Release Date:  April 17, 1998

PA NUMBER:  PAR-98-058


National Institute of Mental Health

Letter of Intent Receipt Date:  July 1
Application Receipt Date:  October 20


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) invites research grant
applications for Silvio O. Conte Centers for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders
(CCNMD): Schizophrenia, Manic Depressive Illness, Major Depression and Other
Severe Mental Illnesses.  The primary goal of this initiative is to support
integration and translation of basic and clinical neuroscience research on severe
mental illnesses.  Research supported by these centers should seek to better
understand the neural substrates of mental disorders, including the etiology and
pathogenesis those disorders and the biological phenotypes associated with them. 
Such knowledge will ultimately enhance capabilities to prevent, diagnose, monitor
and treat mental disorders.  This program announcement represents a major NIMH
commitment to these goals.

These Centers will comprise integrated teams pursuing highly focused research
which is driven by a single hypothesis related to environmental, genetic and
other biological factors in brain development, structure and function as it
relates to mental illness. Centers must use innovative research designs and
state-of-the-art technologies with a high level of integration among and across
projects.  Centers should draw upon eminent basic and clinical scientists to form
unique collaborations optimally suited to address the research questions posed. 
Therefore, Centers may have heads of projects from several different


The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health promotion
and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000," a PHS-led national
activity for setting priority areas.  This PA, Silvio O. Conte Centers for the
Neuroscience of Mental Disorders, is related to the priority area of mental
health and mental disorders.  Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy
People 2000" (Full Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00474-0 or Summary Report: Stock
No. 017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325 (telephone 202-512-1800).


Applications may be submitted by domestic, for-profit and non-profit
organizations, public and private, such as universities, colleges, hospitals,
laboratories, units of State and local governments, and eligible agencies of the
Federal government.  Foreign institutions are not eligible for center grant (P50)
grants.  Racial/ethnic minority individuals, women, and persons with disabilities
are encouraged to apply as CCNMD Directors and heads of projects.


A CCNMD will use the Center Grant mechanism (P50), which provides support for
multidisciplinary and multi-investigator study of a specific research problem of
a complex nature that requires the application of diverse expertise and

Applicants may request support for a period of up to 5 years, followed by a
competitive renewal application for a second 5 year period.  The NIMH will not
support individual Centers for longer than two consecutive funding periods. It
is anticipated that individual projects which are developed as outgrowths of a
Center grant will seek independent funding.

An applicant planning to submit an investigator-initiated grant application
requesting $500,000 or more in direct costs for any year is advised that he or
she must contact Institute program staff before submitting the application, i.e.,
as plans for the study are being developed.  Furthermore, the applicant must
obtain written agreement from the staff that the Institute will accept the
application for consideration for award.  Finally, the applicant must identify,
in the cover letter that is sent with the application, the program staff member
who and Institute which agreed to accept assignment of the application.

Any application subject to this policy that does not contain the required
information in the cover letter sent with the application will be returned to the
applicant without review.

For additional information concerning large grant applications, see the NIH
Guide, March 30, 1998.



The major mental disorders affect approximately 15-20 percent of the U.S.
population annually. These disorders include schizophrenia, mood disorders,
anxiety disorders, childhood and adolescent mental disorders, sleep disorders,
eating disorders, and dementias.  The staggering cost of treating these disorders
is surpassed only by the immeasurable cost in human suffering endured by these
patients and their families through extended and recurring periods of distress.

Basic neuroscience research has provided new insights into schizophrenia and
other severe mental illnesses, thus offering a new understanding of the symptoms,
pathophysiology, and etiology of these disorders.  At the same time, clinical
research has generated hypotheses implicating genetic, viral, developmental,
neurochemical, connectional and other biological factors in mental disorders. 
The time is propitious for bringing together basic and clinical approaches to
better understand and address mental illness; support of these specialized
centers (CCNMDs) represents a significant NIMH commitment to the promotion of
such integration.

Objectives and Scope

The primary purpose of each CCNMD is to support a multidisciplinary team of
leading basic and clinical neuroscience researchers engaged in a highly
integrated, focused, and hypothesis driven research program.  A CCNMD is
characterized as follows:

o  Since the integration of basic and clinical research is the primary goal, each
CCNMD must demonstrate the ability to translate and integrate data between basic
and clinical studies. Accordingly, each individual project in the CCNMD should
be designed to inform, and be informed by, findings from all of the projects
within the Center; for example, testing basic research findings in appropriate
and adequate clinical populations, as well as testing hypotheses generated from
clinical research in a basic science setting.

o  The total scientific enterprise must be organized around a multidisciplinary
effort directed at a single hypothesis in order to understand a specific aspect
of mental illness. Integration of basic and clinical research to address a highly
focused hypothesis is paramount.

o  It is expected that a Center will be organized specifically to address
innovative, creative, and potentially high risk/high impact research questions.
Centers must rigorously test the proposed hypothesis and generate new ones. It
is expected that such research will advance a field in fundamental and
significant ways.

o  A CCNMD should clearly demonstrate a high level of interdependence of projects
and investigators, and solid evidence of integration between the basic science
and clinical components.

o  The Center mechanism may not be used as a substitute for individual grant
support. It is, therefore, expected that investigators participating in Centers
will have independent, peer reviewed research support. A Center must be viewed
as a unique scientific opportunity to investigate leading edge research questions
not currently being addressed in optimal ways.

o  The CCNMD Director should have a demonstrated capability to organize,
administer and direct the Center.  This individual should be the scientific
leader of the Center, and thus must also head at least one of the projects, with
a minimum total time commitment of 30 percent to the Center.

o  Investigators heading projects in a CCNMD should be prominent scientists in
basic and/or clinical neuroscience research.  Investigators with the
qualifications to contribute to a unique enterprise such as a CCNMD may be
located in different geographic locations. Therefore, collaborations among
different institutions are encouraged, if scientifically appropriate.

o  A CCNMD should provide opportunities for young investigators with the
potential for independent research careers to develop integrative research
programs combining basic and clinical neuroscience research.  In addition, there
should be close coordination between the Center and relevant predoctoral and/or
postdoctoral research training programs of the participating institutions. 
Special attention should also be given to the recruitment and training of
minority students.

o  Each CCNMD should provide outreach that makes the public aware of the
importance and implications of the CCNMD research for addressing basic biomedical
issues and those that relate to clinical aspects of mental illness and mental

Research Topics

The primary goal of this initiative is to support integration and translation of
basic and clinical neuroscience research on schizophrenia and other severe mental
illnesses.  Research supported by these centers should seek to better understand
the neural substrates of mental disorders, including the etiology and
pathogenesis those disorders and the biological phenotypes associated with them. 
The following are examples of broad research areas within the NIMH research
mission that might serve as a focus for a CCNMD.  This list is not meant to be
comprehensive, nor are the examples meant to be exclusive of other topics.

o  Studies that use quantitative, molecular biological and genetic approaches to
investigate the development of neuronal populations related to specific
behavioral functions, such as the developmental etiology of schizophrenia
hypothesis, or to investigate the genetic heterogeneity of and susceptibility to
mental illness in patient populations

o  Studies of the relationship between emotion and cognition in animals and
humans, including human subject populations with and without mental disorders;
animal studies could include the use of animal models of psychopathology.

o  Identification of circuits underlying specific behaviors in animals and
humans, and testing hypotheses linking such circuit level understanding with
studies of normal and abnormal brain function using functional imaging

Activities Supported

To provide a suitable structure for achieving the objectives of this
announcement, a Center may request funds, in addition to support for the research
projects, as follows:

o  Institutional Environment and Resources:  Funds may be requested for research
resources such as equipment needed to conduct the proposed research, supplies
needed to accomplish the proposed research, incidental alteration or renovation
of facilities consistent with Public Health Service policy, etc.  Strongly
encouraged is the sharing of resources across multiple projects of the center.
Funds provided through Center grants may not be used for support of trainee
stipends, fees, or other expenses directly relating to training activities.

o  Essential Scientific Expertise:  To provide the most effective combination of
scientific skills, applicants may request funds to recruit scientists to augment
or strengthen the skills, expertise, and capabilities of existing staff. 
Although recruitment may take place after the award has been made, the expertise
required, the role in Center activities, and the time to be devoted to the Center
should be provided in the application.  It should be emphasized, however, that
after the award such individuals may not be recruited to serve as a substitute
for a Project P.I.

o  Annual Meeting: Funds to support travel to the two day Annual Meeting of
Center grantees in the Washington, D.C. area should be included in the budget for
the Center Director and up to three additional key members of the research team.

o  Advisory Board: An external advisory board should serve as an important source
of guidance from eminent researchers who do not have perspectives colored by a
vested interest in either the Center or in the research proposed to be performed
by the Center. To provide a fresh perspective on the science unfolding at a
Center, and to avoid reducing the pool of potential reviewers, applicants should
not identify, choose or contact prospective board members before a funding
decision is made. Applicants may request funds to support travel of board members
for meetings at the end of the second and the end of the fourth year of funding.


It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups and their
subpopulations must be included in all NIH supported biomedical and behavioral
research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and compelling
rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is inappropriate with
respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of the research.  This
policy results from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 (Section 492B of Public
Law 103-43).

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the
"NIH Guidelines For Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical
Research," which have been published in the Federal Register of March 28, 1994
(FR 59 14508-14513) and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, Volume 23,
Number 11, March 18, 1994.

Investigators also may obtain copies of the policy from the program staff listed
under INQUIRIES.  Program staff may also provide additional relevant information
concerning the policy.


It is the policy of NIH that children (i.e., individuals under the age of 21)
must be included in all human subjects research, conducted or supported by the
NIH, unless there are scientific and ethical reasons not to include them.  This
policy applies to all initial (Type 1) applications submitted for receipt dates
after October 1, 1998.

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the
"NIH Policy  and Guidelines on the Inclusion of Children as Participants in
Research Involving Human Subjects" that was published in the NIH Guide for Grants
and Contracts, March 6, 1998, and is available at the following URL address:


Prospective applicants are asked to submit, by July 1, a letter of intent that
includes a descriptive title of the proposed research, the name, address, and
telephone number of the Principal Investigator, the identities of other key
personnel and participating institutions, and the number and title of the program
announcement in response to which the application may be submitted.  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 NIMH
staff to estimate the potential review workload and avoid conflict of interest
in the review.

The letter of intent is to be sent to Dr. Michael Huerta, at the address listed


Applications are to be submitted on the grant application form PHS 398 (rev.
5/95) and will be accepted on October 20.  Application kits are available at most
institutional offices of sponsored research and may be obtained from the Division
of Extramural Outreach and Information Resources, National Institutes of Health,
6701 Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, telephone (301) 710-0267; fax: (301) 480-0525 Email: ASKNIH@OD.NIH.GOV.  The title and number of the
program announcement must be typed in Section 2 on the face page of the

A major requirement for each CCNMD is the conduct of multidisciplinary research
integrating and translating basic and clinical approaches.  The application must
describe the hypotheses to be tested and the goals of the CCNMD.  In addition,
the proposal should clearly articulate the reasons a Center approach is needed
for this work and the unique benefits that will accrue from having a Center in
this research area rather than addressing the research issues through other modes
of support.  It should be emphasized that this Center mechanism is not meant to
be a substitute for individual grant support.  Therefore, the reasons for
constituent projects lending themselves to a Center should be fully justified.

o  General Description of the Center (Not to exceed 12 pages):

Provide an overview of the entire proposed Center describing the central theme
and goals.  Describe how the overall Center can achieve its major objectives. 
Explain the proposed contribution of each of the projects in achieving the
objectives of the Center.  Furthermore, the administrative arrangements and
support necessary to effect the research should be carefully described in the
application.  Shared resources should be described.  When multiple institutional
sites are involved, a detailed description and supporting documentation for the
cooperative administrative arrangements should be included.  In addition, provide
detailed information on collaborations, recruitment, facilities and resources.

o  Evidence of Feasibility and Preliminary Findings (for new, Type 1,
applications only; not to exceed 6 pages)

Present evidence that the research team will be able to work together to
accomplish the research proposed in the projects, present preliminary results,
present evidence of competence in the areas proposed, etc.

If previously supported by an NIMH Silvio O. Conte Feasibility Center for
Neuroscience Research, indicate the outcome of that activity as it relates to the
application CCNMD support.

o  Progress Report (for competing renewal, Type 2, applications only; not to
exceed 3 pages for each project supported)

Describe the results of projects supported in previous CCNMD grant and the manner
in which those results and projects relate to the currently proposed center
application.  Describe the manner in which the center mechanism provided synergy
to the previously funded center.

o  Individual Projects (Not to exceed 10 pages for any one project):

Describe the major objectives and goals of each project, its relationship with
the other projects, and its relationship to the overall Center. Particular
emphasis should be placed on how clinical and basic research components will be

Each individual project should also include detailed descriptions on the

a.  Research Plan:  The question to be addressed and the hypothesis to be tested
by the proposed research should be highly focused and fully explained.  Full
discussion is required on the status of current research efforts (both within the
Center and elsewhere) addressing the issue, the limitations of existing
approaches, and why the particular research question lends itself to a
multidisciplinary, integrative approach.  In addition, the relationship between
the basic and clinical science aspects of the research should be made explicit.

b.  Experimental Plan:  The application will not require extensive details for
individual experiments.  The description of the experimental design should
outline the strategies proposed to accomplish the specific aims of the project,
and should include a discussion of the innovative aspects of the approach. 
However, the experimental procedures need not be spelled out in great detail if
those procedures have already been extensively published and universally accepted
by the scientific community.  Nevertheless, any new methodology and its advantage
over existing methodologies should be fully described.  Furthermore, the
feasibility of the proposed experiments, the potential pitfalls, relevant
alternative approaches should changes become necessary, and their relevance to
the goals of the Center should be fully discussed.  The methods to be used should
be cited and referenced.  It should be emphasized that this necessitates the
inclusion of investigators that are considered to be leaders in their field and
whose experiments are widely published and accepted by the scientific community.

c.  Operational Plan:  A description of the resources and working arrangements
required to implement the research plan should be fully elaborated.  Particular
attention should be devoted to a description of the clinical populations, tissue
resources, etc., which will be involved as part of the Center's clinical
component.  A distinction must be made between those resources which are already
in place (including staff) and those resources which must be added to carry out
the proposed research. Also included in this section is the manner in which an
external advisory board will advise the Center.  Nevertheless, prospective board
members should not be chosen or contacted prior to a funding decision, and,
therefore, will not be named.

o  Research Career Development and Outreach Plans: A description of the manner
in which Center activities will provide opportunities for young investigators and
how the CCNMD relates to existing training programs of participating institutions
should be given.  Also, plans for disseminating information to the public
regarding the activities of the CCNMD should be given.

The completed original application and four legible copies must be sent or
delivered to:

6701 ROCKLEDGE DRIVE, ROOM 1040 - MSC 7710
BETHESDA, MD  20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD  20817 (for express/courier service)

At the time of submission, one additional copy of the application must be sent

Henry J. Haigler, Ph.D.
Division of Extramural Activities
National Institute of Mental Health
5600 Fishers Lane, Room 9C-18
Rockville, MD  20857


Applications submitted in response to this program announcement will be reviewed
by the NIMH program staff to determine if they satisfy the objectives and
requirements of a CCNMD as outlined in this program announcement (excluding
scientific or technical merit).  Applications that do not meet these objectives
and requirements will not be accepted and will be returned to the applicant.

Applications that are complete will be evaluated for scientific and technical
merit by an appropriate peer review group convened by the NIMH in accordance with
the standard NIH peer review procedures.  As part of the initial merit review,
all applications will receive a written critique and may undergo a process in
which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific merit,
generally the top half of applications under review, will be discussed, assigned
a priority score, and receive a second level review by the appropriate national
advisory council or board, when applicable.

Review Criteria

Criteria for scientific/technical review of Research Center applications will
include the following:

o  Intrinsic merit of the intellectual focus and research: The overall quality,
scientific merit, and innovativeness of the research to be done; the likelihood
that the work will lead to fundamental advances within the field, to new
discoveries, and/or to new technological developments.  In addition, the research
conducted must center around a highly focused and well defined question.

o  Integration of and translation across basic science and clinical research
components:  The adequacy of the proposed Center to bring together basic and
clinical approaches so that activities in each component inform and advance the

o  Appropriateness of the Center approach:  The need for and suitability of the
Center approach; whether a Center approach will add significantly to what could
be done through other modes of research support.  In this respect, the
integration of the projects is of utmost importance and should be explicitly

o  Research competence:  The capability and scientific credentials of the Center
Director and constituent project directors and participating scientists, who are
expected to be regarded by their peers as leaders in, and at the forefront of,
their respective fields.

o  Center Director credentials:  Ability of the Center Director to organize,
administer, and direct the Center and, in addition, head at least one of the
proposed projects, be it basic or clinical in nature.  A Center Director will
devote a minimum of 30 percent of his/her time to the Center.  The Director must
be the scientific leader of the Center.

o  Institutional commitment:  The nature and level of resource commitments from
the home institution and from other participant institutions.  Plans for
interactions with the rest of the participating institutions.

o  Appropriateness of management plans and arrangements:  The feasibility and
adequacy of the organizational and administrative plans; the appropriateness of
the budget; and the mechanisms to evaluate the Center's progress.

o  Quality and appropriateness of the outreach and research career development
components of the Center's activities:  The adequacy of approaches used to
disseminate information regarding the Center's activities as they relate to
public understanding of science and mental health and illness.  The likely
effectiveness of approaches to attract and involve young investigators and
students who show potential for significant future contributions and independent
research careers in the work of the Center.

The initial review group will also examine the provisions for the protection of
human and animal subjects, the safety of the research environment, and
conformance with the NIH Guidelines for the Inclusion of Women and Minorities as
Subjects in Clinical Research.

As part of the scientific and technical merit evaluation of the research plan,
reviewers will be instructed to address:

o  Adequacy of plans for including children as appropriate for the scientific
goals of the research, or justification for exclusion.

The initial review group will make an overall recommendation for approval (and
assign a priority score) or disapproval of the entire Center application.  Under
some circumstances, it may be appropriate for the initial review group to
recommend disapproval of one or more project(s).


Applications will compete for available funds with all other approved
applications assigned to NIMH.  The following will be considered in making
funding decisions:  Quality of the proposed project as determined by peer review,
availability of funds, and program priority.


To ensure a uniform review quality, all applications will be reviewed by a single
review group, which will meet once per year.  In accordance with this objective,
there will be one receipt date each year.  Applications received after this date
will be returned to the applicant without review.

Letter of Intent Receipt Date:  July 1
Application Receipt Date:       October 20
Administrative Review:          November
Scientific Review:              April/May
Advisory Council Review:        May/June
Earliest Starting Date:         July


Inquiries are encouraged.  The opportunity to clarify any issues or questions
from potential applicants is welcome.

Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues and letters of intent to:

Michael F. Huerta, Ph.D.
Division of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research
National Institute of Mental Health
Parklawn Building, Room 11-103
Rockville, MD  20857
Telephone:  (301) 443-3563
FAX:  (301) 443-1731

Direct inquiries regarding fiscal matters to:

Diana S. Trunnell
Grants Management Branch
National Institute of Mental Health
Parklawn Building, Room 7C-08
Rockville, MD  20857
Telephone: (301) 443-2805
FAX:  (301) 443-6885


This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance No.
93.242. Awards are made under authorization of the Public Health Service Act,
Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410, as amended by Public Law 99-158, 42 USC 241
and 285) and administered under PHS grants policies and Federal Regulations 42
CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74.  This program is not subject to the intergovernmental
review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health Systems Agency review. 
Awards will be administered under PHS grants policy as stated in the Public
Health Service Grants Policy Statement (April 1, 1994).

PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to provide a smoke-free
workplace and promote the nonuse of all tobacco products.  In addition, Public
Law 103-227, the  Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking in certain
facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which regular or
routine education, library, day care, health care or early childhood development
services are provided to children.  This is consistent with the PHS mission to
protect and advance the physical and mental health of the American people.

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