the proposed work in each award category must be a tenure-track investigator, tenured PI, senior clinician, or senior scientist in CCR. Those in the Physician-Scientist Early Investigator (PEI) program can apply but must include a tenured PI as a co-PI. Site-visited Staff Scientists who have independent budgets (CANs) are also eligible. Non-NCI researchers can collaborate on a project or be a co-PI but cannot receive funds. PIs from DCEG can serve as funded co-PIs on the CCR-DCEG Collaborative Award and the Health Disparities Award. Please click here for more specifics on who may submit a FLEX LOI as a primary PI.

FLEX Program funds are for the proposed project only. FLEX funds cannot be rolled into general lab budgets. FLEX award projects are not reviewed during the quadrennial site-visit, but the CCR Science Board will monitor progress periodically.

A project can be either an original submission (i.e., first time submission for consideration for a FLEX Award) or a resubmission of a project from a previous year. Please note applicants may submit an original submission and a maximum of two resubmissions for the same project.

Below is general information describing each of the award categories. Please use the links to access further descriptions of each award category, as well as important information on preparing an application.

CCR Technology Development Awards enable the development of ground-breaking new methods and technology in the PI’s laboratory and can be in any area of biomedicine relevant to cancer ranging from basic research tools to clinical technology. CCR will provide funds for three years and up to $125,000 per year to cover personnel and supply costs.

CCR Synergy Awards support the formation of research teams composed of basic, translational and/or clinical scientists to perform high-impact collaborative projects relevant to cancer. Synergy Award proposals may address basic research and/or translational/clinical questions, including those that leverage “bench to bedside” and/or “bedside to bench” paradigms. CCR will provide funds for three years with the possibility of a maximum two-year extension and up to $375,000 per year to cover personnel and supply costs.

CCR New Directions Awards facilitate the pursuit of studies with the potential to lead to groundbreaking advances beyond the investigator’s immediate field and with high relevance to the broader biomedical cancer community. Proposals must represent a significant divergence from the PI’s research focus. CCR will provide funds for three years with up to $125,000 per year to cover personnel and supply costs.

CCR-DCEG Collaborative Awards   foster integrative research that builds on DCEG expertise in population-based epidemiology and CCR expertise in basic biology and clinical research. Projects should be focused on high-impact problems in the areas of cancer mechanism, diagnosis, prognosis, susceptibility, predisposition, or prevention. Funding will be provided for three years to cover personnel and supply costs. CCR PIs will receive up to $125,000 per year and DCEG PIs up to $85,000 per year.

CCR Health Disparity Awards may cover any area of cancer health disparity as defined by the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. This includes using basic, clinical, translational, and epidemiological approaches aimed at understanding and reducing any type of cancer health disparity, including determinants of health disparities and improvements in health outcomes. This can be an individual or a team award for a lead PI and up to 2 co-PIs. DCEG PIs can also be funded as co-PIs for this award. Funding will be provided for three years to cover personnel and supply costs. CCR PIs will receive up to $125,000 per year and DCEG PIs up to $85,000 per year.



Important Deadlines

December 13, 2023: Submission of FLEX Award Full proposals (Invited only) closes 11:59 pm.  All PIs with LOIs selected for invited proposals have been notified. 

Another round of FLEX funding is expected to begin in July 2024. More information will be posted in Spring of 2024. 

Please contact Diana Linnekin if you have questions.


Last updated by Linnekin, Diana (NIH/NCI) [E] on Nov 13, 2023