Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa) Research Hubs (U54 Clinical Trial Optional)
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:
May 12, 2020
Estimated Publication Date of Funding Opportunity Announcement:
July 10, 2020
First Estimated Application Due Date:
November 24, 2020
Earliest Estimated Award Date:
July 15, 2021
Earliest Estimated Start Date:
August 01, 2021
Related Announcements

NOT-RM-20-011 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Research Training Program (U2R Clinical Trial Optional)

NOT-RM-20-012 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications Research (U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

NOT-RM-20-013 Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa): Open Data Science Platform and Coordinating Center (U2C Clinical Trial Not Allowed)

Issued by

Office of Strategic Coordination (Common Fund)


The purpose of this Notice is to inform the research community that the NIH Common Fund, along with its partner NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices, is planning to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support Research Hubs for a new program entitled Harnessing Data Science for Health Discovery and Innovation in Africa (DS-I Africa).

This Notice is being provided to allow potential applicants sufficient time to develop meaningful collaborations and responsive multidisciplinary Research Hub projects. Additionally, this notice informs the research community of a Virtual Symposium Platform that will launch the program and facilitate networking. The FOA will be open to applications directly from African organizations and is expected to be published in Summer 2020, with an expected application due date by November 2020. This FOA will utilize the U54 Specialized Center Cooperative Agreement activity code. Details of the planned FOA are provided below.

Research Initiative Details

Data drive scientific discovery. Recent technological advances, in Africa and around the world, have enabled researchers to collect enormous volumes of data. From rural clinics to the most sophisticated genomics laboratories data are central to our ability to improve health, from delivering care to conducting biomedical research. The collection and analysis of data are fundamental activities that underpin successful biomedical research and translation to clinical and public health benefits. The ability to fully extract useful knowledge from these data will lead to accelerated discoveries and innovations that can impact health in Africa and globally.

NIH is launching the DS-I Africa program to explore how advances in data science applied in the African context can spur new health discoveries and catalyze innovation. This program will leverage existing data and technologies to develop solutions to the continent’s most pressing clinical and public health problems through a robust ecosystem of new partners from academic, government, and private sectors. The DS-I Africa Research Hubs will be a key component of the larger DS-I Africa program, which will also include companion FOAs supporting 1) data science research training, 2) research on ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) issues central to data science health research and innovation in Africa, and 3) development of an open data science platform and coordinating center. As a group, awardees will constitute a collaborative consortium and will work collectively toward strategic objectives designated by the consortium, beyond the individual research objectives of each award. Representatives from each DS-I Africa award will be expected to participate fully in the DS-I Africa Consortium and cross- consortium working groups.

The DS-I Africa Research Hubs FOA will fund approximately five U54 awards for multidisciplinary research hubs (e.g. biomedical science, computer science, engineering, social and behavioral science, and other fields) focusing on critical health research areas to be addressed through data science approaches. Hub applicants should engage African government, industry, and/or other organizations, diverse departments from Hub institutions, and organizations in the United States and/or globally that can partner to provide synergistic expertise, collaborate on research, and support data science linked to new technologies and solutions. Applicants will be required to propose a minimum of two collaborating partner organizations, one of which must be non-academic, and the number of partners within each Hub is expected to grow throughout the duration of the award to enhance existing research or to collaborate on new projects. The cooperative agreements will be direct awards to African organizations and are designed to become recognized centers of excellence in data science and innovation focused on a health priority in Africa.

There are many areas of data science that may be engaged by the Research Hubs and projects will be expected to employ a variety of approaches through the research projects proposed (minimum 2 projects will be required). Projects and Cores may utilize a wide range of data types and sources, including but not limited to clinical, public health, genomic, imaging, geospatial, mobile, and environmental data. While new data can be collected where necessary, projects should primarily focus of on use of existing data. Research Hubs should be focused on a specific health area of importance to the country or region of focus, which can be disease-specific, data-specific, or cross-cutting.

While the specific area(s) a Research Hub application proposes to address will be determined by the applicant, potential topics that could be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • multi-omics (e.g., genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, epitranscriptomics, proteomics, pharmacogenetics, and biomarkers), including applied research efforts that work toward the development of polygenic risk scores for defined African populations or the development of infectious disease surveillance systems;
  • development and use of shared platforms that enable discovery of emergent multi-morbid patterns as well as longitudinal risk, such as childhood exposure and later pathology;
  • image-, sound-, and genome-based development of point of care diagnostics or mobile medical decision support;
  • integration of sensor technologies with satellite data, demographics, exposure biomarkers, and other data for exposure assessment and intervention;
  • modelling applications to predict disease outbreaks, pathogen exposure, infection dynamics, and susceptibility; and
  • modelling of markers for Precision Public Health and the use of big data to predict public health risk and customize treatments for more specific and homogeneous subpopulations, among many others.

It is expected that meritorious Research Hub applications will:

  • propose methods to engage, maintain, and strengthen African governmental and private partners (industry, NGOs, and related organizations) as collaborators, in addition to academic partners;
  • include several demonstrated competencies, as appropriate to the project proposed, including Data Science, Biomedical Domain Knowledge, Technology and Innovation, and Community Engagement;
  • develop or adapt a product (software or hardware) or new technology solution that is either needed for the collection of new data types or translates initial data science research into a new health innovation;
  • leverage existing, African-based information and communication technology infrastructure, such as cell coverage and mobile phones, satellites, high-performance computing infrastructure and other digital information systems;
  • demonstrate the potential for data science-driven research products to impact health, healthcare, or health research and translate beyond the research lab;
  • establish and manage a solicitation, review, and selection process for collaborative sub-award pilot projects aligned with the Research Hub overall focus and milestones, including the distribution of yearly sub-award funds. Pilot projects are meant to allow Research Hubs to take advantage of new directions and partnerships stimulated by their projects, to provide support to early-stage investigators to undertake data science-related research and innovation, and to engage other Research Hubs in relevant cross-networks projects; and
  • Practice open data science and data sharing in keeping with FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) Data Principles, in collaboration with the DS-I Africa Open Science Platform (see Related Announcements).
Funding Information
Estimated Total Funding

$6,500,000 in FY2021

Expected Number of Awards


Estimated Award Ceiling

$1,300,000 total costs per year for five years

Primary CFDA Numbers
Anticipated Eligible Organizations
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entity (Foreign Organization)

African institutions of higher education and other non-profit organizations. Applications are not being solicited at this time.

Please direct all inquiries to:

Brad Newsome, Ph.D.

Fogarty International Center (FIC)


Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices