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Unbiased in vitro Analysis of Neurobiological Function

NAMHC Concept Clearance


Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D.
Chief, Functional Neurogenomics Program
Molecular, Cellular, and Genomic Research Branch
Division Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS)


This initiative will support the use of neurobiological assays in the development of robust analytical platforms that could be used to reveal changes in neuronal function, with the intent to move basic neuroscience discoveries into translational applications. The novel assay platforms would provide opportunities to measure neurobiological endpoints, and build a pipeline to be used in the context of target identification and drug discovery.


In recent years, technologies have emerged that have allowed the detailed analysis of genetic, biochemical, and cellular processes, greatly advancing our understanding of brain function at the molecular level.  In addition, methods that enhance throughput in terms of the number of samples that can be analyzed in parallel, as well as advances in detection techniques, imaging, and automation, allow for broader, high-content assay measures.  In fields outside of neuroscience, this has led to applications using genetic, proteomic, or chemical manipulation in cells or cell-free preparations, but progress with neurobiological endpoints has been lagging.

This initiative seeks to fill the existing gap in early assay development with measures relevant to neurobiological processes and pathways.  Supported projects could incorporate phenotypes including, but not limited to, dendritic or axonal outgrowth, plasticity, synaptic maturation or synaptic function, receptor function, protein synthesis and turnover, cell fate specification, or chromatin remodeling.  The use of novel technologies for manipulation, detection, and analysis would be encouraged. Since it is assumed that analytical platforms are under development, there is no pre-determined expectation with regard to throughput; however, assays with potential for future scale-up are of significant interest. Analytical approaches supported through this initiative would promote NIMH-relevant measures in related NIH-wide Common Fund programs, such as the Library of Integrated Network-based Cellular Signatures (LINCS), the Molecular Libraries, Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND), and the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN).

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