Request for Information (RFI): Priorities for Outsourcing of Laboratory Procedures

Notice Number: NOT-GM-12-108

Update: The following update relating to this announcement has been issued:

Key Dates

Release Date:  March 30, 2012
Response Date by COB:  (Extended to COB May 15, 2012 per NOT-GM-12-110), Original Date May 1, 2012

Issued by

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)


The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to seek input from researchers regarding current research laboratory procedures that could be developed into outsourced services.  The development of such services would potentially facilitate broad access to state-of-the-art technologies and methodologies in research areas of high significance to the mission of the NIH, particularly for the participating Institutes (NIGMS, NINDS, NCCAM, NIEHS, NIAMS) but not limited to them. Clinical services are expressly excluded. This information may be used to develop funding initiatives through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR/STTR) Program.

This RFI is for planning purposes only and should not be construed as a funding opportunity or grant program.


Recent technological advances have opened many new doors to solving biomedical problems.  However, access to the newest technologies and procedures can present a major expense, especially at institutions lacking extensive core facilities.  One possibility to make such technologies and procedures accessible to a much wider range of investigators is to promote more outsourcing by supporting research and development of commercially viable pipelines for such procedures.   These efforts could result in multiple advantages for the biomedical enterprise if companies can provide appropriate assays, measurements, data, bioinformatics or other types of research services.  These advantages could include reduced overall costs to research grants, enhanced quality control, and timely access.  The general concept is not novel (e.g., oligonucleotide synthesis, expression array services, knockout mice generation) but there may be unexplored opportunities for further outsourcing.

Benefits of increased outsourcing of research services that have been recognized include enhancing access and the acceleration of progress (Science 334, 1154-1156, Nov 2011), as well as for the establishment of broad method and data validation standards (Science 334, 1230-32; Dec 2011). Therefore, stimulating the establishment or expansion of small business outsourcing services would further both the mission of the NIH in general, and those of the SBIR program in particular (i.e., stimulation of technological innovation, support of federal R&D goals).

The untested proposition is that a market exists for services that would justify the investment by small businesses in research and development costs.  This assumption rests on the hypothesis that there are lab-based, non-clinical technologies and procedures that are amenable to scale-up, are not already being provided, and which would be attractive to investigators who hitherto have not used such services but could be convinced otherwise by their quality and lower costs.  The purpose of this RFI is to obtain data to evaluate this proposition.

Information Requested

Your request can include but is not limited to concerns such as:

1. Research services for which you see an unmet demand for outsourcing from the perspective of your own research and the broader scientific area.

2. The likely market for such services, including what research areas would be affected beyond your own interests.

3. Special obstacles (technological, logistical, costs) that currently would impede the development of the services you identify.

4. Services you sense are particularly sensitive to obsolescence, if any.

5. Services that may already be on the market but where access or quality is limited or unsatisfactory.

6. Other comments, suggestions, or considerations with relevance for this RFI.

Indicate your primary affiliation (optional).

How to Submit a Response

Response to this RFI is voluntary.  Extramural investigators and other interested parties are invited to respond. Responders are free to address any or all of the above items.

All comments must be submitted electronically to:  Please respond by COB May 1, 2012.

Any personal identifiers will be removed when responses are compiled. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The information provided will be analyzed and may appear in various reports. This Request for Information (RFI) is for planning purposes only and is not a solicitation for application or an obligation on the part of the United States (U.S.) Government to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that the U.S. Government will not pay for the preparation of any comment submitted or for its use of that comment.


Please direct inquiries to:

James J. Anderson, Ph.D.
Program Director, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology
Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Tel: 301-594-0943

Stefan Maas, Ph.D.
Program Director, Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Tel: 301-594-0943

Xibin Wang, Ph.D.
Research Program Analyst
Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Tel: 301-451-3884

Daniel Shaughnessy, PhD
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Tel: 919-541-2506

Stephanie Fertig, MBA
Small Business Program
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Tel: 301- 496-1779

D. Craig Hopp, Ph.D.
Program Officer
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine National Institutes of Health (NCCAM)
Tel: 301-496-5825

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