Request for Information (RFI): Challenges and Opportunities in Single Cell Analysis for Biomedical Research

Notice Number: NOT-RM-11-007

Key Dates
Release Date: February 8, 2011

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Common Fund (Roadmap)


This RFI is directed toward determining how best to accelerate research in single cell analysis.

The Single Cell Analysis Working Group of the NIH Common Fund wishes to identify gaps in current technologies and methodologies related to single cell analysis. For the purposes of this RFI, single cell analysis is defined as the examination of the biological properties of a single cell, or an individual cell within a population, not characterization of clonal populations or populations of cells assumed to be same.

The purpose of this RFI is to collect information from the broader research community to understand existing capabilities, determine where conceptual, technical and methodological limitations exist, and identify compelling biomedical research questions which can be addressed by overcoming these limitations. All areas of single cell analysis are of interest including, but not limited to: -omics approaches (genomics, epigenomics, proteomics, lipidomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics etc.), cellular development (e.g. cell cycling and differentiation), cell motility, membrane biology, cell communication pathways (e.g. intracellular and extracellular), and cell physiology. Technological and methodological limitations may include such things as source material access, preparation, and handling; instrumentation capabilities (flow cytometry, mass spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, optical imaging etc); assay sensitivity, scaling throughput, integration and/or automation; data collection, modeling, analysis and storage. Overcoming these challenges would advance biomedical research at the single cell level facilitating the identification of cellular markers of disease risk and disease progression; enable the development of improved diagnostic tests; and advance our understanding of treatment impact across a broad range of cell types and disease states.

Information Requested

As part of the initial planning process for meetings, workshops and program efforts, the Single Cell Analysis Working Group requests information on the following topics related to opportunities in single cell analysis and the challenges which can be addressed in basic, translational, and clinical research endeavors. Please provide examples, (including any relevant references) and address whether the response addresses specific technical or biomedical challenges, or is broadly applicable.

1. Given ongoing research efforts, major themes in basic and/or clinical research for which additional focus on single cell analysis may provide the most significant and broadest impact.

2. Current conceptual, technical, and/or methodological challenges in single cell analysis.

3. Major biomedical research opportunities that can be addressed by single cell analysis.

4. The 5 highest priority tools and resources needed to seize these opportunities and overcome these challenges. Relevant ground-breaking technologies and approaches of which the biomedical community is not widely aware.


This NIH goal for fiscal year 2011 is to evaluate the need for novel research tools and resources to rapidly advance single cell analysis. The NIH is committed to understanding the needs of the research community and supporting high-impact research in this area. To that end, we encourage visionary ideas that will dramatically stimulate the use of single cell analysis in answering pressing biomedical research questions.

Please send responses to no later than March 18, 2011.

Responses to this RFI are voluntary. Any personal identifiers (e.g., names, addresses, e-mail addresses, etc.) will be removed when responses are compiled. Only the de-identified comments will be used. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).

This Request for Information (RFI) is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and/or the NIH Common Fund HMO Research Network. The NIH does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.


Specific questions about this Notice may be directed to:

Ravi Basavappa, Ph.D
Office of Strategic Coordination
Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives
Office of the Director
National Institutes of Health
1 Center Drive, Room 203A
Bethesda, MD 20892
Telephone: 301-435-7204