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2012 Autumn Inside NIMH

Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH. We e-publish Inside NIMH after each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, and the Director of NIMH on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute. In addition, check out the Director’s blog on our website for regular updates on timely topics at NIMH. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this edition.

Sincerely,

Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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I. Message from the NIMH Director

For the past nine months, I have been serving as Acting Director of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), in addition to serving as NIMH Director. Launching a new institute dedicated to “disruptive innovation” was thrilling, but there were many times when I felt that neither institute received the attention each deserved. With the appointment of a permanent director for NCATS this month, I was delighted to return full-time to NIMH on September 24. There is much to do! The recent Executive Order  from President Obama calls for a rapid increase in research on suicide and mental health issues in service members and veterans. Suicides in the Army continue to exceed the rate of combat deaths. The new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention  along with the National Action Plan for Suicide Prevention requires an aggressive research agenda to reduce the rate of suicide by 20% in five years. The increased prevalence of autism, now at 1 in 54 boys, demands that we find the causes and develop better treatments. The high rates of morbidity and premature mortality of people with serious mental illness cry out for better treatments and better health care. Each month, we are seeing amazing breakthroughs in genetics and neuroscience, but these new insights remain to be translated into new diagnostics and therapeutics that address the needs of the nearly 20 million Americans disabled by mental disorders. I am looking forward to bringing some of the “disruptive innovations” of NCATS to NIMH.

Budget Overview

As we conclude our fiscal year (FY), this is a good time to take stock. NIMH has awarded 584 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2012, a significant increase over the 465 awarded in FY 2011, and a level that is slightly above the 2008-2010 average of 558. This increase was fueled in part by austerity measures taken in the previous year, such as reducing support for centers and our intramural program. Our overall RPG success rate was 22%, while the success rate for Early Stage Investigator applications was 25%. Figures 1 tracks the distribution of applications and awards for all new and competing FY 2012 NIMH RPGs, while Figure 2 focuses specifically on the distribution of Early Stage Investigator  (ESI) applications and awards. Moreover, we have supported approximately 115 New Investigators in FY 2012. The NIH Office of Extramural Research website offers more information about NIH policies on Early Stage and New Investigators .

 

Applications/Awards versus percentile in fiscal year 2012 for all research project grants through the 25th percentile (success rate = 22 percent). The pattern for the following data is percentile [number of applications:number of awards]. 1st [36:34]; 2nd [30:29]; 3rd [29:28]; 4th [22:22]; 5th [38:36]; 6th [39:33]; 7th [26:26]; 8th [38:36]; 9th [30:27]; 10th [27:27]; 11th [40:30]; 12th [27:26]; 13th [31:29]; 14th [38:33]; 15th [19:17]; 16th [35:23]; 17th [24:16]; 18th [22:7]; 19th [30:10]; 20th [16:4]; 21st [20:7]; 22nd [18:6]; 23rd [20:4]; 24th [22:5]; 25th [19:7].

 

Applications/Awards versus percentile in fiscal year 2012 for early-stage investigators through the 25th percentile (success rate = 25 percent). The pattern for the following data is percentile [number of applications:number of awards]. 1st [0:0]; 2nd [3:3]; 3rd [0:0]; 4th [2:2]; 5th [3:3]; 6th [1:0]; 7th [0:0]; 8th [3:3]; 9th [3:3]; 10th [3:3]; 11th [2:2]; 12th [3:3]; 13th [3:3]; 14th [6:6]; 15th [2:2]; 16th [1:1]; 17th [5:5]; 18th [3:2]; 19th [1:0]; 20th [0:0]; 21st [1:1]; 22nd [1:1]; 23rd [1:1]; 24th [2:1]; 25th [3:3].

In recent years, competing grants reviewed during the September/October meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council and selected for funding generally have been awarded after the changeover in fiscal years. This year, given the uncertainty of next year’s budget, we have chosen to fund a significant number of September Council grants prior to the fiscal year changeover. Figure 3 illustrates the success rate trends for all RPGs, from FY 2009 through FY 2012.

 

Number of applications/awards and percent success rate versus years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) for research project grants. The pattern for the following data is year [number of applications:number of awards:percent success rate]. 2009 [2,600:547:21%]; 2010 [2,500:555:22%]; 2011 [2,735:465:17%]; 2012 [2,655:584:22%].

Analysis of Funding in FY 2012

With a success rate of 22%, about only one in five grants has been funded. This is not optimal — NIMH has not been able to support many promising grants this year. Nevertheless, with 584 grants awarded, we are supporting most of the best-scoring applicants.

What is our payline? We try to pay about 75% of the grants below the 20th percentile, but NIMH does not have a rigid payline. Our funding decisions are based not only on scientific merit, as determined by the study section’s priority score, but also on relevance to our Strategic Plan and portfolio balance, issues which are not considered by the study section but are the basis for the second-tier review by our Council. This means that a 15th percentile grant may be selected for payment before a 5th percentile grant. In practice, nearly all proposals under the 15th percentile are supported, but as you can see from the figure above, there are grants under the 10th percentile that have not been paid because they were deemed “low program priority.” Conversely, many grants over the 15th percentile have been supported. To avoid having your application labeled “low program priority,” it is important to discuss your ideas for a proposal with a Program Officer. NIMH Program Officers can guide you on questions of relevance and portfolio balance. In addition, Common Fund projects and the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint funding opportunities (listed below) are important resources in these austere times.

Outlook for FY 2013

Although the fiscal year began October 1, there is still considerable uncertainty about the NIH and NIMH budgets for this year. The FY 2013 President’s Budget (PB) proposes $1.479 billion for NIMH, a slight increase over the FY 2012 level. In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee cleared its version of the FY 2013 Labor-Health and Human Services (L-HHS) appropriations bill (S. 3295), which includes $1.484 billion for NIMH, a 0.4 percent increase over FY 2012 estimated actuals. In July, the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NIMH included $1.462 billion for NIMH in its draft version of the FY 2013 L-HHS appropriations bill; however, the measure has not yet been considered by the full House Appropriations Committee. The draft House amount would constitute a 1.1 percent reduction below the FY 2012 estimated actuals. The final budget will require an agreement between the Senate and House appropriators. This is not expected until after the election and potentially much later.

Absent a budget, we have begun FY 2013, like recent years, under a Continuing Resolution (CR). The CR passed by Congress provides funding through March 27, 2013 at a rate slightly higher than FY 2012 enacted levels. While operating under a CR, 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 CRs, we look forward to upward adjustments after the final appropriation is enacted later in the year and after NIH’s policy for funding non-competing commitments is finalized. New grants will be awarded, but we will be conservative about funding until the final budget is appropriated.

New and Notable

In FY 2012, we continued to keep a balance of 52% basic and 48% applied research, matching the overall balance for NIH. We began moving away from supporting clinical trials without a mechanism of action, while also moving towards the use of Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) concepts instead of DSM diagnostic categories. Studies with clear public health impact were given high priority, as were studies of the trajectories of normal and abnormal brain-behavior development. Discovery science continues to be a priority for NIMH, as we continue to map genomes, synaptomes, and connectomes. Here is a selection of the Institute’s most recently funded projects that exemplify our efforts to advance the NIMH Strategic Plan:

  • In a study aligned with the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s Strategic Plan for ASD Research , Lauren Brookman-Frazee, PhD, (University of California, San Diego) aims to transform community mental health services for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), by retooling the community-based provider workforce. Dr. Brookman-Frazee will combine effectiveness and implementation research within a randomized controlled trial of An Individualized Mental Health Intervention for Children with ASD (AIM HI).
  • Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, (Stanford University) is addressing a fundamental challenge in neuroscience: how to study intact systems with both local precision and global scope. To accomplish this aim, he is integrating chemical engineering, computational optics, and molecular genetics—in an approach termed CLARITY—which can be utilized to map neural circuits in the whole brain. This approach pioneers a new approach to neuroanatomy by providing a 3-dimensional rendering of pathways with cellular resolution.
  • In an effort to advance treatment for anxiety disorders beyond fear extinction-based exposure therapies, Elizabeth Phelps, PhD, (New York University) aims to assess in humans the efficacy, specificity, and underlying neural mechanisms of techniques that have been shown to prevent the return of fear in non-human animals. She will examine both pharmacological and behavioral techniques to disrupt or alter the reconsolidation of conditioned fear; examine whether experience exerting control over stressors can reduce the likelihood that a fear memory returns; and examine the success of these techniques in individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Yogesh Rathi, PhD, (Brigham and Women’s Hospital) is using new computational and acquisition approaches to shorten the scanner time needed for conducting advanced diffusion imaging techniques and is testing the reliability and accuracy of different combinations of these approaches. He will then apply these new approaches to imaging the brains of children (age 6-18) with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder to evaluate how changes in brain connectivity contribute to the symptoms of this disorder.
  • In response to NIMH’s first Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Project funding announcement (RFA-MH-12-100 ), David Zald, PhD, (Vanderbilt University) is investigating associations between neural circuitry and RDoC constructs from the positive and negative valence and cognitive systems domains. Dr. Zald will use brain imaging techniques to assay functioning of a mesocorticostriatal system involved in approach motivation and reward attainment, a limbic/paralimbic system involved in anticipation and response to aversive-threatening stimuli, and control systems involved in effortful response inhibition. He will then examine how well the RDoC constructs map to three dimensions of psychopathology (distress, fear, externalizing dimensions), and variation in neural circuit function.

I would like to call special attention to NIMH’s newest NIH Director’s Pioneer Award and NIH Director New Innovator Award recipients:

Pioneer Awardee:

  • Feng Zhang (The Broad Institute) aims to identify new classes of therapeutics by using innovative technology development to probe the epigenetic mechanisms contributing to major depression, systematically establishing causal links between epigenetic targets and disease phenotype. The technologies Mr. Zhang develops have the potential to establish a new epigenetic paradigm for drug discovery in all areas of biomedical research.

New Innovator Awardees:

  • Anne Schaefer, MD, PhD, (Mount Sinai School of Medicine) is studying the role of microglia cells in brain function and health and the dynamics of interactions between neurons and microglia cells in relation to inflation. Dr. Schaeffer will combine a variety of multidisciplinary approaches to study the diversity of microglia in a mouse model. More specifically, she is examining developmental and signal-driven effects of different microglia on neurons, particularly in terms of regulating inflammatory responses in the brain.
  • Vikaas Sohal, MD, PhD, (University of California, San Francisco) is studying how dopamine modulates the function of the prefrontal cortex, in order to identify critical mechanisms that are likely to be disrupted in schizophrenia and related conditions. Dr. Sohal will employ a novel strategy to ‘reverse engineer’ recurrent circuits in the cortex, measuring their activity in a way that makes it possible to infer both their overall function, and the functional contributions of individual components (e.g., specific cell types).
  • Alexander Urban, PhD, (Stanford University) is directing a new research paradigm looking into the effects of genetic copy-number variation (CNV) during neuronal development, by combining induced pluripotent stem cell techniques with comprehensive and integrated analyses of genomic and epigenomic layers of control and activity. Dr. Urban will be testing several novel hypotheses on the molecular mechanisms through which CNVs affect gene regulation and thus cellular and eventually organismal phenotypes.
  • Joshua Bonkowsky, MD, PhD, (University of Utah) is developing a novel strategy to analyze vertebrate circuit construction and function, focusing on the molecular mechanisms by which dopamine neurons alter their connections after injury. Dr. Bonkowsky’s strategy is the first genetic method for visualizing and driving expression in two cells that make contact, and offers the potential to identify and manipulate neuronal circuits in a vertebrate organism.

I am also pleased to note that NIH has announced grant awards of $100 million over five years  for the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE)  research program. NIMH supports the ACE program along with four other NIH Institutes: the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. NIMH is the main funder for these two ACE projects:

  • Ami Klin, PhD, (Emory University) and his team will investigate risk and resilience for ASD symptoms starting in 1-month-old infants and will begin a treatment trial for 12-month-olds. Through parallel studies in model systems, the team will chart brain development of neural networks involved in social interaction.
  • Kevin Pelphrey, PhD, (Yale University) and his team of researchers from Yale University, University of California, Los Angeles, Harvard, and the University of Washington will investigate the poorly understood nature of ASD in females. The project will recruit a larger sample of girls with ASD than has been included in previously conducted ASD research, and will focus on sex differences in genes, brain function, and behavior throughout childhood and adolescence.

For more information on these and other grants selected for funding, please visit the NIH RePORTER website .

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II. 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 and 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

Limited Competition: Genomic Risk and Resilience in 22q11 Deletion Syndrome: A Window into the Genetic Architecture of Mental Disorders

This limited competition FOA, issued by NIMH, invites applications for collaborative R01 awards from the International Consortium for 22q Del Syndrome Research for the genomic analysis of existing samples from Consortium recruited research subjects. The goal of this FOA is to use 22q DS as a model to dissect the overall genetic architecture and to identify specific genomic risk and resilience factors of brain behavioral and neuropsychiatric phenotypes associated with the syndrome.

Release Date: August 2, 2012; Expiration Date: November 14, 2012

Clinical Neuroscience and Entertainment Software Pilot Partnership Program to Develop Neuropsychiatric Interventions

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) utilizes the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) grant mechanism to support the development of highly engaging cognitive training interventions delivered through computers and/or gaming platforms that are targeted to the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, autism and/or HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND), with the goal of improving real-world functioning of patients. This initiative specifically supports small businesses with development and commercial experience in the entertainment software industry to partner with clinical neuroscientists experienced with cognitive training.

Release Date: June 8, 2012; Expiration Date: December 12, 2012

Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS)

The BRAINS award is intended to support the research and research career development of outstanding scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers and who plan to make a long term career commitment to research in specific mission areas of the NIMH. This award seeks to assist these individuals in launching an innovative clinical, translational, basic or services research program that holds the potential to profoundly transform the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of mental disorders. Each year the BRAINS program will focus on a specific area of research and/or research career development need. For FY 2013 and FY 2014, the BRAINS program will focus on the research priorities and gap areas identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan and the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.

Release Date: June 18, 2012; Expiration Date: October 24, 2013

Dimensional Approaches to Research Classification in Psychiatric Disorders

This FOA seeks research grant applications designed to develop innovative ways of understanding mental disorders through classifying patients in clinical studies on the basis of experimental research criteria rather than traditional diagnostic categories. This FOA stems from the NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project that is intended to further a long-range goal of contributing to diagnostic systems as informed by research on genetics, neuroscience, and behavior. The purpose of this FOA is to encourage applications to study mechanisms that may cut across multiple traditional diagnostic categories. Applications submitted in response to this FOA should be based upon RDoC criteria. Five organizing domains have been identified in the draft specification. These include Negative Valence Systems, Positive Valence Systems, Cognitive Systems, Social Process Systems, and Arousal/Regulatory Systems. Interested applicants are encouraged to consult the NIMH RDoC web site for current information regarding these constructs.

Release Date: June 29, 2012; Expiration Date: October 23, 2013

Advancing Community-level Approaches to Reduce HIV Infection in Highly Impacted Communities

This FOA seeks research to advance our understanding of community-level HIV-prevention and care interventions within geographic locations and specific populations highly impacted by HIV. In targeting communities, this FOA invites applications to address the need for efficacious interventions that simultaneously impact a large number of individuals. These interventions can target communities highly impacted by HIV based on geographic, social, or demographic criteria. Structural interventions and systemic interventions are encouraged. The goal is to lower HIV infections and HIV viral load at a community-level by changing individual behaviors via cost-effective and sustainable means.

Release Date: July 5, 2012; Expiration Date: January 12, 2013

NIMH-Collaborative Requests for Applications

2013 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Program

The NIH Director’s Pioneer Award initiative complements NIH’s traditional, investigator-initiated grant programs by supporting individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose pioneering and possibly transforming approaches to addressing major biomedical or behavioral challenges that have the potential to produce an unusually high impact on a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research. To be considered pioneering, the proposed research must reflect substantially different scientific directions from those already being pursued in the investigator’s research program or elsewhere.

Release Date: August 7, 2012; Expiration Date: October 10, 2012

2013 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award Program

The NIH Director’s New Innovator (DP2) Award initiative was created in 2007 to support a small number of early stage investigators of exceptional creativity who propose bold and highly innovative new research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on broad, important problems in biomedical and behavioral research. The New Innovator Awards complement ongoing efforts by NIH and its Institutes and Centers to fund early stage investigators through R01 grants, which continue to be the major sources of NIH support for early stage investigators. The NIH Director’s New Innovator Award initiative is a component of the High Risk - High Reward Research Program  of the NIH Common Fund .

Release Date: August 7, 2012; Expiration Date: October 18, 2012

Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa)

The purpose of this FOA, supported by funds from the NIH Common Fund (Common Fund ) and participating NIH Institute(s) and Center(s), is to invite applications from Institutions in African countries for Research Projects (U01 cooperative agreements) that address one or more goals of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative. H3Africa is an NIH initiative in partnership with the Wellcome Trust with the goals of developing the study of genomic/genetic/environmental contributors to human health and disease within Africa using cutting-edge genomic research tools, increasing capacity for biomedical research in Africa, in terms of building the infrastructure needed for genomic research (including data and research resources), and increasing the genomic proficiency of researchers and trainees in Africa. The H3Africa Initiative is focused on supporting these efforts as part of an effort to promote sustainable research in Africa that will promote health and combat disease.

Release Date: August 22, 2012; Expiration Date: October 30, 2012

Basic Behavioral Research on Multisensory Processing

This FOA, issued as part of the NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet), encourages research grant applications investigating multisensory processing in perception or other behavioral and social outcomes. The FOA is intended to support basic behavioral research projects focused on two or more sensory modalities. This includes research examining ways in which cognitive or affective processes interact with multisensory input to influence basic behavioral targets. While evidence suggests that sensory input is processed interactively instead of additively, research is less developed regarding how different modalities are integrated for perception and behavioral or social outcomes.

Release Date: August 31, 2012; Expiration Date: November 1, 2012

Extracellular RNA Biogenesis, Biodistribution, Uptake, and Effector Function

The NIH invites applications for projects to determine the principles that guide the selection of regulatory RNA molecules for extracellular transport and to determine the function of these extracellular RNAs (exRNAs). The main scientific areas of interest include (1) exRNA biogenesis, (2) exRNA biodistribution, (3) uptake of exRNA by target cells, and (4) the physiological impact of delivered exRNA in target cells and tissues. Enabling tools, technologies, bioreagents, and innovative analytical approaches will likely be required to achieve the research goals.

Release Date: August 3, 2012; Expiration Date: November 14, 2012

Clinical Utility of Extracellular RNA for Biomarker Development

The NIH invites applications for projects that will identify and qualify extracellular RNA (exRNA)-based biomarkers derived from human body fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, breast milk, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, ascites and pleural effusions, in order to diagnose and monitor disease progression and response to therapy. The overall goal of this project is to develop reliable, well-defined and clinically relevant biomarkers derived from extracellular RNA that measure tangible benefits for patients in terms of how they feel, function, and survive in clinical trials. Appropriate studies under this FOA will identify and validate candidate exRNA-based biomarkers in well-defined patient populations, provide new technologies to monitor biomarkers or establish reliable assays for validated markers. Studies using existing human biospecimen collections are strongly encouraged. This FOA is only for studies related to human biomarkers; animal or other non-human disease model studies are not responsive to this FOA.

Release Date: August 3, 2012; Expiration Date: November 14, 2012

Clinical Utility of Extracellular RNA for Therapy Development

Extracellular RNA (exRNA) is present in human body fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, breast milk, amniotic fluid, cerebrospinal fluid, ascites and pleural effusions. The concept that secreted exRNA can alter target cell phenotypes is emerging as a universal and novel paradigm in intercellular signaling. In view of this emerging paradigm, the NIH invites applications for projects that will develop novel therapies based on exRNA signaling. The overall goal of this initiative is to develop and demonstrate the potential for clinical utility of exRNAs as therapeutic agents, and to develop tools and technologies to enable engineered RNAs to be packaged into extracellular vesicles or associated with RNA-binding proteins for use as extracellular delivery vehicles. These projects should include methods for the production, purification, and packaging of specific RNAs and methods to deliver them to target cells via extracellular space. This FOA will support highly innovative and novel use of exRNA in therapy development and delivery. Slight modifications or incremental advances over existing approaches will not be considered responsive to this FOA.

Release Date: August 3, 2012; Expiration Date: November 14, 2012

Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science for Research Relevant to the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

This FOA invites applications for Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) using the P50 mechanism. The TCORS program objective is to conduct programs of multidisciplinary research that will inform tobacco product regulation and address the research priorities related to the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP). The NIH and the FDA have formed an interagency partnership to foster research relevant to tobacco regulations. The awards under this FOA will be administered by NIH using designated funds from the FDA CTP for tobacco regulatory science mandated by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA), Public Law 111-31. Projects resulting from this FOA are expected to serve the FDA by generating relevant findings and data needed to inform the regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health.

Release Date: July 10, 2012; Expiration Date: November 15, 2012

Development and Application of Systems Approaches for Analyzing the Impact of Genomic Variation on Tissue Transcriptomes

This FOA invites applications for R01 awards for statistical analysis of Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) data. The goal of the GTEx program is to develop a data and sample resource to study the relationship between genetic variation and gene expression across multiple human reference tissues. By 2016 the GTEx program is expected to include genetic variation information from approximately 900 post-mortem donors and gene expression measurements from over 20,000 tissues. GTEx will represent a large, rich, and unique resource. This FOA is to develop and apply statistical methods and systems approaches to make maximal use of this data.

Release Date: August 7, 2012; Expiration Date: November 22, 2012

Basic Social and Behavioral Research on Culture, Health, and Wellbeing

This FOA, issued on behalf of the NIH Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet), will provide grants for infrastructure support to develop, strengthen, and evaluate trans-disciplinary approaches and methods for basic behavioral and/or social research on the relationships among cultural practices/beliefs, health, and wellbeing. This includes an appreciation for more comprehensive understandings of the relationships regarding cultural attitudes, beliefs, practices, and processes, on outcomes relevant to human health and wellbeing. Model animal research teams are welcome to apply.

Release Date: September 11, 2012; Expiration Date: December 18, 2012

NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards (DP5)

The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award Program supports exceptional investigators who wish to pursue independent research directly after completion of their terminal doctoral/research degree or clinical residency, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period.

Release Date: July 13, 2012; Expiration Date: January 31, 2013

NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiatives

The Neuroscience Blueprint  is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 16 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices 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.

NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research Grand Challenge: Discovering Novel Drugs for Disorders of the Nervous System

NIH announces a unique opportunity for investigators working with small molecule compounds to gain access to a robust ‘virtual pharma’ network to discover neurotherapeutic drugs. Successful applicants to this FOA will become collaborative participants in this network, receiving both funding and no-cost access to contracted drug discovery services that are not typically available to the academic research community. Funding will be provided through a U01 cooperative agreement mechanism to conduct biological testing of compound analogs in disease assays and models in the investigator’s laboratory. No-directed pharmacology and toxicology, and Phase I clinical testing. Researchers in possession of disease assays and small molecule compounds that show promise for treating nervous system and psychiatric disorders, but that are not yet suitable for clinical testing, are strongly encouraged to apply.

Release Date: February 21, 2012; Expiration Date: October 09, 2012

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III. Future Research Directions

Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives

This listing of potential future initiatives is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and of potential upcoming announcements to solicit that research. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing are not certain and depend on sufficient funding. The titles and brief descriptions are consistent with the information available at the time of concept clearance. The resultant FOAs may differ from the concepts in the final wording of their titles or other aspects. To send questions about a specific concept, follow the “Submit Comments” link at the bottom of the description.

Related Information

Summaries 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. Questions about a specific meeting can be addressed by the program contact listed in the meeting description. For additional announcements, summaries, agendas, and participant lists from past NIMH-sponsored meetings, conferences, workshops, and lectures, please visit the Scientific Meetings page.

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IV. Update on Research Administration (eRA) Activities

For more information on all these updates, please see the NIH eRA News and Events page .

Electronic Grant Application Submission News

  • Registration Reminder: Registration at both Grants.gov  and the eRA Commons  is required to submit a grant application electronically, can take 6 weeks or more, and MUST be completed before the submission deadline. Learn more at the Office Extramural Research (OER) web page for preparing to apply and register .
    • Verify that your organization is registered with the new System for Award Management  (SAM). You must maintain an active entity registration (formerly Central Contractor Registration [CCR] to be renewed at least annually). Use the SAM.gov “Manage Entity” function to manage your entity registrations. See the User Guide  for more information.
  • Carefully follow the requirements found in the application guide and funding opportunity announcement. Instructions in the FOA supersede those found in the application guide.
  • Check your application for common errors  before you submit (use our Annotated Forms  for extra tips).
  • Correct any errors  before the submission deadline.
  • Verify that your application is viewable in the eRA Commons. If you cannot view the application in the Commons , NIH can’t review it!
  • Submit early. The best way to reduce stress and ensure successful submission is to submit well ahead of the due date.

Questions? Find Help at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/ElectronicReceipt/support.htm . This help desk contact is the only way to document problems and become eligible for any special consideration by the Division of Receipt and Referral should you run into a system problem with Grants.gov or with eRA that is beyond your control.

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V. Research Training and Career Development

NIMH Supports Innovations in Mentoring, Networking and Research Education in High Priority Areas

Suicide is a serious and preventable public health concern, and NIMH has been actively involved in the efforts of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention  to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention . Research on suicide prevention is a priority area for NIMH, as are efforts to prepare the next generation of suicide researchers, including future researchers from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the suicide research workforce. In response to the FOA, “Seeding National Mentoring Networks to Enhance Diversity of the Mental Health Research Workforce (RFA-MH-10-050 ),” NIMH, the University of Rochester (PI: Yeates Conwell, MD), and JBS International (PI: Joe Perpich, MD, JD) entered a cooperative agreement to initiate a two-year mentoring program, Virtual Mentoring Network to Enhance Diversity of the Mental Health Research Workforce (VMED) , to promote the mentoring of new faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and senior graduate students from diverse backgrounds in suicide prevention research. The program provides scientific expertise, career development advising and regular contact with VMED mentors and among the cohort of participants themselves, as well as interactions with NIMH Program staff. Mentors and participants from across the U.S. attend VMED webinars, and participate in online discussions and workgroups employing innovative technological networking infrastructure based upon that which supports the Virtual Collaboratory for Suicide Studies .

Investigators interested in submitting applications to support mentoring networks in other NIMH priority areas can refer to PAR-12-264 . NIMH also provides support for state-of-the-art research education short courses (PAR-12-262 ) and research education for psychiatry residents (PAR-12-263 ). Please contact NIMH program officers named in each FOA to discuss a possible application.

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We’re interested in feedback from the community; comments or suggestions related to NIMH’s support for research training and career development may be directed to NIMH_Training@mail.nih.gov.

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VI. Recent NIMH Science News

The latest news and updates from NIMH-supported research:

Publicizing NIMH research is a communal responsibility — we need your help! 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: press releases and science updates. All releases and updates are posted to the Science News section of the NIMH website. These are all also distributed to the public through a mailing list .

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.

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VII. Connect with NIMH

Our newest effort to reach our stakeholders is a service that allows you to subscribe for updates  sent directly to your email inbox on the NIMH topics of your choice. In addition to our email newsletters and RSS updates, NIMH offers audio segments and videos about mental health topics, and has its own YouTube channel . We have also entered the world of Twitter , where we highlight Science Updates, Press Releases, and other timely matters. You can even find us on Facebook ! Be sure to read our Director’s Blog for insights into the latest topics in mental health research.

Check us out!

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