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CDMRP funding supports high-risk, high-reward research

Now is the time of year when the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) starts to release pre-announcements for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) – the DoD’s biggest source of competitive funding for medical research. Pre-announcements are posted as press releases to the CDMRP website and are intended to alert the research community of upcoming funding opportunity releases “to allow investigators time to plan and develop ideas for submission to anticipated funding opportunities.” If you are unfamiliar with the CDMRP, read on to learn more about this unique family of programs that fund high-risk, high-reward research that other funding agencies might shy away from.

The CDMRP’s origins date back to 1992 when the U.S. Congress dedicated a $25 million appropriation in the annual defense bill for breast cancer research – a response to intense lobbying by advocacy organizations for increased federal spending on women’s health research. Over the years, members of Congress began to add more research topics to address different constituency interests. Some research topics have received consistent funding year after year, while other topics have dropped off the list temporarily or permanently as Congressional priorities shifted. In fact, throughout its lifespan, the CDMRP has supported more than 50 unique research programs!

Today, the CDMRP annual budget exceeds $1.5 billion and encompasses 35 research programs, each focused on a specific set of health conditions, injuries or diseases (e.g., breast cancer, spinal cord injury, autism) that affect service members, veterans and the general public. The CDMRP is committed to funding basic, translational and clinical research of high scientific merit with direct military relevance to benefit military service members, veterans, their family members and the general public.

Two-tier review process

The CDMRP utilizes a two-tier review process that consists of a peer review and a programmatic review. Peer review assesses applications for technical merit against the criteria written in the funding announcement. There are no standing panels for peer review. Instead, reviewers are recruited based on the expertise needed. Consumers are always represented during peer review and have equal voting rights to all other panel members. Peer review produces summary statements for each proposal, which contain a numeric score with details of each proposal’s strength and weaknesses.

Tier 2 is a programmatic review. The programmatic panel, which also includes consumer members, reviews the summary statements alongside one another, balancing scientific merit against the program’s portfolio, the potential for impact and program relevance. CDMRP’s programmatic panels typically include representatives from other federal funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and/or Veterans Affairs, that provide information regarding the research being funded in related areas.

Strategies to position researchers for success

To write a competitive CDMRP application, researchers need sufficient lead time to select the “best fit” funding mechanism, to identify collaborators and to map out a proposal development strategy. The CDMRP presents researchers with unique challenges because pre-announcements do not stipulate when a funding announcement (i.e., RFA) will be released. It is not uncommon for a funding announcement to be released 30-60 days after the pre-announcement with aggressive deadlines for submitting pre-applications and full proposals. There are several strategies researchers can use to stay ahead of the curve:

  • Sign up to receive CDMRP news releases to receive email notifications about releases of pre-announcements and funding opportunity announcements.
  • Register as a principal investigator (PI) in the Electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal (eBRAP). The eBRAP is a web-based system that allows PIs to submit pre-applications through a secure connection. PIs can also edit pre-applications in eBRAP and track full proposals, which are submitted through
  • Review the strategic plan and recent applications recommended for funding on the CDMRP program of interest. In addition, review recently archived funding announcements for insight on proposal format and review criteria.
  • Become familiar with the CDMRP’s policies on research duplication. CDMRP wants to avoid making research investments that unnecessarily overlap with other federal agencies.
  • Explore the CDMRP YouTube channel to gain insight on strategies to increase application competitiveness. For the latest CDMRP webinar, watch “CDMRP Overview: How to Apply, Tips for Success, and FY23 Programs” here:

Additional resources

Research Development manages a proposal library for the College of Medicine, which currently includes more than 60 funded research proposals awarded to College faculty members and research scholars. Thanks to the generosity of colleagues, the library includes two recently funded CDMRP proposals, along with their associated summary statements. The proposal library is an excellent educational resource for our College community. Library users must adhere to a consent statement, which states that all research proposals, reviewer critiques and any other associated documents are PI property – and the library is “view-only.”

To request library access or to discuss CDMRP funding with our team, please email Research Development at

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