The NIH has become very adamant about (almost) only funding clinically relevant research, both at the program (NIH staff) level and in study section (the community). Several institutes now explicitly says that its areas of focus do not include “Basic Science Research” for several of its mechanisms. This has led to debate amongst my colleagues, particularly those who have been around long enough to see fads come & go at NIH.
I think that if you can craft a proposal that is explicitly clinical, and will have important (significant and innovative) outcomes that will address the NIH mandate to improve health, that it does not matter if there are implicit basic results that will advance the field (although not necessarily The NIH Mission). On the other hand, colleagues say this is “cheating” NIH, in that you are trying to sneak work in that they have explicitly excluded. Further, that if one truly addressed the health mission, rather than trying to include Other Stuff, one would do a better job of what NIH wants. This is kinda amusing to me, as I have always thought of “what NIH wants” as something to be figured out and put into grants so that one could get funded.
Finally none of this addresses the short-sighted-ness of demanding everything be clinical or translational, in that there is a lot of “basic science” that is critical to begin addressing the health problems facing us today.