Funding News for Current and Future NIMH Awardees • November 2009 Edition
November 2009 Table of Contents
Inside NIMH is produced by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information about the Institute, visit our website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov. For comments and suggestions about Inside NIMH, please contact the NIMH Webmaster. The material in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and we encourage its use or reprinting.
Welcome to the autumn 2009 edition of Inside NIMH. This edition of the newsletter discusses initiatives that the Institute is now supporting using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as important NIH-wide and NIMH-specific updates. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this edition.
Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Message from the NIMH Director
As we enter fiscal year (FY) 2010, this is a good time to review the status of the budget. The FY 2010 President’s Budget Request is $1.47 billion for NIMH—an increase of 1.7 percent from the FY 2009 budget. Over the summer, both houses of Congress recommended modifications to the President’s Budget Request; however, the House and Senate proposals have not yet been reconciled. Until the budget proposals are reconciled and finalized through signature of the President, NIH will operate at FY 2009 levels by means of a Continuing Resolution. During the Continuing Resolution, we will issue non-competing research grant awards at a level below that indicated on the most recent Notice of Grant Award (generally up to 90 percent of the previously committed level). As in previous Continuing Resolutions, we look forward to upward adjustments after the final appropriation is enacted later in the year.
As the current fiscal year draws to a close, I would like to highlight the tremendous efforts that have gone into NIMH activities related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). Recovery Act funding has provided the Institute with opportunities to support high-risk, innovative research that will focus our science in exciting new directions. With these funds, the Institute will be able to jumpstart the goals of the NIMH Strategic Plan, as well as the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC) Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research, the NIH AIDS Strategic Plan, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council’s report on research training. In addition, NIMH will use Recovery Act funds to augment multidisciplinary training and faculty recruitment programs, nurturing the development of investigators focused on areas of biomedical research relevant to NIMH.
An example of the expansive efforts enabled through the Recovery Act is the use of new genomic technology to investigate the molecular basis of mental illnesses. The advent of new tools for high throughput sequencing and for mapping modifications of the genome will allow us to identify not only variations associated with disease but also changes in the “epigenome” which may indicate the effects of experience during development. Another example of important Recovery Act-funded ASD research involves ‘RNA-Seq,’ which will demonstrate how gene expression patterns differ in the brains of people with or without a disorder. Recovery Act genomic and epigenomic projects will cover a wide array of disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, mood disorders, and PTSD.
Recovery Act funding also enables infrastructure development that will provide a framework for future discoveries. One large, multi-site project that promises to provide researchers with an invaluable reference tool is the Transcriptional Atlas of Human Brain Development. The Transcriptional Atlas grant supports the creation of a web-based atlas of gene expression patterns in the developing human brain. Knowing which genes are expressed in particular brain regions at particular points in development will be critical for identifying the key candidates for brain development, including targets for genomic and environmental influences.
The Recovery Act has also allowed the Institute to help the U.S. Army address a pressing military health issue. The Study to Assess Risk and Resilience of Service-members (Army-STARRS) is a collaborative effort between NIMH and the U.S. Department of the Army. The largest study of suicide and mental health among military personnel ever undertaken, Army-STARRS will identify risk and protective factors for suicide among soldiers and provide a science base for effective and practical interventions to reduce suicide rates and address associated mental health problems.
More information about all these and many other Recovery Act plans can be found at the NIH Reporter website. But not all our new initiatives this past year were funded by the Recovery Act. The Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) program was developed to support the research and research career development of outstanding scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers. This award was intended to provide sufficient support ($1.625M/5 years direct cost) to allow for innovative and exploratory research during the first 8 years following training. Each year, the BRAINS program will focus on a specific gap area related to the Institute’s mission, beginning with neurodevelopment in 2009. The Institute announced the first class of BRAINS awardees this summer. The awardees are addressing diverse topics such as: the role of social imprinting in major depression, myelin dysfunction in PTSD, and longitudinal imaging of cortical regions associated with anxiety. In 2010, the BRAINS program will focus on the research priorities and gap areas identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan. The due date for applications is December 9, 2009.
Also be on the lookout for some new NIMH initiatives. The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project is a new NIMH effort to develop neuroscience-based criteria for classifying mental disorders for research purposes. Over the next few months, we plan to involve the entire mental health community in a new approach to classifying psychopathology. In the area of research training, NIMH is stepping up its efforts in diversity training with new programs for recruiting and retaining individuals from under-represented minority populations in science. Global mental health is also an emerging priority — both as a research opportunity and as a moral imperative that has received limited attention in the past.
And finally, a word about enhancements to the NIH peer review system. NIH is entering into the final phase of the Enhancing Peer Review initiative, implementing two major changes — restructured/shortened applications and new forms and instructions. These changes affect the majority of competing applications and resubmissions for January 25, 2010 due dates and beyond. The new, restructured application format seeks to align the structure and content of the application with newly enhanced review criteria, thereby focusing applicants and reviewers on the same elements. Similarly, shorter page limits focus both reviewers and applicants on the essentials of the science, avoiding information overload, and potentially enabling a larger number of reviewers to read each application. NIH has developed resources to help guide you through the transition process. For more information, see Section IV below on Electronic Submissions, and visit the Enhancing Peer Review website.
New Announcements about Funding Opportunities
Each week, NIH electronically distributes the NIH GUIDE, a listing of all NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), which include requests for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs), and important notices for the scientific community. Below is a selection of recently issued FOAs in which NIMH participates. The Research Funding page on the NIMH website has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources.
Note: You can subscribe to the NIMH Funding Opportunities ListServ to receive the latest information about RFAs and other research funding opportunities from NIMH, as well as administrative updates and changes to grant policies and procedures. You can also subscribe to a separate ListServ to receive weekly e-mails of the NIH GUIDE.
NIMH-Administered Requests for Applications
Biosignature Discovery for Personalized Treatment in Depression
The purpose of this FOA is to support exploratory research to discover panels of promising biomarkers (i.e., biosignatures) that are predictive of treatment outcomes in major depressive disorder (MDD). To this end, NIMH intends to fund a randomized clinical trial comparing treatment interventions with putatively distinctive mechanisms in a well-characterized cohort of adult patients (age 18-65 years) diagnosed with MDD.
Release Date: September 16, 2009; Expiration Date: January 14, 2010
NIMH-Collaborative Requests for Applications
Development and Translation of Medical Technologies that Reduce Health Disparities
This FOA, administered by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), solicits Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications from small business concerns (SBCs) that propose to develop and translate medical technologies aimed at reducing disparities in healthcare access and health outcomes. Appropriate medical technologies should be effective, affordable, culturally acceptable, and deliverable to those who need them.
Release Date: December 16, 2008; Expiration Date: January 8, 2010
NIH Roadmap Initiatives
The NIH Roadmap is a trans-NIH effort to support innovative science, stimulate interdisciplinary research, and reshape clinical research to accelerate medical discovery and improve public health. Workgroups co-chaired by the Directors of NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) and populated by nominees from various Institutes developed initiatives for “Roadmap 1.5” which can be viewed online. The following are projects co-led by NIMH:
The Transformative R01 (T-R01) program was created to support exceptionally innovative, high risk, original and/or unconventional research projects with the potential to profoundly impact a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research. The T-R01 program will pilot novel approaches to peer review and program management to optimize these processes. Pending their approval, 20 applications will be funded under the 50/50 Institute/Roadmap cost-sharing model, and up to three fully funded by an Institute. Three additional applications with mental health relevance are being co-funded through the Roadmap Epigenomics Program.
Epigenomics of Health and Human Disease
This initiative will support research on fundamental epigenomic changes or mechanisms underlying specific diseases; conditions of development or aging; or responses to exposures to physical, chemical, behavioral, or social factors. This initiative will be funded as a 50/50 cost share between the NIH Roadmap and specific ICs, which will foster multiple IC involvement and facilitate the transition to individual ICs at the end of each funding period. The first set of RFAs will be funded in September 2009, with additional RFAs released annually thereafter. An NIMH-funded project addressing epigenetic factors that heighten risks for bipolar disorder and an NIMH co-funded project on epigenomic profiling in Alzheimer’s disease are among the first to be funded through this initiative.
The PAR, “Solicitation of Assays for High Throughput Screening (HTS) in the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN),” issued in March 2009, offers public sector biomedical researchers access to the large-scale screening capacity necessary to identify small molecules that can be optimized as chemical probes to study the functions of genes, cells, and biochemical pathways. This will lead to new ways to explore the functions of genes and signaling pathways in health and disease.
Rapid Access to Interventional Development (RAID)
The NIH RAID program aims to make available, on a competitive basis, certain critical resources needed for the development of new therapeutic agents. This program uses resources of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Developmental Therapeutics Program and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Gene Therapy Resource Program. Depending on the stage of the project and the strength of preliminary data, available services include production, bulk supply, manufacturing that complies with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices standards, formulation, development of an assay suitable for pharmacokinetic testing, and animal toxicology. Assistance also will be provided in the regulatory process, through access to independent product development planning expertise. For more information, please contact the NIH-RAID program office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiative
The Neuroscience Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 15 NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system. The Blueprint aims to develop research tools, resources, and training and to make them available to the neuroscience community. The Blueprint focused on the broad topic areas of neural degeneration in 2007; neural development in 2008; and neural plasticity in 2009; with plans to focus on the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain in 2010.
The Human Connectome Project
This FOA is issued as an initiative of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research. The goal of the five year Human Connectome Project (HCP) is to develop and share knowledge about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain. The purpose of the HCP will be achieved through a range of supported research activities.
Release Date: July 15, 2009; Expiration Date: November 25, 2009
Future Research Directions
National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives
Public-Venue-Approved Concept Clearances
This listing of concepts is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to potential applicants in order to maximize application preparation time. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing is not certain and depends on sufficient funds being available. The resultant FOA may differ from the concepts.
Summary of NIMH-Sponsored Scientific Meetings
Research workshops and scientific meetings are some of the best forums in which to identify research gaps and to stimulate new areas of mental health research. Below is a brief description of meetings that NIMH sponsored recently. You should send questions about a specific meeting to the program contact listed in the description.
Update on Electronic Submission of Grant Applications
Please take the time to learn about the major upcoming changes that are happening to NIH applications for due dates on or after January 25, 2010. Applications submitted for due dates on or after January 25, 2010 using incorrect forms or following old instructions will be delayed and may not be reviewed! The new application forms contain changes to the Research Plan, Resources, and Biographical Sketch sections. For example:
See http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/page_limits.html for a listing of the new pages limits. These changes affect ALL applications (new, renewal, resubmission, and revision). In December, you will need to download the new application forms (applies to both electronic SF 424 (R&R) and paper PHS 398). When the time comes, be sure to choose the correct application package:
Applicants who are eligible for continuous submission may continue to use current forms and instructions through February 7, 2010 for R01, R21, and R34 AIDS applications that would otherwise have been due on January 7, 2010.
To better understand the new requirements, the Enhancing Peer Review website has a page dedicated to the application changes and has made available to you a number of resources on the Training and Communications Resources page, including:
A video overview of the changes will be available on the Enhancing Peer Review website under Training and Communication Resources in mid-November. The Enhancing Peer Review website will continue to be updated with additional resources as they are developed. To be notified when new application packages become available, sign up on the Enhancing Peer Review ListServ or look out for an announcement in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.
Recent NIMH News Releases
Please help us spread the word about the results of NIMH funding by acknowledging our support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications. NIMH has two primary methods of getting the word out:
All releases and updates are posted to the Science News section of the NIMH Web site. These are all also distributed to the public through the NIMH ListServ, which now has more than 20,000 subscribers.
If you have a manuscript accepted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact your NIMH program director to discuss the possibility of a news release or other forms of dissemination.