A new research funding cycle has begun for the USHBC Health Research Committee. The cycle begins with the decision on what type of research should be funded. Then the funding process is conducted in two stages.
The first stage is called the “Letter of Intent.” Last October, the committee announced it was accepting Letters of Intent from researchers interested in studying the health benefits of blueberries. Researchers are required to submit a brief description of what will be studied, how the study will be conducted and an estimate of the cost.
This year, for the first time, we’re working with a grant management program that allows researchers to submit Letters of Intent online. This also helps standardize the applications so all researchers submit the required information in a consistent manner. Health Research Committee members can then review the submitted Letters of Intent and provide their evaluations online.
In January, the committee will select the eight to 10 applications that have the most potential and invite those researchers to submit a detailed research proposal. Using the same online program, the committee and the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) will then review these detailed proposals.
In April, the committee and the SAB will have their annual meeting to discuss all proposals and make the decision on which to fund. The committee and SAB strive to select research ideas that are strong from a scientific point of view, but also have the potential to yield results that would be of interest to the general public.
The interest in studying the health benefits of blueberries is widespread. We’ve received Letters of Intent from academic institutions across the U.S. as well as Canada and Europe. Researchers are interested in evaluating the effects of blueberry consumption in a wide range of areas, including various types of cancer, exercise, aging, cognitive function, gut health, lung function and vascular health. We’ve even received a couple of descriptions regarding studies that would look at the effects of blueberry consumption in dogs. We typically receive a larger number of proposals than we can fund, so selecting can be difficult.
We’re currently reviewing the Letters of Intent, which is just the first step in a very long multi-step process that concludes with a report that’s published in a scientific journal. The entire process can take many years as we work with researchers along the path described below.
Letter of Intent
Full Research Proposal
Memorandum of Agreement Between Research Institute and USDA/USHBC
Recruitment of Subjects for the Study
Clinical Stage – Subjects Consume Blueberries and Samples are Collected
Analysis of Samples
Report Summarizing the Results is Submitted to the Health Research Committee
Manuscript is Written and Submitted to a Scientific Journal for Publication
Each of these steps can take months to years, so the full research path is a very long process. Since we fund new studies every year, we have multiple studies in various stages of progress. We look forward to sharing the results from our studies that are wrapping up throughout 2020.