Soon to be Issued Other Transaction (OT) Authority Funding Opportunity for the "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC): Data and Resource Center (OT3)"

Notice Number: NOT-RM-16-032

Key Dates
Release Date: September 29, 2016  

Estimated Publication Date of Announcement:  November 2016  
First Estimated Application Due Date:  February 2016  
Earliest Estimated Award Date:  May 2017 
Earliest Estimated Start Date:  May 2017  

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)


This Notice is to alert the community that a new Other Transaction (OT) Authority funding opportunity will soon be issued for the Common Fund Program, Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC). The NIH intends to develop and implement a Data and Resource Center (DRC) for SPARC. As part of this process, the NIH plans to publish an OT funding opportunity to invite traditional and non-traditional NIH applicants to submit applications for the DRC.

This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive projects. 

The OT funding opportunity is expected to be published in November 2016 with an expected application due date in February 2017.

This OT funding opportunity will utilize the OT3 activity code. Details of the planned OT funding opportunity are provided below.

When posted, the link to this forthcoming OT funding opportunity may be accessed through the SPARC Program Funding page under “Current Funding Opportunities.”

Research Initiative Details

Through the SPARC program, the NIH plans to support multidisciplinary teams of investigators to deliver foundational understanding of the physiological mechanisms of neural control of several major organs, novel electrode designs, minimally invasive surgical procedures, and stimulation protocols. Driven by end goals of improving existing, and developing new, neuromodulation therapies to relieve conditions, the program will be iterative and dynamic, with the technologies informing neural mapping efforts, and the mapping results defining new technology requirements. 

The SPARC program will use recent advances in technology – as well as anticipated new technological developments facilitated by the program – to produce detailed, predictive, functional and anatomical maps of the autonomic and sensory innervation of multiple major organs in humans. These maps will provide a foundation for the development and testing of novel electrodes, stimulation protocols, and minimally invasive surgical procedures to improve existing, or develop new, neuromodulation therapies, and to test existing approved neuromodulation devices in new applications.

The primary goal of the DRC is to produce detailed, predictive, functional and anatomical neural circuit maps of the autonomic and sensory innervation of multiple internal organs or organ systems, using the data generated by the various projects funded through SPARC. This center will assemble and manage data from all SPARC components into a coordinated data resource, develop a "living" map of the neural circuits innervating the organs, and incorporate methods for modeling the data. The DRC will serve as a hub for the research, engineering, and clinical communities, providing knowledge and tools to advance neuromodulation of organs or organ systems.

A planned OT funding opportunity will solicit applications from investigators to develop the DRC. It is anticipated that any team of investigators will include specific expertise in relevant mapping (including but not necessarily limited to physiological, anatomical, genomic/transcriptomic), data management and coordination, and multi-scale modeling, to be able to achieve the primary goals of:

  • Administrative: The Administrative Core will provide leadership and oversee the operations of the DRC. In addition, because the DRC is envisioned as the central hub and main deliverable of SPARC, the Administrative Core will have some Program-wide responsibilities. These may include, for example: convening the SPARC external consultants and steering committee, coordinating cross-cutting working groups across SPARC project areas, and implementing plans for internal evaluation and self-assessment.
  • Data Coordination: The Data Coordination Core will manage and facilitate access to anatomical and functional map data, metadata, protocols, and tools, and develop a framework for enabling the evaluation of comparative datasets that deal with both animal models and human data. This Core will be responsible for providing guidance to projects within the SPARC program by defining data quality assurance, common data elements and standardized approaches so that data can be minable and comparable.
  • Mapping: The Mapping Core will be responsible for developing and managing dynamic "living" maps of the major circuitry of the nervous system and innervation of end organs, as well as the functional aspects of such circuits. The Mapping Core will be expected to ensure these dynamic and evolving maps are easily accessible by the research community, both visually (by humans) and programmatically (by machines).
  • Modeling: The Modeling Core will be responsible for hosting and/or generating predictive computational models of the nerve-organ systems under study. The Modeling Core will also be tasked with higher-level functions such as identifying high-priority experimental areas based on underconstrained model parameters, building links between models to allow the construction of composite models. Integrated components could include those created by SPARC investigators, as well as those made available by others. DRC users should be able to interactively alter model parameters and observe the resulting changes, as well as view the experimental sources of key model parameters.  Models should be predictive, allowing parameters to be modified beyond what was present in their training data.

This Notice encourages those with relevant expertise and insights to begin to consider applying for this new OT funding opportunity. Successful teams will likely include data scientists, neuroscientists, and anatomists and physiologists with experience in at least one organ system under study by SPARC. Expertise in data management, coordination and integration across large projects will also be important. Teams will also be expected to be collaborative, and work in close coordination with projects funded through the other components of the SPARC program; it is anticipated that applicants will include expertise in successfully working with large consortia of biomedical research teams.

Further details and more goals of the DRC will be outlined in the forthcoming OT funding opportunity. Please visit the SPARC web site ( to view the list of existing funding announcements, and the activities/projects that have been funded to date.



Please direct all inquiries to:

Vinay M. Pai, Ph.D.
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
Telephone: (301) 451-4781