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Integrative Systems Pharmacology Program

This program supports interdisciplinary neuroscience research aimed at developing and validating innovative targets and tools to be used in a therapeutic development pipeline to evaluate targets and to predict clinical effects. Such tools include novel assays and measures for elucidating circuits, physiological changes, and circuit-based behavioral effects reflective of domains impacting cognition and/or affect. Specifically, focus on Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) circuit measures and domains with conservation of function across species is expected to generate novel translational measures that could be used in in a therapeutic development pipeline and to discover and evaluate novel targets. The overarching goal of the program is to discover and verify novel treatment targets and candidate therapeutics for mental illnesses based on the understanding of molecular and cellular mediators of neurobiological processes. Areas of interest include:

  • Development of innovative preclinical assays and neurobiological measures of fundamental processes relevant to emotional and cognitive disorders.
  • Identification and testing of novel in vivo targets for therapeutic development including genomic changes, signaling and plasticity mechanisms, and neural circuitry mediating select domains of cognition and mood relevant to mental illnesses.
  • Elucidating molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for the differential behavioral effects of acute and chronic novel drugs and drug candidates by genes, sex, age, and environment.
  • Developing genetic approaches and imaging techniques to reveal critical molecules, signaling cascades, and circuits responsible for the behavioral effects of innovative drug leads and candidates.

Lower priority is placed on projects whose primary goal is to elucidate the mechanisms of behavioral action of approved and effective psychotherapeutic drug treatments. Lower priority is also placed on projects aiming to model mental illness syndromes (i.e., models “of” a mental illness). Rather, applicants are encouraged to address basic neurobiological questions that have relevance to domains, processes, or risks for mental illnesses from a systems level perspective.

It is recommended that applicants review the NIH/NIMH Therapeutics Discovery Research webpage for relevant announcements and guidance.

Applications should adhere to recently published recommendations detailed in a notice in the NIH Guide (NOT-14-004 ) and summarized in Enhancing the Reliability of NIMH-Supported Research through Rigorous Study Design and Reporting on the NIMH website.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their proposals with the Institute contact listed below prior to the submission of their application to ascertain that their proposed work is aligned with NIMH funding priorities.


Lois Winsky, Ph.D.
Program Chief
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7185, MSC 9641