Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information
Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

Funding Opportunity Title

BRAIN Initiative: Optimization of Transformative Technologies for Large Scale Recording and Modulation in the Nervous System (U01)

Activity Code

U01 Research Project – Cooperative Agreements

Announcement Type

Reissue of RFA-NS-15-004

Related Notices
  • November 18, 2016 - Notice to Encourage Eligible NIMH BRAIN Initiative Awardees to Apply to PA-16-288. See Notice NOT-MH-17-004.
  • September 29, 2016 - This RFA has been reissued as RFA-NS-17-004.
  • NOT-OD-16-004 - NIH & AHRQ Announce Upcoming Changes to Policies, Instructions and Forms for 2016 Grant Applications (November 18, 2015)
  • NOT-OD-16-006 - Simplification of the Vertebrate Animals Section of NIH Grant Applications and Contract Proposals (November 18, 2015)
  • NOT-OD-16-011 - Implementing Rigor and Transparency in NIH & AHRQ Research Grant Applications (November 18, 2015)
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number

RFA-NS-16-007

Companion Funding Opportunity

RFA-NS-16-006, U01 Research Project – Cooperative Agreements

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)

93.853; 93.865; 93.866; 93.286; 93.867; 93.173; 93.273; 93.279; 93.242; 93.213  

Funding Opportunity Purpose

Although invention and proof-of-concept testing of new technologies is a key component of the BRAIN Initiative, to achieve their potential these technologies must also be optimized through feedback from end-users in the context of the intended experimental use. This seeks applications for the optimization of existing and emerging technologies and approaches that have potential to address major challenges associated with recording and manipulating neural activity, at or near cellular resolution, at multiple spatial and temporal scales, in any region and throughout the entire depth of the brain.  This FOA is intended for the iterative refinement of emergent technologies and approaches that have already demonstrated their transformative potential through initial proof-of-concept testing, and are appropriate for accelerated development of hardware and software while scaling manufacturing techniques towards sustainable, broad dissemination and user-friendly incorporation into regular neuroscience practice. 

Proposed technologies should be compatible with experiments in behaving animals, and should include advancements that enable or reduce major barriers to hypothesis-driven experiments.  Technologies may engage diverse types of signaling beyond neuronal electrical activity for large-scale analysis, and may utilize any modality such as optical, electrical, magnetic, acoustic or genetic recording/manipulation.  Applications that seek to integrate multiple approaches are encouraged.  Applications are expected to integrate appropriate domains of expertise, including where appropriate biological, chemical and physical sciences, engineering, computational modeling and statistical analysis.   

Key Dates
Posted Date

November 17, 2015

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

January 24, 2016  

Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

January 24, 2016

Application Due Date(s)

February 24, 2016, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on this date.

Applicants are encouraged to apply early to allow adequate time to make any corrections to errors found in the application during the submission process by the due date.

AIDS Application Due Date(s)

Not Applicable

Scientific Merit Review

March 2016

Advisory Council Review

August 2016

Earliest Start Date

September 2016

Expiration Date

February 25, 2016    

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. Applicants must read and follow all application instructions in the Application Guide as well as any program-specific instructions noted in Section IV. When the program-specific instructions deviate from those in the Application Guide, follow the program-specific instructions. Applications that do not comply with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Overview Information
Part 2. Full Text of the Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Section II. Award Information
Section III. Eligibility Information
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
Section V. Application Review Information
Section VI. Award Administration Information
Section VII. Agency Contacts
Section VIII. Other Information

Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description

The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is a Presidential project aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.  By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space.  It is expected that the application of these new tools and technologies will ultimately lead to new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders.

NIH is one of several Federal agencies involved in the BRAIN Initiative.  Planning for the NIH component of the BRAIN Initiative is guided by the long-term scientific plan, “BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision,” which details seven high-priority research areas and calls for a sustained Federal commitment of $4.5 billion over 12 years. This report can be found at http://braininitiative.nih.gov/.  This FOA and other FOAs issued in Fiscal Year 2016 are based on careful consideration by the NIH of the recommendations of the BRAIN 2025 Report, and input from the NIH BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group (http://braininitiative.nih.gov/MCWG-Roster.pdf), which held its first meeting on August 25th, 2014 (see http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?file=18555&bhcp=1). 

In addition to the National BRAIN Initiative, the NIH continues to have a substantial annual investment in neuroscience research.  The Institutes and Centers contributing to the NIH BRAIN Initiative (http://braininitiative.nih.gov/) support those research efforts through applications received via parent announcements as well as through specific funding opportunity announcements.  Potential applicants to this FOA are strongly encouraged to contact Scientific/Research staff if they have any questions about the best funding opportunity announcement for their research.

To enable progress in development of new technologies as well as in theory and data analysis, the BRAIN Initiative encourages collaborations between neurobiologists and scientists from statistics, physics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science, and NIH welcomes applications from investigators in these disciplines.

NIH encourages BRAIN Initiative applications from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research workforce (see data at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/showpub.cfm?TopID=2&SubID=27 and the most recent report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering). Such individuals include those from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, those with disabilities, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The BRAIN Initiative will require a high level of coordination and sharing between investigators, and this FOA will use a cooperative agreement to facilitate these activities.  The details of the management of the cooperative agreements can be found in Section VI.  It is expected that BRAIN Initiative awardees will cooperate and coordinate their activities after awards are made.

Objectives

This FOA is related to Section III of the BRAIN 2025 Report, with the goal to 'produce a dynamic picture of the functioning brain by developing and applying improved methods for large-scale monitoring of neural activity'.  Towards this end, the report calls for accelerated development of new and improved electrodes for large-scale recording, new and improved electrical and chemical optical sensors of neural activity, and new and improved instruments for optical monitoring of neural activity.  These new technologies and approaches will provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring how the nervous system encodes, processes, utilizes, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information.  A better understanding of this dynamic neural activity will enable researchers to seek new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent brain disorders.

This FOA also addresses a core principle of the BRAIN 2025 report: to critically test and further develop new methods through iterative interaction between technologists and experimentalists with a goal of broad dissemination and integration into regular neuroscience practice.

This FOA seeks applications for the optimization of existing and emerging technologies and approaches for large-scale recording and manipulation of neural activity, to enable transformative understanding of dynamic signaling in the nervous system.  

This FOA is intended for the iterative refinement of emergent technologies and approaches that have already demonstrated their transformative potential through initial proof-of-concept testing, and are appropriate for accelerated engineering development while scaling manufacturing techniques towards sustainable, broad dissemination and incorporation into regular neuroscience practice.

An additional FOA (RFA-NS-16-006) solicits applications for proof-of-concept testing and development of new technologies and novel approaches for large-scale recording and manipulation of neural activity.

Applications are expected to address any or all of the following three general goals for the FOA:

1. Develop New Large-Scale Network Recording Capabilities.

Recording dynamic neural activity from complete neural networks, over long periods, in any area of the brain is a challenging but essential goal.  Advances in the exploration and development of new technologies for neural cell recording, including methods based on electrodes, microelectronics/microchips, imaging, molecular genetics, and nanoscience are encouraged.  It is expected that progress will initially be tractable in non-human animals (invertebrate or vertebrate), but extrapolation to human circuits is an ultimate goal. 

2. Develop Tools for Circuit Manipulation.

The ability to activate and inhibit specific populations of neurons is key to understanding functional circuits, which will advance the scope of our knowledge from observation of neural phenomena to a mechanistic understanding of neural causation.  A new generation of tools for optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, biochemical, electromagnetic and/or acoustic modulation needs to be developed for use in animals, and eventually in humans, to enable the immense potential of circuit manipulation. 

3. Link Neural Activity to Behavior.

The goal of this FOA is to produce technologies with potential to elucidate nervous system function, in health and disease, in the context of complex behaviors.   Proposed technologies should be compatible with experiments in behaving animals and should be validated under in vivo experimental conditions.  In addition, novel approaches for enabling large-scale neural recording or manipulation during complex behaviors are encouraged along with the computational and statistical tools necessary to link neural activity to behavior.  In combination with concurrent measurement and manipulation of neuronal activity, applications may propose methods to enhance the ability to quantify and interpret animal behavior, at high temporal and spatial resolution, reliably and objectively, over long periods of time and under a broad set of conditions.

Applications submitted in response to this FOA should address the following considerations:

  • This FOA is for the optimization of existing and emerging technologies and approaches with the potential to address major challenges associated with recording and manipulating neural activity, at or near cellular resolution, at multiple spatial and temporal scales, in any region and throughout the entire depth of the brain. 
  • The proposed technologies should enable hypothesis-driven experiments that are currently infeasible, or reduce barriers to experiments that currently are costly, difficult, or take too long to perform.
  • Projects must develop technology towards reliable, sustainable manufacture suitable for broad dissemination and integration into regular neuroscience practice.   
  • Proposed technologies should be compatible with experiments in behaving animals, and should increase the spatial and/or temporal scale of current methods, while minimizing the loss of cellular/sub-cellular and temporal resolution. 
  • Technologies may engage diverse types of signaling beyond neuronal electrical activity for large- scale analysis, including for example non-neuronal or modulatory signaling that contributes to circuit function. 
  • Applications may utilize experimental recording and manipulating techniques of any modality, such as optical, electrical, magnetic, acoustic or genetic recording/manipulation. 
  • Applications that seek to integrate multiple technical and experimental approaches are encouraged.
  • Applicants should note that crossing boundaries in interdisciplinary collaborations is a major goal of the BRAIN Initiative.  Accordingly, applicants are strongly encouraged to consider, where appropriate, multi-PD/PI applications that integrate various domains of expertise, including biological, chemical and physical sciences, engineering, computational modeling and statistical analysis.

The following types of approaches are encouraged.  Each bullet includes representative, but not exhaustive, examples.

Probes for Large-Scale Sensing and/or Manipulation of Neural Activity in vivo

  • Probes for resolving changes in membrane potential, with high spatial and temporal resolution, from large numbers of neurons in behaving animals. 
  • Probes for sampling or manipulating activity over a range of spatial and temporal scales in the same experiment, or for large-scale sampling/manipulation of cellular activity with simultaneous whole-brain activity measurements.
  • Probes for recording/manipulating diverse cell types simultaneously, with distinguishable readouts and interventions (e.g., probes responsive to different ranges of the energy spectrum). 
  • Probes for neural plasticity events, at the cellular or synaptic level (including genetic and epigenetic events), which underlie network adaptation and learning. 
  • Probes for cellular or network modulatory states (e.g., as assessed by intracellular signaling cascades, or modulatory transmitter levels), which are major determinants of cellular and network responses to incoming information. 
  • Probes for signaling at specific sets of nerve terminals, or by specific neurotransmitters with synaptic resolution, especially techniques/approaches that distinguish transmitters or classes of synapses from one another. 

Imaging Instrumentation for Recording and/or Manipulating Neural Activity with Cellular Resolution in vivo

  • Optical imaging instrumentation with major increases in large-scale sampling capabilities, including frame rates sufficient to capture millisecond-scale signaling events, across full volumes of neural tissue rather than single focal planes. 
  • New imaging modalities for less-invasive or non-invasive cellular-resolution imaging at tissue depths that are currently unavailable, such as structured imaging or adaptive strategies using spatial light modulation and/or wavefront sensing, photoacoustic wavefront shaping, backscattering and deconvolution strategies, or signal relay approaches. 
  • Methods for simultaneous imaging of cellular resolution neural activity from multiple brain regions, or for large-scale sampling/manipulation of cellular activity with simultaneous whole-brain activity measurements. 

Development of Electrodes for Large-Scale Recording and/or Circuit Manipulation in vivo

  • Transforming technologies for simultaneous high-density recording and manipulation of neural activity from multiple brain regions (cortical, sub-cortical, deep-brain) in freely behaving animals.
  • Adaptable multi-functional platforms to enable new combinations of capabilities sufficient for large-scale recordings in vivo (e.g., combinations of electrical recordings, optical modulation, chemical sensing, and/or fluid delivery).  
  • Innovative new electrode concepts, delivery methods or biocompatible materials to dramatically reduce the invasiveness of acute or chronic electrode recordings.
  • Innovative methods to solve the impediments to effective day-to-day stability of single-unit recordings. 
  • New in vivo electrical capabilities, such as chronic multi-unit intracellular recording, or high-density three-dimensional arrays across multiple spatial planes. 
  • Strategies for integrating in vivo electrical recordings with other recording technologies, such as optical imaging and stimulation or high-field MRI.  

Techniques and Approaches for Recording/Manipulating Neural Activity during Behaviors

  • New or improved miniaturized devices for head-mounted recording of neural activity at cellular-resolution in freely behaving animals.
  • Innovative approaches for head-fixed recording or manipulation of neural activity at cellular-resolution for ethologically robust behavioral analysis. 
  • Innovative methods to transform neural signals into effector systems of behavior.
  • In combination with concurrent development of large-scale technology for recording/manipulation, computational and statistical tools to analyze and model neural circuit activity underlying behavior and/or to affect systems of behavior.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult the Scientific/Research Contact listed below to discuss the alignment of their proposed work with the goals of this FOA, and the BRAIN Initiative Program.  A Technical Assistance phone conference will be held for potential applicants in early February.   NIH staff will be available to answer questions related to this FOA.  Time, date, and dial in information for the call will be announced in an NIH Guide Notice in January and will be posted on the BRAIN website (http://www.nih.gov/science/brain/).  

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Cooperative Agreement: A support mechanism used when there will be substantial Federal scientific or programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that, after award, NIH scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate, or participate in project activities.

Application Types Allowed

New

The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

NIH BRAIN Initiative intends to fund an estimate of 5-7 awards, corresponding to total of up to $3.8M for fiscal year 2016.

Award Budget

Application budgets are not limited but need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.

Award Project Period

Awards are for three years of support.

NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made in response to this FOA.

Section III. Eligibility Information
1. Eligible Applicants
Eligible Organizations

Higher Education Institutions

  • Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
  • Private Institutions of Higher Education

The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:

    • Hispanic-serving Institutions
    • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
    • Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
    • Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
    • Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)

Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education

  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)

For-Profit Organizations

  • Small Businesses
  • For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)

Governments

  • State Governments
  • County Governments
  • City or Township Governments
  • Special District Governments
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Federally Recognized)
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Other than Federally Recognized)
  • Eligible Agencies of the Federal Government - including the NIH Intramural Program
  • U.S. Territory or Possession

Other

  • Independent School Districts
  • Public Housing Authorities/Indian Housing Authorities
  • Native American Tribal Organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
  • Faith-based or Community-based Organizations
  • Regional Organizations
  • Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions)
Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are eligible to apply.
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are eligible to apply.
Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are allowed.

Required Registrations

Applicant Organizations

  • Applicant organizations must complete and maintain the following registrations as described in the SF 424 (R&R) Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. Registration can take 6 weeks or more, so applicants should begin the registration process as soon as possible. The NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications states that failure to complete registrations in advance of a due date is not a valid reason for a late submission.
  • Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) - All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM and eRA Commons registrations. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the grant application.
  • System for Award Management (SAM) (formerly CCR) – Applicants must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires renewal at least annually. The renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations which have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.
  • eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the eRA Commons registration. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or Grants.gov registration. eRA Commons requires organizations to identify at least one Signing Official (SO) and at least one Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account in order to submit an application.
  • Grants.gov – Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the Grants.gov registration.

Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD(s)/PI(s))

All PD(s)/PI(s) must have an eRA Commons account.  PD(s)/PI(s) should work with their organizational officials to either create a new account or to affiliate their existing account with the applicant organization in eRA Commons. If the PD/PI is also the organizational Signing Official, they must have two distinct eRA Commons accounts, one for each role. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to 2 weeks.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator)

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PDs/PIs, visit the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

2. Cost Sharing

This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

3. Additional Information on Eligibility
Number of Applications

Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.

The NIH will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time.  This means that the NIH will not accept:

  • A new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping new (A0) or resubmission (A1) application.
  • A resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.
  • An application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101).
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
1. Requesting an Application Package

Applicants must download the SF424 (R&R) application package associated with this funding opportunity using the “Apply for Grant Electronically” button in this FOA or following the directions provided at Grants.gov.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, including Supplemental Grant Application Instructions except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.

Letter of Intent

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 IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.

By the date listed in Part 1. Overview Information, prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent that includes the following information:

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity

The letter of intent should be sent to:

Edmund (Ned) Talley, PhD
National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone: 301-496-1917
Email: BRAIN-FOAs@nih.gov

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed.

Instructions for Application Submission

The following section supplements the instructions found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and should be used for preparing an application to this FOA.

SF424(R&R) Cover

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

SF424(R&R) Project/Performance Site Locations

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

SF424(R&R) Other Project Information

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed. 

R&R or Modular Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

R&R Subaward Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

PHS 398 Cover Page Supplement

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.  

PHS 398 Research Plan

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed, with the following additional instructions:

Research Strategy: This FOA is for the optimization of existing and emerging technologies and approaches.  Accordingly, applicants are strongly encouraged to follow standard engineering design principles in their applications.  These principles include solicitation of design requirements from end-users incorporating the context of the experiments to be enabled, and clear, quantifiable performance metrics that encompass as many aspects of the end-use experience as is feasible.

It is anticipated that many projects will begin with a limited roll-out to selected user-groups to provide iterative feedback and further refine requirements in the context of conducting model experiments, as well as metric-driven validation of the technology in comparison to current best practices, where appropriate.  Although proposed technologies should enable or reduce major barriers to hypothesis-driven experiments, applications should focus on the technology rather than experimental or biological aims.  Experiments should be formulated to validate the technology and demonstrate its capabilities, rather than advancing the state of biological knowledge.  Applicants are expected to explain the specific biological assay(s) to be utilized for validation.

As applications are expected to have demonstrated basic proof-of-concept for the technology prior to entry, applications will in part be evaluated by having a clear, comprehensive, and credible path towards transitioning an emerging technology to broad and routine neuroscience practice.  Consequently, applications should outline strategy to develop the technology towards reliable, sustainable manufacture suitable for broad dissemination and integration into regular neuroscience practice.  Applications should include a plan for ongoing consultation with end users, relevant expert technologists, and where applicable, experts in appropriate manufacturing technologies for sustainable dissemination.  Named individuals from these groups who will serve as consultants for the project are encouraged. 

All applications should include the following:

Current State-of-the-Art: Investigators should specifically define the current state of technology as a benchmark against which their proposed improvements will be measured.  

Timeline and Milestones:  A timeline should be included as part of the Research Strategy and should include a distinct final section, entitled “Milestones,” that briefly proposes indicators of progress at critical junctures. Milestones should be tailored to the unique scope of each project, and written concretely enough to evaluate what exactly will have been achieved during the course of the project.  Tests should include a comparison against existing benchmark technologies.  Investigators should briefly note how results will be used to inform future phases of development, such as testing in other model systems or in human brain. 

Resource Sharing Plan: Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

A central goal of this FOA is to generate transformative tools and technologies that will be widely used throughout the research community.  Applications are expected to include a detailed plan for dissemination and sustainability of proposed resources, consistent with achieving the goals of this program. 

Dissemination plans should include the following key elements to meet the goals of the program:

  • Project management of resource sharing or dissemination;
  • Description of the specific resources to be shared;
  • Milestones with schedule for availability and for breadth of dissemination;
  • Persons who will have access to the resources (written as broadly as possible to the extent consistent with applicable laws, regulations, rules, and policies);
  • Plan for post award disposition of resources.  It is expected that preference will be given towards eventual commercial manufacture, although plans with an end-goal of future dissemination capitalizing on existing NIH or alternate funding agency funding mechanisms will be considered.

Appendix:  Do not use the Appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Planned Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Planned Enrollment Reports as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. 

PHS 398 Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

Foreign Institutions

Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions must follow policies described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, and procedures for foreign institutions described throughout the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

3. Submission Dates and Times

See Part I. Section III.1 for information regarding the requirements for obtaining a Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number and for completing and maintaining an active System for Award Management (SAM) registration. Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications before the due date to ensure they have time to make any application corrections that might be necessary for successful submission.

Organizations must submit applications to Grants.gov (the online portal to find and apply for grants across all Federal agencies). Applicants must then complete the submission process by tracking the status of the application in the eRA Commons, NIH’s electronic system for grants administration. NIH and Grants.gov systems check the application against many of the application instructions upon submission. Errors must be corrected and a changed/corrected application must be submitted to Grants.gov on or before the application due date.  If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late.

Applicants are responsible for viewing their application before the due date in the eRA Commons to ensure accurate and successful submission.

Information on the submission process and a definition of on-time submission are provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

4. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

5. Funding Restrictions

All NIH awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Pre-award costs are allowable only as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

6. Other Submission Requirements and Information

Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.  Paper applications will not be accepted.

Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.

For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit Applying Electronically. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues.

Important reminders:

All PD(s)/PI(s) must include their eRA Commons ID in the Credential field of the Senior/Key Person Profile Component of the SF424(R&R) Application Package. Failure to register in the Commons and to include a valid PD/PI Commons ID in the credential field will prevent the successful submission of an electronic application to NIH. See Section III of this FOA for information on registration requirements.

The applicant organization must ensure that the DUNS number it provides on the application is the same number used in the organization’s profile in the eRA Commons and for the System for Award Management. Additional information may be found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

See more tips for avoiding common errors.

Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness and compliance with application instructions by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by components of participating organizations, NIH. Applications that are incomplete, non-compliant and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

Applications Involving the NIH Intramural Research Program

The requests by NIH intramural scientists will be limited to the incremental costs required for participation. As such, these requests will not include any salary and related fringe benefits for career, career conditional or other Federal employees (civilian or uniformed service) with permanent appointments under existing position ceilings or any costs related to administrative or facilities support (equivalent to Facilities and Administrative or F&A costs). These costs may include salary for staff to be specifically hired under a temporary appointment for the project, consultant costs, equipment, supplies, travel, and other items typically listed under Other Expenses. Applicants should indicate the number of person-months devoted to the project, even if no funds are requested for salary and fringe benefits.

If selected, appropriate funding will be provided by the NIH Intramural Program. NIH intramural scientists will participate in this program as PDs/PIs in accord with the Terms and Conditions provided in this FOA. Intellectual property will be managed in accord with established policy of the NIH in compliance with Executive Order 10096, as amended, 45 CFR Part 7; patent rights for inventions developed in NIH facilities are NIH property unless NIH waives its rights.

Should an extramural application include the collaboration with an intramural scientist, no funds for the support of the intramural scientist may be requested in the application. The intramural scientist may submit a separate request for intramural funding as described above

Post Submission Materials

Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in NOT-OD-13-030.

Section V. Application Review Information

Important Update: See NOT-OD-16-006 and NOT-OD-16-011 for updated review language for applications for due dates on or after January 25, 2016.

1. Criteria

Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. As part of the NIH mission, all applications submitted to the NIH in support of biomedical and behavioral research are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system.

For this particular announcement, note the following:

This FOA is for the optimization of existing and emerging technologies and approaches.   As proof-of-concept is required prior to entry, innovation will in part be evaluated by having a clear, comprehensive, and credible path towards transitioning an emerging technology to broad and routine neuroscience practice. It is expected that applications will incorporate design requirements from end-users, and clear, quantifiable performance metrics that incorporate the end-use experience.

Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Significance

Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field? 

Does the proposed technology represent a major improvement over current state-of-the-art?  Will it serve to enable hypothesis-driven experiments that are currently infeasible, or reduce major barriers to experiments that currently are costly, difficult, or take too long to perform?   

Investigator(s)

Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?   

Innovation

Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?   

Approach

Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed? 

Is the overall plan for iterative development well staged, tractable and appropriately adaptive?  Are initial design criteria proposed with clear and justifiable metrics for verification and validation? Were these initial design criteria developed through appropriate communication with end-users?  Are the experiments formulated to validate the technology and demonstrate its capabilities, rather than advancing the state of biological knowledge?  Are there proposed development milestones that are adequate, measurable and feasible?   

If the project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, are the plans to address 1) the protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion or exclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?  

Environment

Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?   

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Protections for Human Subjects

For research that involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risk to subjects, 2) adequacy of protection against risks, 3) potential benefits to the subjects and others, 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained, and 5) data and safety monitoring for clinical trials.

For research that involves human subjects and meets the criteria for one or more of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate: 1) the justification for the exemption, 2) human subjects involvement and characteristics, and 3) sources of materials. For additional information on review of the Human Subjects section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Human Subjects.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children 

When the proposed project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for the inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion (or exclusion) of children to determine if it is justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Inclusion in Clinical Research.

Vertebrate Animals

The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following five points: 1) proposed use of the animals, and species, strains, ages, sex, and numbers to be used; 2) justifications for the use of animals and for the appropriateness of the species and numbers proposed; 3) adequacy of veterinary care; 4) procedures for limiting discomfort, distress, pain and injury to that which is unavoidable in the conduct of scientifically sound research including the use of analgesic, anesthetic, and tranquilizing drugs and/or comfortable restraining devices; and 5) methods of euthanasia and reason for selection if not consistent with the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.

Biohazards

Reviewers will assess whether materials or procedures proposed are potentially hazardous to research personnel and/or the environment, and if needed, determine whether adequate protection is proposed.

Resubmissions

Not Applicable

Renewals

Not Applicable

Revisions

Not Applicable

Additional Review Considerations

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.

Applications from Foreign Organizations

Reviewers will assess whether the project presents special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions that exist in other countries and either are not readily available in the United States or augment existing U.S. resources.

Select Agent Research

Reviewers will assess the information provided in this section of the application, including 1) the Select Agent(s) to be used in the proposed research, 2) the registration status of all entities where Select Agent(s) will be used, 3) the procedures that will be used to monitor possession use and transfer of Select Agent(s), and 4) plans for appropriate biosafety, biocontainment, and security of the Select Agent(s).

Resource Sharing Plans

Reviewers will comment on whether the following Resource Sharing Plans, or the rationale for not sharing the following types of resources, are reasonable: 1) Data Sharing Plan; 2) Sharing Model Organisms; and 3) Genomic Data Sharing Plan. Is there a convincing path towards a sustainable product for wide dissemination as appropriate and consistent with achieving the goals of the program?  Does the resource sharing plan include the following required elements:

  • Project management of resource sharing or dissemination;
  • Description of the specific resources to be shared;
  • Milestones with schedule for availability and for breadth of dissemination;
  • Persons who will have access to the resources (written as broadly as possible to the extent consistent with applicable laws, regulations, rules, and policies);
  • Plan for post award disposition of resources?  It is expected that preference will be given towards eventual commercial manufacture, although plans with an end-goal of future dissemination capitalizing on existing NIH or alternate funding agency funding mechanisms will be considered.
Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.

2. Review and Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by NINDS, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria. Assignment to a Scientific Review Group will be shown in the eRA Commons.

As part of the scientific peer review, all applications:

  • May undergo a selection process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific and technical merit (generally the top half of applications under review) will be discussed and assigned an overall impact score.
  • Will receive a written critique.

Appeals of initial peer review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to this FOA.

Applications will be assigned to the appropriate NIH Institute or Center. Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to this FOA. Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke Council. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

  • Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
  • Availability of funds.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates

After the peer review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will be able to access his or her Summary Statement (written critique) via the eRA Commons

Information regarding the disposition of applications is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices

If the application is under consideration for funding, NIH will request "just-in-time" information from the applicant as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A formal notification in the form of a Notice of Award (NoA) will be provided to the applicant organization for successful applications. The NoA signed by the grants management officer is the authorizing document and will be sent via email to the grantee’s business official.

Awardees must comply with any funding restrictions described in Section IV.5. Funding Restrictions. Selection of an application for award is not an authorization to begin performance. Any costs incurred before receipt of the NoA are at the recipient's risk. These costs may be reimbursed only to the extent considered allowable pre-award costs.

Any application awarded in response to this FOA will be subject to terms and conditions found on the Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants website.  This includes any recent legislation and policy applicable to awards that is highlighted on this website.

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

All NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards include the NIH Grants Policy Statement as part of the NoA. For these terms of award, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart A: General  and Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities. More information is provided at Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants.

Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award

The following special terms of award are in addition to, and not in lieu of, otherwise applicable U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) administrative guidelines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grant administration regulations at 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92 (Part 92 is applicable when State and local Governments are eligible to apply), and other HHS, PHS, and NIH grant administration policies.

The administrative and funding instrument used for this program will be the cooperative agreement, an "assistance" mechanism (rather than an "acquisition" mechanism), in which substantial NIH programmatic involvement with the awardees is anticipated during the performance of the activities. Under the cooperative agreement, the NIH purpose is to support and stimulate the recipients' activities by involvement in and otherwise working jointly with the award recipients in a partnership role; it is not to assume direction, prime responsibility, or a dominant role in the activities. Consistent with this concept, the dominant role and prime responsibility resides with the awardees for the project as a whole, although specific tasks and activities may be shared among the awardees and the NIH as defined below.

The PD(s)/PI(s) will have the primary responsibility for:

  • Determining experimental approaches, designing protocols, conducting experiments, analyzing, interpreting and publishing research data
  • Attending meetings with investigators, BRAIN Initiative staff and/or leadership, and members of the BRAIN Initiative Multi-Council Working Group to foster collaborations and exchange information and ideas to accelerate progress towards the goals of the BRAIN Initiative. 
  • Developing milestones with specific timelines and criteria for evaluation, and making appropriate revisions based on the feedback from the Principal Investigator meetings and recommendations from the Program Officer and/or Project Team. 
  • Discussing and sharing information, preliminary results, raw data, resources and technology with the Program Officer and/or Project Team and the other investigative teams (i.e., recipients of awards issued under this FOA) as appropriate and consistent with achieving the goals of the BRAIN Initiative.
  • Sharing data, final results and technology with the broader research community as appropriate.

NIH staff have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below:

  • A Program Officer will be assigned to this award.  The Program Officer will be responsible for normal scientific and programmatic stewardship and guidance.
  • A group of NIH program staff from the ICs contributing to the NIH BRAIN Initiative will form a Project Team for this award.  The Project Team will review annual progress reports and other documents from the awardees and will assist the Program Officer in the evaluation of progress and coordination of activities with other awardees under this FOA.
  • One or more extramural NIH program staff member will be assigned as the Project Coordinator for each award under this FOA.  The same person may serve as the Project Coordinator for multiple BRAIN Initiative awards.  The Project Coordinator(s) will also be a member of the Project Team. 
  • The Project Coordinator is not involved with normal program stewardship, but will provide technical assistance, advice, coordination, and other program actions supporting the recipients of these cooperative agreements during the conduct of an activity, which may be above and beyond the levels required normally for program stewardship of grants.
  • The additional duties of the Project Coordinator may include attending and participating in meetings of Principle Investigators and NIH Staff, assisting in the development of the meeting agendas, assisting in evaluating achievement of milestones, assisting with the establishment of a consortium for the purpose of sharing information and coordination of research activities among the recipients of these cooperative agreements.

Areas of Joint Responsibility Include:

None; all responsibilities are divided between awardees and NIH staff as described above.

Dispute Resolution:

Any disagreements that may arise in scientific or programmatic matters (within the scope of the award) between award recipients and the NIH may be brought to Dispute Resolution. A Dispute Resolution Panel composed of three members will be convened. It will have three members: a designee of the Steering Committee chosen without NIH staff voting, one NIH designee, and a third designee with expertise in the relevant area who is chosen by the other two; in the case of individual disagreement, the first member may be chosen by the individual awardee. This special dispute resolution procedure does not alter the awardee's right to appeal an adverse action that is otherwise appealable in accordance with PHS regulation 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart D and DHHS regulation 45 CFR Part 16.

3. Reporting

When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A final progress report, invention statement, and the expenditure data portion of the Federal Financial Report are required for closeout of an award, as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act), includes a requirement for awardees of Federal grants to report information about first-tier subawards and executive compensation under Federal assistance awards issued in FY2011 or later.  All awardees of applicable NIH grants and cooperative agreements are required to report to the Federal Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) available at www.fsrs.gov on all subawards over $25,000.  See the NIH Grants Policy Statement for additional information on this reporting requirement.

Section VII. Agency Contacts

We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.

Application Submission Contacts

eRA Commons Help Desk (Questions regarding eRA Commons registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, post submission issues)
Finding Help Online: http://grants.nih.gov/support/ (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)

Grants.gov Customer Support (Questions regarding Grants.gov registration and submission, downloading forms and application packages)
Contact CenterTelephone: 800-518-4726
Web ticketing system: https://grants-portal.psc.gov/ContactUs.aspx
Email: support@grants.gov

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-710-0267

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Edmund Talley, PhD
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone: 301-496-1917
Email: BRAIN-FOAs@nih.gov

Peer Review Contact(s)

Chief, Scientific Review Branch
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone:  301-496-9223
Email: nindsreview.nih.gov@mail.nih.gov

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Tijuanna E. DeCoster, PhD 
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone: 301-496-9231
Email: decostert@mail.nih.gov

Section VIII. Other Information

Recently issued trans-NIH policy notices may affect your application submission. A full list of policy notices published by NIH is provided in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. All awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Authority and Regulations

Awards are made under the authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 52 and 45 CFR Part 75.

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