Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies for Low-Resource Settings Globally
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

January 4, 2020

First Available Due Date:
February 22, 2021
Expiration Date:
September 30, 2021

Related Announcements

RFA-CA-21-003 - Innovative Molecular and Cellular Analysis Technologies for Basic and Clinical Cancer Research (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

RFA-CA-21-005 - Innovative Biospecimen Science Technologies for Basic and Clinical Cancer Research (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

National Cancer Institute (NCI)


This Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) is to alert the community that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Global Health (CGH) is seeking to leverage ongoing Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies (IMAT) program activities to stimulate exploratory research on technology platforms relevant for global oncology and appropriate for use in low-resource settings globally. NCI CGH is prepared to support highly meritorious R21 applications submitted to either RFA-CA-21-003 or RFA-CA-21-005, with the goal of helping drive innovation in this field and enrich the pool of investigators participating in the NCI-sponsored Affordable Cancer Technologies (ACTs) Program.


It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the 9.5 million annual cancer deaths worldwide occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Furthermore, the incidence rate of cancer is on the rise in populations of many LMICs, with substantial inequalities in cancer survival rates across the world. Access to cancer prevention, screening, detection, diagnosis, and treatment is a significant challenge in many LMICs, especially in areas with limited infrastructure. Unfortunately, many established cancer control technologies are not suitable for use in low-resource settings, either globally or in the U.S., due to expense, dependency on extensive medical infrastructure, or both.

Since its inception in 1998, the IMAT Program has focused on stimulating and accelerating development, of novel and highly innovative technologies in support of cancer research and medicine. Together with the NCI's other technology-focused programs, the IMAT program continues to support the development of tools and methods that enable cancer researchers across the entire spectrum of cancer research.

Likewise, since 2013 the ACTs program has supported resource-appropriate translational technology research for cancer where affordability and potential impact in low-resource settings are essential design components. Furthermore, technologies supported through the ACTs program are validated in real-world settings in LMICs, leading to the promise of additional innovations (e.g., enabling use by minimally trained health workers, use at the clinical point-of-need, and adaptability to diverse environmental conditions and health systems). Lastly, the technologies advanced through the ACTs program may not only be relevant for LMICs but may additionally provide insights and tools appropriate for addressing cancer disparities domestically (i.e. urban and/or rural disparities).

To date, exploratory technology development research has not been included in the ACTs program. This announcement seeks to address that gap and prime the technology development pipeline with new, innovative technologies designed explicitly to address challenges in global oncology. Such research could usher in new and innovative platforms, the ability to process more complex samples, and introduce end-user design thinking into the earliest stages of the design of a new intervention. Such projects could then subsequently be suitable for the pragmatic, translational work taking place in an ACTs program grant. To that end, CGH seeks to stimulate early-stage technology development research with risk-tolerant IMAT R21s that could result in transformational new approaches for global oncology applications.

Specific Areas Research Interest

Both RFA-CA-21-003 and RFA-CA-21-005 solicit grant applications proposing exploratory research projects focused on the early-stage development of innovative technologies for basic and clinical cancer research. Projects in response to this Notice of Special Interest should address topics within the scientific scope of these IMAT R21 RFAs.

Additionally, proposals responsive to this NOSI should consider the following:

  • Design considerations for application at the point of need in low-resource settings in an LMIC should be considered in the application. These include, but are not limited to:
    • Designed for ease of use (i.e., the device, technology, or assay must be suitable for use in the chosen setting by caregivers/providers receiving local training in its operation and maintenance);
    • Operable in locations with limited clinical infrastructure (e.g., limited access to electricity, landline communication, refrigeration, or central water supply);
    • Designed for use at the community level and/or in non-traditional healthcare settings (e.g., family planning clinics, community centers, places of worship).
  • Usability in LMIC settings as well as affordability and cost-effectiveness in low-resource settings globally must be considered at an early stage as design components for the proposed technology.

CGH strongly encourages research in LMIC settings as a component of the projects.

The IMAT program requires the provision of quantitative performance measures to accompany the aims of any proposed research. Applications that fail to include adequate performance measures will not be reviewed. Interested parties should also note that the IMAT program R21 RFAs have a few select areas of technology development that are considered not responsive, including applications proposing to develop whole body or in vivo imaging technologies or computational technology advances. A comprehensive list is provided in the RFAs.

Application and Submission Information

Applications for this initiative must be submitted using the following Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs):

  • RFA-CA-21-003: Innovative Molecular and Cellular Analysis Technologies for Basic and Clinical Cancer Research (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
  • RFA-CA-21-005: Innovative Biospecimen Science Technologies for Basic and Clinical Cancer Research (R21 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and PA-18-591 must be followed, with the following additions.

  • For funding consideration, applicants must include NOT-CA-21-025" (without quotation marks) in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form. Applications without this information in box 4B will not be considered for this initiative.

Administrative Review Process

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by the NCI and alongside other applications to the two aforementioned IMAT RFAs, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria in the IMAT RFAs.

Applications nonresponsive to the terms and conditions will be not be considered for this NOSI initiative.


Please direct all inquiries to the Scientific/Research, Peer Review, and Financial/Grants Management contacts in Section VII of the listed funding opportunity announcements.

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Paul C. Pearlman, Ph.D.
Center for Global Health
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6429

Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices