SILVIO O CONTE FEASIBILITY CENTERS FOR NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH

Release Date:  April 17, 1998

PA NUMBER:  PAR-98-056

P.T.

National Institute of Mental Health

Letter of Intent Receipt Date:  July 1
Application Receipt Date:  October 20

PURPOSE

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) invites research grant
applications for Silvio O. Conte Feasibility Centers for Neuroscience Research
(CFCNR).  The primary goal of this initiative is to support early stage
development of interdisciplinary teams of eminent investigators to study basic
or basic and clinical neuroscience issues related to the mission of the NIMH, and
in doing so, to prove the feasibility of working as a cohesive, interacting
research team.  Demonstrating such feasibility is particularly important since
it is expected that key members (the Director of the center and the heads of
projects) of each team will be at the forefront of their respective research
areas, and it is, therefore, unlikely that all such members will be located at
the same institution. A CFCNR will conduct novel, interdisciplinary, integrative,
and hypothesis driven research on a highly focused and well defined neuroscience
question which is relevant to the mission of NIMH.  It is expected that such
research will use experimental design and technologies that are at, or exceed,
those considered to be the state-of-the-art.

Interdisciplinary research is paramount to better understand the structure and
function of the brain in health and mental illness.  Nevertheless,
interdisciplinary research is often difficult to execute.  This initiative is
intended to facilitate the formation of new teams of outstanding investigators
for this purpose.

Demonstrating the feasibility of such teams to work together to address important
research problems would position these teams well to apply for support for either
an NIMH Conte Center for Neuroscience Research grant (which support
interdisciplinary basic neuroscience research) or an NIMH Conte Center for the
Neuroscience of Mental Disorders grant (which support interdisciplinary
translational research integrating basic and clinical approaches).  These center
programs are described in PAR-98-057 and PAR-98-058, respectively.

HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000

The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health promotion
and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000," a PHS-led national
activity for setting priority areas.  This PA, Silvio O. Conte Feasibility
Centers for Neuroscience Research, is related to the priority area of mental
health and mental disorders.  Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy
People 2000" (Full Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report: Stock
No. 017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325 (telephone 202-512-1800).

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

Applications may be submitted by domestic, for-profit and non-profit
organizations, public and private, such as universities, colleges, hospitals,
laboratories, units of State and local governments, and eligible agencies of the
Federal government.  Foreign institutions are not eligible for exploratory center
(P20) grants.  Racial/ethnic minority individuals, women, and persons with
disabilities are encouraged to apply as CFCNR Directors and heads of projects.

MECHANISM OF SUPPORT

A CFCNR will be supported by the Exploratory Center Grant mechanism (P20), which
provides support for multidisciplinary and multi-investigator approaches to the
investigation of a highly focused research problem of a complex nature that
requires the application of diverse expertise and methodologies.

Applicants for CFCNRs may request support for only one period of up to 3 years;
direct costs requested may not exceed $400,000 for the first year, with only
modest growth allowed for future years. Grantees demonstrating success in
carrying out interdisciplinary research will be well situated to apply for either
a Conte Center for Neuroscience Research grant or for a Conte Center for the
Neuroscience of Mental Disorders grant.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Background

Neuroscience is built upon a wide range of disciplines, levels of analysis,
approaches and technologies, and has produced a tremendous amount of highly
detailed and diverse data.  While the increasingly detailed level of
understanding presents great scientific opportunities, it also presents
challenges for individual investigators to address complex and important issues,
such as the neural basis of mental health and disease.  Such complex issues
require interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and integrative research approaches. 
These approaches can be obtained through highly interactive teams of
investigators pursuing common research questions from a variety of disciplinary
and technological perspectives.

The Conte Feasibility Centers for Neuroscience Research provide support at the
early stage of development of interactive, interdisciplinary research teams. 
Teams that demonstrate feasibility in performing integrative interdisciplinary
research would be well situated to apply for the more comprehensive NIMH Conte
Center for Neuroscience Research grant (which support interdisciplinary basic
neuroscience research) or the NIMH Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental
Disorders grant (which support interdisciplinary translational research
integrating basic and clinical approaches).  The CFCNRs will support either basic
neuroscience research or combined basic and clinical neuroscience research.

Objectives and Scope

The primary purpose of a CFCNR is to support early stage development of
interdisciplinary teams of eminent investigators to study basic or basic and
clinical neuroscience issues related to the mission of the NIMH, and in doing so,
to prove the feasibility of working as a cohesive, interacting research team. A
CFCNR is characterized as follows:

o  The CFCNR should address one specific, well focused research hypothesis
related to brain function or dysfunction, and in this process, establish the
feasibility of the research team to work together.  The research question may be
posed in any area(s) of neuroscience related to the mission of the NIMH, and may
be basic neuroscience research or combined basic and clinical neuroscience
research.

o  It is expected that a Center will be organized specifically to address
innovative, creative, and potentially high risk/high impact research questions.
Centers must rigorously test proposed hypotheses and generate new ones.

o  A CFCNR should clearly demonstrate a high interdependence of projects and
investigators, and solid evidence of integration across projects.  If a CFCNR
addresses basic and clinical research issues, integration and translation across
these components is essential.

o  A CFCNR should be based upon a highly integrated multidisciplinary approach
to solve the research problem.  The best laboratories and investigators using the
most advanced technologies should be enlisted toward this end.

o  The Center mechanism may not be used as a substitute for individual grant
support. It is, therefore, expected that investigators participating in Centers
will have independent NIH support. A Center should be viewed as a unique
scientific opportunity to investigate leading edge research questions not
currently being addressed.

o  The CFCNR Director should have a demonstrated capability to organize,
administer and direct the Center.  This individual should be the scientific
leader of the Center, and thus must also head at least one of the constituent
projects, with a minimum total time commitment of 20 percent to the Center.

o  Investigators heading projects in a CFCNR must be prominent scientists in
basic or clinical neuroscience research.  Investigators with the qualifications
to contribute to a unique enterprise such as a CFCNR may be located in different
geographic locations.  Therefore, collaborations among different institutions are
encouraged, if scientifically appropriate.

o  A CFCNR should provide opportunities for young investigators who have the
potential for independent research careers to become skilled in the experimental
strategies, approaches, and techniques of modern neuroscience research.  In
addition, there should be close coordination between the Center and relevant
predoctoral and/or postdoctoral research training programs of the participating
institutions.  Special attention should also be given to the recruitment and
training of minority students.

o  Each CFCNR should provide outreach that makes the public aware of the
importance and implications of the CFCNR research for addressing basic biomedical
issues and their relationship to mental illness and mental health.

Research Topics

The following are examples of broad research areas within the NIMH research
mission that might serve as a focus for a CFCNR.  This list is not exhaustive,
nor are the examples meant to be mutually exclusive.

o  Studies that use quantitative, molecular biological and genetic approaches to
investigate the development of neuronal populations related to specific
behavioral functions, such as the developmental etiology of schizophrenia
hypothesis, or to investigate the genetic heterogeneity of and susceptibility to
mental illness in patient populations

o  Identification of genes that influence the development and function of
receptors, channels, and their transduction mechanisms in synaptic functioning
as a means for better understanding CNS drug actions and for developing new and
more specific drugs

o  Studies combining molecular, cellular, circuit, and behavioral approaches to
elucidate functional organization of systems underlying emotion, cognition,
attention, perception, and language.

Activities Supported

To provide a suitable structure for achieving the objectives of this
announcement, a Center may request funds, in addition to support for the research
projects, as follows:

o  Institutional Environment and Resources:  Funds may be requested for research
resources such as equipment needed to conduct the proposed research, supplies
needed to accomplish the proposed research, incidental alteration or renovation
of facilities consistent with Public Health Service policy, etc.  Strongly
encouraged is the sharing of resources across multiple projects of the center.
Funds provided through Center grants may not be used for support of trainee
stipends, fees, or other expenses directly relating to training activities.

o  Essential Scientific Expertise:  To provide the most effective combination of
scientific skills, applicants may request funds to recruit scientists to augment
or strengthen the skills, expertise, and capabilities of existing staff. 
Although recruitment may take place after the award has been made, the expertise
required, the role in Center activities, and the time to be devoted to the Center
should be provided in the application.  It should be emphasized, however, that
after the award such individuals may not be recruited to serve as a substitute
for a Project P.I.

INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTS

It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups and their
subpopulations must be included in all NIH supported biomedical and behavioral
research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and compelling
rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is inappropriate with
respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of the research.  This
policy results from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public
Law 103-43).

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the
"NIH Guidelines For Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical
Research," which have been published in the Federal Register of March 28, 1994
(FR 59 14508-14513) and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23,
Number 11, March 18, 1994.

Investigators also may obtain copies of the policy from the program staff listed
under INQUIRIES.  Program staff may also provide additional relevant information
concerning the policy.

NIH POLICY AND GUIDELINES ON THE INCLUSION OF CHILDREN AS PARTICIPANTS IN
RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTS

It is the policy of NIH that children (i.e., individuals under the age of 21)
must be included in all human subjects research, conducted or supported by the
NIH, unless there are scientific and ethical reasons not to include them.  This
policy applies to all initial (Type 1) applications submitted for receipt dates
after October 1, 1998.

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the
"NIH Policy  and Guidelines on the Inclusion of Children as Participants in
Research Involving Human  Subjects" that was published in the NIH Guide for
Grants and Contracts, March 6, 1998, and is available at the following URL
address: http://www.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not98-024.html

LETTER OF INTENT

Prospective applicants are asked to submit, by July 1, a letter of intent that
includes a descriptive title of the proposed research, the name, address, and
telephone number of the Principal Investigator, the identities of other key
personnel and participating institutions, and the number and title of the program
announcement in response to which the application may be submitted. Although a
letter of intent is not required, is not binding, and does not enter into the
review of a subsequent application, the information that it contains allows NIMH
staff to estimate the potential review workload and avoid conflict of interest
in the review.

The letter of intent is to be sent to Dr. Michael Huerta, at the address listed
under INQUIRIES.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES

Applications are to be submitted on the grant application form PHS 398 (rev.
5/95) and will be accepted on October 20.  Application kits are available at most
institutional offices of sponsored research and may be obtained from the Division
of Extramural Outreach and Information Resources, National Institutes of Health,
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, telephone (301) 435-
0714; fax: (301) 480-0525 Email: ASKNIH@OD.NIH.GOV.  The title and number of the
program announcement must be typed in Section 2 on the face page of the
application.

A major requirement for each CFCNR is the conduct of multidisciplinary,
integrative research on a highly focused research question.  The application must
describe the hypotheses to be tested, and the goals and approaches for the CFCNR. 
In addition, the proposal should clearly articulate the reasons a Center approach
is needed for the proposed work as well as the unique benefits that will accrue
from a Center.  It should be emphasized that this Center mechanism is not meant
to be a substitute for individual grant (R01) support.  Therefore, the reasons
that constituent projects require CCNR support should be fully justified.

o  General Description of the Center (Not to exceed 7 pages):

Provide an overview of the entire proposed Center describing the central theme
and goals.  Describe how the overall Center can achieve its major objectives. 
Explain the proposed contribution of each of the projects in achieving the
objectives of the Center.  Furthermore, the administrative arrangements and
support necessary to effect the research should be carefully described in the
application.  Shared resources should be described.  When multiple institutional
sites are involved, a detailed description and supporting documentation for the
cooperative administrative arrangements should be included.  In addition, provide
detailed information on collaborations, recruitment, facilities and resources.

o  Preliminary Findings (Not to exceed 3 pages)

Present preliminary results and evidence of competence in the areas of research
proposed.

o  Individual Projects (Not to exceed 8 pages for any one project):

Describe the major objectives and goals of each project, its relationship with
the other projects, and its relationship to the overall Center. Particular
emphasis should be placed on how the various research components will be
integrated.

In addition, detailed descriptions should be provided on the following:

o  Research Plan:  The question to be addressed and the hypotheses to be tested
by the proposed research should be highly focused and fully explained.  Full
discussion is required on the status of current research efforts (both within the
Center and elsewhere) addressing the issue, the limitations of existing
approaches, and why the particular research question lends itself to a
multidisciplinary, integrative approach.  In addition, the relationship between
the basic and clinical science aspects of the research should be made explicit.

o  Experimental Plan:  The application will not require extensive details for
individual experiments.  The description of the experimental design should
outline the strategies proposed to accomplish the specific aims of the project,
and should include a discussion of the innovative aspects of the approach. 
However, the experimental procedures need not be spelled out in great detail if
those procedures have already been extensively published and universally accepted
by the scientific community.  Nevertheless, any new methodology and its advantage
over existing methodologies should be fully described.  Furthermore, the
feasibility of the proposed experiments, the potential pitfalls, relevant
alternative approaches should changes become necessary, and their relevance to
the goals of the Center should be fully discussed.  The methods to be used should
be cited and referenced.  It should be emphasized that this necessitates the
inclusion of investigators that are considered to be leaders in their field and
whose experiments are widely published and accepted by the scientific community.

o  Operational Plan:  A description of the resources and working arrangements
required to implement the research plan should be fully elaborated.  If
appropriate, particular attention should be devoted to a description of the
clinical populations, tissue resources, etc., which will be involved as part of
the Center's clinical component.  A distinction must be made between those
resources which are already in place (including staff) and those resources which
must be added to carry out the proposed research.  Also included in this section
is the manner in which an external advisory board will advise the Center. 
Nevertheless, prospective board members should not be chosen or contacted prior
to a funding decision, and, therefore, will not be named.

o  Research Career Development and Outreach Plans: A description of the manner
in which Center activities will provide opportunities for young investigators and
how the CCNMD relates to existing training programs of participating institutions
should be given.  Also, plans for disseminating information to the public
regarding the activities of the CFCNR should be given.

The completed original application and four legible copies must be sent or
delivered to:

CENTER FOR SCIENTIFIC REVIEW
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
6701 ROCKLEDGE DRIVE, ROOM 1040 - MSC 7710
BETHESDA, MD  20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD  20817 (for courier/express service)

At the time of submission, one additional copy of the application must be sent
to:

Henry J. Haigler, Ph.D.
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Mental Health
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 9C-18
Rockville, MD  20857

REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS

Applications submitted in response to this program announcement will be reviewed
by the NIMH program staff to determine if they satisfy the objectives and
requirements of a CFCNR as outlined in this program announcement (excluding
scientific or technical merit).  Applications that do not meet these objectives
and requirements will not be accepted and will be returned to the applicant.

Applications that are complete will be evaluated for scientific and technical
merit by an appropriate peer review group convened by the NIMH in accordance with
the standard NIH peer review procedures.  As part of the initial merit review,
all applications will receive a written critique and may undergo a process in
which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific merit,
generally the top half of applications under review, will be discussed, assigned
a priority score, and receive a second level review by the appropriate national
advisory council or board, when applicable.

Review Criteria

Criteria for scientific/technical review of Research Center applications will
include the following:

o  Intrinsic merit of the intellectual focus and research: The overall quality,
scientific merit, and innovativeness of the research to be done; the likelihood
that the work will lead to fundamental advances within the field, to new
discoveries, and/or to new technological developments.  In addition, the research
conducted must center around a highly focused and well defined question.

o  Appropriateness of the Center approach and feasibility demonstration:  The
need for the Center approach; whether a Center approach will add significantly
to what could be done through other modes of research support.  In this respect,
the integration of the projects is of utmost importance and should be explicitly
described.  Also, the extent to which the proposed research will indicate the
feasibility of the team to work as a cohesive, interacting research group.

o  Integration across projects:  The adequacy of the proposed Center to integrate
across research projects including basic and clinical approaches (for
applications that propose basic and clinical research) so that activities in each
project inform and advance the others.

o  Research competence:  The capability and scientific credentials of the Center
Director and constituent project directors and participating scientists, who are
expected to be regarded by their peers as leaders in, and at the forefront of,
their respective fields.

o  Center Director credentials:  Ability of the Center Director to organize,
administer, and direct the Center and, in addition, be the head at least one of
the proposed projects, be it basic or clinical in nature.  A Center Director will
devote a minimum of 25 percent of his/her time to the Center.  The Director must
be the scientific leader of the Center.

o  Institutional commitment:  The nature and level of resource commitments from
the home institution and from other participant institutions.  Plans for
interactions with the rest of the participating institutions.

o  Appropriateness of management plans and arrangements:  The feasibility and
adequacy of the organizational and administrative plans; the appropriateness of
the budget; and the mechanisms to evaluate the Center's progress.

o  Quality and appropriateness of the outreach and research career development
components of the Center's activities:  The adequacy of approaches used to
disseminate information regarding the Center's activities as they relate to
public understanding of science and mental health and illness.  The likely
effectiveness of approaches to attract and involve young investigators and
students who show potential for significant future contributions and independent
research careers in the work of the Center.

The initial review group will also examine the provisions for the protection of
human and animal subjects, the safety of the research environment, and
conformance with the NIH Guidelines for the Inclusion of Women and Minorities as
Subjects in Clinical Research.

As part of the scientific and technical merit evaluation of the research plan,
reviewers will be instructed to address:

o  Adequacy of plans for including children as appropriate for the scientific
goals of the research, or justification for exclusion.

The initial review group will make an overall recommendation for approval (and
assign a priority score) or disapproval of the entire Center application.  Under
some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the initial review group to
recommend disapproval of one or more project(s).

AWARD CRITERIA

Applications will compete for available funds with all other approved
applications assigned to NIMH.  The following will be considered in making
funding decisions:  Quality of the proposed project as determined by peer review,
availability of funds, and program priority.

Schedule

To ensure a uniform review quality, all applications will be reviewed by a single
review group, which will meet once per year.  In accordance with this objective,
there will be one receipt date each year.  Applications received after this date
will be returned to the applicant without review.

Letter of Intent Receipt Date:  July 1
Application Receipt Date:       October 20
Administrative Review:          November
Scientific Review:              February/March
Advisory Council Review:        May
Earliest Starting Date:         July

INQUIRIES

Inquiries are encouraged.  The opportunity to clarify any issues or questions
from potential applicants is welcome.

Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues and letters of intent to:

Michael F. Huerta, Ph.D.
Division of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research
National Institute of Mental Health
Parklawn Building, Room 11-103
Rockville, MD  20857
Telephone:  (301) 443-3563
FAX:  (301) 443-1731
Email:  mhuerta@helix.nih.gov

Direct inquiries regarding fiscal matters to:

Diana S. Trunnell
Grants Management Branch
National Institute of Mental Health
Parklawn Building, Room 7C-08
Rockville, MD  20857
Telephone:  (301) 443-2805
FAX:  (301) 443-6885
Email:  Diana_Trunnell@nih.gov

AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS

This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance No.
93.242. Awards are made under authorization of the Public Health Service Act,
Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410, as amended by Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 241
and 285) and administered under PHS grants policies and Federal Regulations 42
CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74.  This program is not subject to the intergovernmental
review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency review. 
Awards will be administered under PHS grants policy as stated in the Public
Health Service Grants Policy Statement (April 1, 1994).

PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to provide a smoke-free
workplace and promote the nonuse of all tobacco products.  In addition, Public
Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking in certain
facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which regular or
routine education, library, day care, health care or early childhood development
services are provided to children.  This is consistent with the PHS mission to
protect and advance the physical and mental health of the American people.


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