CDMRP Introductory Overview video (text)

CDMRP Overview

Welcome to the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs introductory overview.

The CDMRP is located within the Department of Defense, or DoD. The U.S. Army, and Army Medical Command, or MEDCOM, on behalf of the DoD, administers biomedical research that supports basic, translational, and clinical research projects; research training; and research infrastructure. Within MEDCOM, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, or USAMRMC, oversees these programs and has a long history of sustaining and improving combat readiness of the Armed Forces, and improving military healthcare on the battlefield. The CDMRP is the office within the USAMRMC that implements and manages funding for biomedical research programs directed by Congress, in addition to providing support for additional DoD medical research program areas.

USAMRMC activities span the full lifecycle management of medical materiel—from basic laboratory research, to advanced development, clinical trials, and fielding of medical knowledge and products—for health-related issues that are relevant to the military and the general public. Medical information and products developed by the USAMRMC protect and sustain the health and safety of the force through deployment and combat. The USAMRMC has been entrusted by Congress to manage and execute appropriated funds for Congressional Special Interest, or CSI, medical research, development, test, and evaluation efforts. CSI appropriations are not requested by the DoD; they are added to the DoD budget by Congress, with specific targeted research areas as defined by Congressional language.

CSI and DoD programs managed and supported by the CDMRP focus on advancements in military medicine, as well as on public health benefits. Although research programs are directed by Congress, the CDMRP is responsible for determining the appropriate research funding strategy for each program and managing the review and selection process. To achieve this, the CDMRP follows an established grants management cycle—partnering with multiple public and private stakeholders, including the military, research scientists, clinicians, disease survivors, consumers, and policy makers—and oversees the resulting awards throughout their period of performance. The CDMRP also supports the management of other DoD research portfolios and projects, as needed. While individual programs are unique in their focus, all CDMRP programs share the common goal of advancing research that will lead to healthcare solutions, such as disease prevention or cures, improvements in patient care and survival, and breakthrough technologies and resources for clinical benefit. Thus, these common program goals support the CDMRP vision…

…to transform healthcare for Service Members and the American public through innovative and impactful research. The CDMRP works to accomplish this vision by responsibly managing collaborative research that discovers, develops, and delivers healthcare solutions for Service Members, Veterans, and the American public.

The foundation of the CDMRP was established in 1992, when grassroots advocacy efforts heightened political awareness and increased interest in health issues. After the initial Congressional appropriation of 210 million dollars for a new Breast Cancer Research Program was designated to the USAMRMC, the Army sought the advice of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, or IOM, on how to most effectively manage review and investment strategies for these appropriations. The IOM recommended using a two-tier review process that incorporates the strengths of traditional peer review systems, but also considers relevance to programmatic goals. Consumer advocates participate in both tiers of review, as well as in the development of investment strategies and focus areas. As additional programs and topics were added by Congress, the CDMRP was established. This infrastructure and further development of a well-regarded management process has enabled the CDMRP to manage more than 30 new programs and also support core efforts within the DoD.

Hallmarks of all CDMRP research programs include the fact that all research funds are specifically targeted by Congress and added to the DoD budget on a yearly basis. The CDMRP specifically targets research according to each program area, and funds high-impact, high-risk, and high-gain projects that other agencies may not venture to fund. It is also important to note that CDMRP programs fund the full pipeline of research development, from basic science through clinical trials, as appropriate to the state of the field of each program. The CDMRP follows the two-tier review application process that was recommended by the National Academy of Medicine, and there are no standing peer review panels. Consumers—defined as individuals living with the disease, injury, or condition, or in some cases their caretakers—participate throughout the yearly program cycle. Each program’s vision is adapted yearly, and award mechanisms are changed as needed to meet the current needs of the research community. The CDMRP does not use a “pay line,” and applications that receive the highest scientific scores are not automatically funded. Applications are recommended for funding based on both their scientific merit and how well they address programmatic criteria.

The success of the CDMRP is based on a unique partnership among Congress, the DoD, researchers, and consumers. Each partner plays an important and distinctive role—from the initiation of funds and guidance, to program management and oversight, to the development of innovative ideas and products, to the passion and perspectives of the consumers. All work toward the goal of improving military medicine and/or public health outcomes.

Consumer involvement, a CDMRP hallmark from the very beginning, is the inclusion of patients, survivors, family members, and/or caregivers in the review process. Consumers serve as full voting members on nearly all CDMRP peer and programmatic review panels. Consumers are invited to participate on review panels based on their involvement in advocacy organizations, outreach/support organizations, or the Armed Forces, and their personal experience with the disease or condition. Consumers add a unique perspective and a sense of urgency, ensuring that the human dimensions of the target disease, disorder, or injury are incorporated into program policy, investment strategy, and research focus.

This is a snapshot of the diverse range of program areas, with their associated funding, that is currently managed or supported by the CDMRP. Over the years, the CDMRP has continued to evolve as new programs and topic areas were added and a few were no longer included—all as directed by Congressional legislation, a majority in response to requests by consumers and disease survivors. Most of the programs are focused on a specific disease, injury, or condition.

Two programs have multiple topic areas, as specified by Congress.

Topic areas included in the Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program, or PRCRP, are annually identified by Congress and may vary year to year. The PRCRP focuses on funding research into exposures relevant to the military that may lead to the development of cancer, and/or addressing research and patient care capability gaps that may affect mission readiness. Congressional language also stipulates that funds appropriate for the PRCRP may not be used to invest in research for other cancers that have dedicated funding programs at the CDMRP.

The Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, or PRMRP, supports research in Congressionally specified topic areas that address a wide range of fields, including autoimmune diseases and immunology, cardiovascular health, infectious diseases, internal medicine, neurological and psychological health, orthopedic and regenerative medicine, and respiratory health and injury. PRMRP topic areas are also identified annually by Congress and vary year to year. Since its inception in 1999, the program has supported over one thousand research awards in more than 150 Congressionally directed topic areas. The PRMRP is committed to funding basic, translational, and clinical research of high scientific merit and direct military relevance, to benefit military Service Members, Veterans, their family members, and the general public.

In addition to the Congressional programs assigned to the CDMRP for management, the CDMRP works closely with the USAMRMC Program Area Directorates, or PADs, and corresponding Defense Health Agency Joint Program Committees, or JPCs, to provide award and program management support for their research portfolios. Where research areas align, PAD and JPC representatives also serve as members of CDMRP programmatic panels and provide guidance on research gaps, investment strategies, and funding recommendations.

The CDMRP plays a significant role in the research landscape. It is the leading funder for neurofibromatosis -specific research, and the second largest funder for research in breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer, as well as in Gulf War illness and tuberous sclerosis complex.

Since its inception, the CDMRP has made numerous advancements in:

  • prevention and risk strategies;
  • detection, diagnosis, and prognosis;
  • therapeutics and treatments;
  • registries and repositories;
  • patient resources and telehealth,
  • prosthetics, orthotics, and restorative strategies;
  • clinical practice and patient care; and
  • feeding the pipeline for research resources, technologies, and knowledge products.

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Last updated Monday, January 3, 2022