It’s one of the most frequently asked questions we hear: “Are grant funds available for NGS implementation?” Fortunately, the answer is “Yes,” there are several opportunities for grant funds, with the options and availability depending on your lab’s location and other factors.

This article focuses on federal funding for U.S. forensic laboratories. The fiscal year 2019 application window for many of the applicable grant programs is now open or about to open, and the options, as well as funding amounts, have increased significantly this year.

In addition, please note that Verogen has special incentive programs for laboratories that take advantage of grant funding for NGS adoption in 2019 – contact us for details.

In the U.S. there are multiple applicable funding streams from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that fall into two main categories: (1) Formula Grants, with funding amounts calculated based on state crime statistics and/or population; and (2) Competitive Grants, with proposals evaluated and scored by external review panels to determine who gets the available money.

 

Formula Grants

The Formula Grants are by far the most widely used by accredited public forensic laboratories, i.e. state/county/municipal crime labs and medical examiner/coroner offices. These include:

DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction (CEBR) Program

In FY 2019, the estimated aggregate amount of CEBR funding has increased to $82 million (about $14 million more than last year), including an additional $12 million for states that have enacted “test all” Sexual Assault Kit (SAK) legislation. The solicitation was released on March 13th and applications are due by May 13th. As in previous years, CEBR grants are expected to be awarded to applicants in the third quarter of 2019, and funds dispersed in the beginning of 2020.

CEBR funding can be used for many purposes, including laboratory equipment, service contracts, supplies and reagents, software, laboratory staff, training, contracts for validation services and outsourcing to accredited laboratories. Equipment or technologies purchased using CEBR funds must be approved for use by the National DNA Index System (NDIS) – a roadblock that is about to disappear for the Verogen MiSeq FGx™ Forensic Genomics System.

NDIS approval is expected in the coming weeks for the MiSeq FGx System, which will then make it possible for laboratories to include the Verogen system in new CEBR applications, and/or to submit a “GAN” (Grant Adjustment Notification) to NIJ in order to include it in previous CEBR grant awards.

Paul Coverdell National Forensic Science Improvement Act (NFSIA) Program

Coverdell funds can be used for all forensic disciplines, including DNA, and for many purposes, such as laboratory equipment, personnel, training and supplies—with no NDIS-approval requirement.

Approximately 85% of the Coverdell funds are awarded as formula grants to eligible states based on population, with the remaining 15% allocated among states and units of local government through a competitive process. Grant applications and awards are managed at the state level by State Administering Agencies (SAAs), which set priorities and allocate funds within each state. (To view the Coverdell SAA for your state, click here.)

The FY 2019 solicitation has not yet been released as of March 27, 2019; however, funding levels are expected to increase by as much as 65% this year. A portion of these funds must be used for opioid crises mitigation, but the increased funding pool should provide an opportunity for other forensic capacity enhancement activities and to “address emerging forensic science technology,” one of the key purpose areas for the Coverdell program. Therefore, Coverdell funds can serve as a valuable funding source for implementation of the Verogen NGS solution.

 

Competitive Grants

The competitive NIJ grants utilize a more traditional model for awarding funds based on evaluation and scoring by external review panels. These include:

Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes

The NIJ funds these grants for basic or applied research and development projects to address the challenges of the forensic science community, including the operational needs discussed at NIJ’s FY 2019 Forensic Science Technology Working Group meeting. Last year, over $23 million was awarded to 50 grantees. This year’s solicitation was released on January 17th with applications due by April 11th.

Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Grant Program

This program provides funding for postconviction DNA testing in cases of violent felony offenses (as defined by State law) in which actual innocence might be demonstrated. Eligible applicants include states, units of local government, and public institutions of higher education (i.e. universities). The solicitation was released on February 6th with applications due by May 6th.

While these funds can’t be used for laboratory equipment, they can be used for laboratory supplies and reagents, computer equipment and software, personnel, and outsourcing to accredited fee-for-service laboratories to conduct DNA analysis of biological evidence.

Several accredited private labs are coming on-line with the Verogen Forensic Genomics Solution this year, creating an exciting opportunity to exploit NGS capabilities to address key performance measures in this program, e.g. percentage of cases subjected to DNA analysis that yield a viable STR, Y-STR or mtDNA profile that can support or contradict the post-conviction claim.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of available NIJ grant programs; rather, it highlights those most likely to support NGS adoption and development for forensic purposes. For more information, please visit https://www.nij.gov/.

Do you want to learn more about how your laboratory can take advantage of grant funding and special incentive programs from Verogen to efficiently implement NGS? Contact us today.


We’re Here to Help

Verogen has experienced application scientists with many years of operational forensic casework laboratory experience that can support you through all phases of implementation. Depending on the unique requirements of your laboratory, this may include training, internal validation study design and/or execution, and post-validation implementation support. Our expert team is available to partner with you every step of the way! Contact us to learn more.