From what it sounds like, you need to be in the inner circle of key labs in order to be able to be even considered to be able to apply and get a National Institutes of Health R01 grant. How does a lab position itself to get into that inner circle and then how do you merit a score that will merit review and approval? Should we be focusing on getting several publications out or collecting all of it as preliminary data.
For the NIH NIDCD (and likely other institutes, but I don't have the data), a great way to position yourself for an a new-investigator R01 is to first get an F32 post-doctoral fellowship since 70% of those with an F32 post-doctoral fellowship who applied for a subsequent RPG (predominately R01 and R03 awards) were successful. There might be better predictors, but 70% is pretty good when it comes to funding pay lines.
You should also be aware that the R01 club is not as closed as your question makes it sound. Historically, 25% of R01-equivalent awards are made to new investigators.