Two people talk in front of a science poster

The Laboratory Directed Exploratory Research (LDER) program promotes innovative and high-impact research that has the potential to contribute to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and HIV infection. The LDER program awards funding to investigators at the Frederick National Laboratory through a rigorous and competitive review by senior scientists from the Frederick National Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, and our academic partners. LDER offers $1 million in annual funding which is split among five to eight projects.

This program parallels the U.S. Department of Energy’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) programs, which provide Congressional funding for competitive, creative, and innovative work serving national laboratory missions.

Program Objectives

  • Enhance the innovation, creativity, originality, and quality of research activities at the Frederick National Laboratory.
  • Facilitate collaborations within our organization.
  • Engage academic institutions and other external entities to encourage collaboration and strategic interactions.
  • Enable demonstration of exploratory proof-of-concept projects that will lead to follow-on funding through contract or grant mechanisms.

History of Success

Since its initiation in 2015, the LDER program has funded 34 projects, representing a diverse portfolio of research. Project outcomes led to numerous publications, conference presentations, and one pending patent. LDER funds have also enabled collaborations with several universities and other partners. This program has helped recruit high-quality staff, including many post-doctoral fellows.

Some key outcomes include: 

  • Enabled the development of the micro-dose calibrator, an instrument that can measure radioactivity doses between 0.1–100 µCi with 99% accuracy, filling an important measurement gap. The patent was filed in 2017 and is available for licensing.  
  • Informed NCI decisionmakers to help accelerate the establishment of the Imaging Mass Cytometry Laboratory.  
  • Contributed to the finding that HLA zygosity increases risk of hepatitis B virus-associated hepatocellular carcinoma.