We often may think that the NIH SBIR activities are limited to grants. They have numerous topics of interest to them for funding most commonly (but not limited to) the omnibus solicitation with three deadlines a year.What is not as commonly known is that NIH also has a contracts solicitation.
SBIR and STTR contracts are more normally associated with the Department of Defense or NASA, where those agencies have an identified specific need and they are seeking small businesses to fund the research and ultimately be a customer of those businesses.
NIH, with their contract solicitation, is similar. They have identified their own needs and are searching for solutions that they can fund and subsequently purchase from small businesses. The clear advantage to successfully obtaining an SBIR contract from these agencies is that the awarded company will be the sole source supplier to the agency for the solution. The federal government becomes your customer.
The newest NIH and CDC contract opportunity has been released with a due date of November 4, 2022; specifically to address their mission needs. The solicitation can be found here and a .pdf of the document and topics are also downloadable from that link.
Note that most of the topics allow Phase I applications and some of them allow either Fast Tracks, Direct to Phase II’s or both. The participating Institutes within the NIH include the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases as well as others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also participating.
Importantly, keep in mind that while the agencies want to be your customers through this contract mechanism, they also recognize that selling your product on the open market makes a stronger application. So if you pursue one of these contract topics, make sure you describe, not only the Institutes needs, but also how your product addresses a broader commercial need.