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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program


The NIMH Division of AIDS Research (DAR) Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) supports research by small businesses to develop innovative technologies with high potential to succeed commercially and/or to provide significant societal benefit. DAR’s Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) pursues the same objectives with components of academic research involvement. The SBIR and STTR programs support research and the development of technologies and tools related to basic brain and behavioral science, genetics, and drug development relevant to the mission of Division of AIDS Research, NIMH.

Such tools include technology-based solutions for modifying behaviors that place individuals at risk of acquiring HIV; innovative strategies to reduce HIV transmission and influence adherence to HIV treatment and prevention regimens; informatics tools for analyzing neuropsychiatric data; clinical and research based tools that help decipher the pathophysiology of HIV-associated neuropsychiatric dysfunction; molecular imaging agents to label neural circuits and/or tag immune cells in the CNS; and technologies that aid in identifying/targeting the CNS viral reservoir.

Areas of Emphasis

Basic research areas include developing technologies, agents, instruments and tools that aid in:

  • Understanding the pathophysiology of HIV-associated CNS dysfunction that are focused on areas such as but not limited to: neurotransmitter function, neuronal circuits, neurogenesis, genetic/epigenetic changes, synaptic plasticity, functional-structural neuronal connectivity and higher order cognitive processes regulating cognition, emotion and perception.
  • Deciphering the neuro-immune interactions at a molecular and cellular level in the context of HIV.
  • Decoding host and viral genetics associated with susceptibility or protection in the context of HIV-associated CNS dysfunction.
  • Diagnosing of HIV associated neuropsychiatric co-morbidities by optimizing neuropsychiatric screening tools, as well as instruments alongside imaging, plasma and CSF biomarkers.
  • Building and optimizing informatics tools to aid in analyzing and characterizing the phenotype of CNS disease modalities associated with HIV by using machine learning, big data and systems biology-based approaches.
  • Alleviating the symptomatology of HIV-associated neuropsychiatric dysfunction and those that aid in the delivery of existing therapies across the blood brain barrier.
  • Identifying, tagging and eliminating the CNS viral reservoir utilizing novel wetware and bioactive agents.

Behavioral research areas include developing technologies, agents, instruments and tools that aid in:

  • Improving uptake, adherence, and persistence to biomedical HIV prevention and treatment regimens.
  • Fostering dissemination, translation, and operational research on ways to implement and enhance the long-term maintenance of behavior change and impact on HIV prevention and treatment outcomes.
  • Increasing regular HIV testing among those most at risk of acquiring HIV.
  • Dissemination and scale up of evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment strategies.
  • Reducing documented racial/ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and age-related disparities in HIV infection, HIV testing, HIV care engagement, or in HIV treatment adherence and treatment outcomes.
  • Identifying the potent, modifiable mechanisms and processes linking mental health and HIV and developing interventions to address the high prevalence of mental health disorders among those living with HIV and those at substantial risk for HIV infection.
  • Translating findings from basic behavioral and social science research into processes to improve engagement in HIV care, adherence to antiretroviral treatment and to promote therapeutic alliances and help-seeking behaviors.
  • Identifying effective strategies for reducing HIV and/or mental illness stigma and discrimination (as well as other forms of intersecting stigmas and discrimination), and examining the mechanisms and pathways by which it impacts HIV prevention and care continuum outcomes.
  • Using findings from basic behavioral and social sciences research to elucidate factors involved in mental health disparities as it relates to people living with HIV.


Dr. Vasudev Rao, M.B.B.S., M.S.
Division of AIDS Research, NIMH
5601 Fishers Ln, Rockville MD 20852
Phone: [240] 669 -5609

Learn more about NIMH's Small Business Research Programs.