Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Components of Participating Organizations
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Funding Opportunity Title
The Early Detection Research Network: Biomarker Reference Laboratories (U24)
U24 Resource-Related Research Projects – Cooperative Agreements
Reissue of RFA-CA-09-019
- November 20, 2014 - See Notice NOT-CA-15-005. Notice of Change in Application Due Date for RFA-CA-14-014 "The Early Detection Research Network: Biomarker Developmental Laboratories (U01)"
- November 17, 2014 - See Notice NOT-CA-15-002. Notice of Pre-application Teleconference for RFA-CA-14-014, RFA-CA-14-015, RFA-CA-14-016, and RFA-CA-14-017 for The "Early Detection Research Network" Program.
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number
Companion Funding Opportunity
Number of Applications
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)
Funding Opportunity Purpose
The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to solicit applications for Biomarker Reference Laboratories (BRLs), one of the four scientific units of the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN). The EDRN is a national infrastructure funded to discover, develop, and validate biomarkers for risk assessment, detection, and molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer. The proposed BRLs will conduct biomarker assay development and refinement for validation studies, and will serve as a Network resource for laboratory and clinical validation of biomarkers.
The other three scientific units of the continuing EDRN program are: the Biomarker Developmental Laboratories (BDLs), which will be responsible for the development and characterization of new, or the refinement of existing, biomarkers and biomarker assays for risk assessment, detection, and molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer; the Clinical Validation Centers (CVCs), which will conduct clinical research on the validation of biomarkers and will serve as resource centers for the EDRN by participating in collaborative biomarker validation studies with EDRN BDLs and BRLs; and the Data Management and Coordinating Center (DMCC), which will support statistical and computational analyses, informatics infrastructure, study design, coordination and support of EDRN-sponsored biomarker validation studies, and the coordination of Network-wide meetings and conferences.
November 6, 2014
Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)
New Date: December 20, 2014 per NOT-CA-15-005.
December 6, 2014
Letter of Intent Due Date(s)
New Date: December 20, 2014 per NOT-CA-15-005.
December 6, 2014
Application Due Date(s)
New Date: January 20, 2015 per NOT-CA-15-005
January 6, 2015, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on this date.
Applicants are encouraged to apply early to allow adequate time to make any corrections to errors found in the application during the submission process by the due date.
AIDS Application Due Date(s)
Scientific Merit Review
Advisory Council Review
Earliest Start Date
New Date: January 21, 2015 per NOT-CA-15-005.
January 7, 2015
Due Dates for E.O. 12372
Required Application Instructions
It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. Applicants must read and follow all application instructions in the Application Guide as well as any program-specific instructions noted in Section IV. When the program-specific instructions deviate from those in the Application Guide, follow the program-specific instructions. Applications that do not comply with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.
Table of Contents
Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is part of the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) initiative. EDRN (https://edrn.nci.nih.gov/) is a national, integrated infrastructure for the development of biomarkers and the assembly of necessary resources. The goal of EDRN is the development, evaluation, and validation of biomarkers for risk assessment, detection, and the molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer.
- The purpose of this FOA is to solicit applications for Biomarker Reference Laboratories (BRLs). The proposed BRLs will serve as a Network resource for clinical and laboratory validation of biomarkers, including assay development and refinement. Prior affiliation with the EDRN is not required and all qualified investigators are invited to apply.
In addition to BRLs (this FOA), EDRN includes the following three scientific units, each supported by an independent FOA:
- Biomarker Developmental Laboratories (BDLs) (RFA-CA-14-014 U01), which will discover, develop, and characterize new or refine existing biomarkers and assays for risk assessment, detection, and the molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer;
- Clinical Validation Centers (CVCs) (RFA-CA-14-015 U01), which will conduct clinical research to validate biomarkers for risk assessment, detection, and the molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer. CVCs will also serve as resource centers for collaborative research within the EDRN by participating in collaborative biomarker validation studies and collaborating with EDRN BDLs and BRL; and
- Data Management and Coordinating Center (DMCC) (RFA-CA-14-017 U24), which will conduct statistical and computational analyses and data management, protocol development, study design and coordination of EDRN-sponsored biomarker validation studies, participate in the development and maintenance of informatics infrastructure, and will coordinate network-wide meetings and conferences.
Biomarker Definition. In the context of this FOA, biomarkers are defined as cellular, biochemical, and/or molecular (including genetic and epigenetic) characteristics by which normal and/or abnormal biological processes can be recognized and/or monitored. Biomarkers are measurable in biological materials, such as in tissues, cells, and/or bodily fluids.
EDRN Scientific Premise
Since its inception in 2000, the EDRN has followed a "vertical" approach to biomarker research that facilitates collaborations and hand-offs among technology developers, basic scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, biostatisticians, and other health professionals. It also expedites efficacious clinical applications of the molecular knowledge that has burgeoned in recent years. The NCI anticipates that EDRN investigators will collaborate with industry both to develop biomarkers and/or reagents and to provide a clinical environment for the evaluation of new technologies. Early interactions with industry leading to research collaborations are likely to benefit both EDRN grantees and industry partners. Many EDRN investigators have or have had active collaborations with the industry. It is hoped that validated biomarkers may ultimately be commercialized into diagnostic products for early detection of cancer and cancer risk assessment. Structured around four main scientific units, the EDRN currently includes 20 BDLs, three BRLs, eight CVCs, and one DMCC.
The EDRN program is established to: (a) promote translational research to identify biomarkers for cancer risk, early detection, and molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer; and (b) coordinate biomarker research within the extramural community and with other NCI programs in cancer prevention, screening, and treatment to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality (see EDRN Strategic Plan, http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs). In the future, candidate biomarkers are likely to be discovered by integromic approaches where genomics data will increasingly be integrated with other 'omic' data, such as proteomic, epigenomic, metabolomic, etc., to take advantage of the exponentially growing genomic knowledge of the cancer landscape.
EDRN's specific interests include but are not limited to the following:
- Discover, develop, evaluate, and validate promising 'omic' biomarkers (e.g., genomic, proteomic epigenomic, metabolomic) necessary for effective cancer risk assessment, early detection, and early diagnosis and prognosis of cancer.
- Integrate biomarkers with imaging to reduce the false positive rate of imaging and to improve the detection of significant cancers.
- Develop and validate biomarkers to improve the detection of cancer progression for patients on active surveillance.
- Develop assays for accelerating biomarker discovery and translation into the clinical area. This would include measures of diagnostic or predictive accuracy, sensitivity, specificity, and, whenever possible, clinical impact/benefits.
- Develop and implement diagnostic assays in support of the EDRN objectives by using multiple biomarkers, gene expression patterns, post-translational changes, epigenetic changes, and changes in metabolic profiles.
- Facilitate the development of high-throughput, sensitive assay methods to identify and implement cancer biomarkers that are useful in assessing cancer risk, detecting early stage cancers, diagnosis and prognosis.
- Support collaboration among academic and industrial leaders, whose areas of interest are in molecular biology/molecular genetics, clinical oncology, computer science, public health or other related areas, leading to the development of cancer diagnostics.
- Conduct clinical/epidemiological studies (e.g., cross-sectional, prospective, retrospective, etc.) in order to evaluate the predictive value of biomarkers.
- Continue to expand the informatics infrastructure to facilitate pre-competitive data sharing on biomarker discovery, development, and validation.
- Serve as a core resource so that NCI and the cancer community at large can leverage the well-developed EDRN infrastructure and expertise in order to facilitate translational cancer research and cancer therapeutic trials.
These goals are achieved through a systematic, evidence-based discovery, development, and validation of biomarkers, based upon Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Common Data Elements (CDEs) developed by the EDRN investigators and described in the EDRN Manual of Operations (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs). The EDRN has established a five-phase approach as a standard and a roadmap for successfully translating research on biomarker applications from the laboratory to the bedside. The five phases for biomarker discovery and validation are:
- Phase 1: The pre-clinical exploratory phase;
- Phase 2: The validation phase (case/control);
- Phase 3: The retrospective longitudinal phase;
- Phase 4: The prospective screening study phase; and
- Phase 5: The cancer control phase.
The EDRN has also proposed a coherent and comprehensive set of guidelines for biomarker discovery and validation studies for early cancer detection, diagnosis and prognosis, known as the prospective-specimen-collection, retrospective-blinded-evaluation (PRoBE) study design. The PRoBE study design includes four key units, which relate to: 1) the clinical context and outcomes; 2) criteria for measuring biomarker performance; 3) the biomarker itself; and 4) the sample size included in the study. The PRoBE design involves prospectively collected biological specimens from a cohort that represents the target population envisioned for clinical application of the biomarker. Nested case-control studies, as described in the PRoBE design, can improve the quality of discovery research and increase the chances of truly valuable markers to undergo definitive evaluation. The biomarker is assayed in a blinded fashion on the specimens collected prior to and near the time of diagnosis among the case subjects and at similar times in the control subjects in the cohort. Studies using such banked specimens and data collected prior to symptoms or diagnosis are increasingly recognized as precious resources for making comparisons that have strong internal validity. Clinical studies seldom have prediagnostic specimens on most subjects because obtaining them requires following large cohorts of asymptomatic people, ideally at periodic intervals, to ascertain if they develop cancer. One biological explanation why prediagnostic and clinical early stage specimens may differ is that acute phase plasma proteins may be increased by inflammatory and other conditions present near the time of symptomatic diagnosis.
The articles on five-phase approach and PRoBE design are provided on the EDRN website (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs).
EDRN Administrative Structure (For Information Only)EDRN will be structured around the four main scientific units, funded through separate FOAs, to include approximately 12-16 BDLs, 4-5 BRLs, 8-9 CVCs, and one DMCC. Although individual teams of EDRN awardees (BDLs, BRLs, CVCs, and DMCC) will operate independently, they will be required to interact closely with other EDRN awardees and engage in collaborative activities with them.
The EDRN administrative structure is composed of the following:
Steering Committee: The Steering Committee, which includes representatives of the EDRN awardees and the NCI, is the governing body of EDRN that integrates the efforts of all EDRN awardees and provides oversight of collaborative activities. The Chair and co-Chair of the Steering Committee are PDs/PIs of EDRN cooperative agreement awards and are elected by the Steering Committee. Any member of the Steering Committee can offer nominations for the Chair and co-Chair. The co-Chair serves as the Chair of a small subgroup of the Steering Committee, the Executive Committee. Other members of the Executive Committee include the leading PD/PI of the DMCC, a representative PD/PI of BRLs, the NCI Project Coordinator, and the Chairs of the EDRN Collaborative Groups. The latter are based on organ site and EDRN PIs can be members of one or more Collaborative Groups.
Assisted by the Executive Committee and NCI Program staff, duties of the Chair of the Steering Committee include:
- Preside at all meetings of the Steering Committee;
- Appoint and re-appoint members of Subcommittees, Review Groups, and designate special assignments;
- Appoint ad hoc committees as needed;
- Invite consultants as needed to Subcommittees, etc.;
- Appoint EDRN liaison members to other organizations;
- Serve as an ex-officio member of all Subcommittees, ad hoc Committees, and Task Forces;
- Submit annual EDRN Progress Reports to NCI and the Network Consulting Team.
Further details of Steering Committee composition and responsibilities are provided in Section VI.2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements: Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions.
Headquarters: The institution of the Chair of the Steering Committee serves as the Headquarters of the EDRN. The Headquarters serve as a center for dissemination of information to investigators and institutions in EDRN, as well as to those outside the Network. The Chair serves as the PD/PI of the Headquarters and oversees the implementation of the scientific, operational, and organizational policies of the Network.
Core Fund: The EDRN will have a restricted Core Fund that will be made available to support post-award collaborative research projects, validation of new biomarkers, expansion of the EDRN portfolio, and making the Network inclusive by supporting non-EDRN investigators. Since the Core Fund is restricted and reserved for post-award activities, no requests for Core Fund support can be made in the application in response to this FOA.
The management of the EDRN Core Fund will be a responsibility of the DMCC and will be restricted via a term of award pending review of proposed projects by the EDRN Steering Committee and NCI approval of the projects. The solicitation of requests for use of Core Fund and the organization of their review will be the responsibility of the Steering Committee. The procedure for selecting activities and releasing the funds will involve the following steps: EDRN-affiliated investigators as well as non-EDRN investigators will be able to request Core Fund support for specific collaborative activities relevant to the EDRN goals. The Steering Committee will assign these requests for review to PDs/PIs from appropriate EDRN Collaborative Groups with the assistance of external reviewers as needed. Final review and selection of requests to be recommended for funding will be conducted by the Executive Committee. Following these recommendations and the NCI approval of funds release, the DMCC will distribute the approved funds under appropriate sub-award agreements.
In the past, $2-5 million was allotted to the Core Fund and was contingent upon the availability of funds. In the new EDRN funding cycle, it is anticipated that a similar amount will be set aside for the Core Fund.
Network Consulting Team: The Network Consulting Team is composed of a Chair and non-EDRN members appointed by NCI. The Network Consulting Team reviews the progress of the EDRN, recommends new research initiatives, and ensures that the Network is responsive to promising opportunities in early detection research and risk assessment. The Network Consulting Team can recommend new research projects to the Steering Committee or to NCI. Members of the Network Consulting Team can serve on ad hoc Committees of the EDRN, internal Review Groups, and as consultants to subcommittees.
Specific Research Objectives and Requirements
Scope: For early detection screening tests, it is crucial to develop appropriate high-throughput assays/technologies that are accurate, reproducible, and cost-effective. The BRLs will provide resources and support for analytical and clinical validation of biomarker assays, including testing of candidate biomarkers, development of assays and/or their refinement, and standardization of assay methods as requested by the EDRN Steering Committee. When appropriate BRLs must follow the principles described in the PRoBE study design (or a similar design). In addition to general sound laboratory practices, BRLs must adhere to the theory and principles of Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), which include but are not limited to:
- Determining measures of diagnostic discrimination: sensitivity, specificity, and predictive accuracy, as appropriate for clinical applications;
- Establishing basal levels and reproducibility for various tests, as appropriate; and
- Ensuring that data and specimens are collected under uniform protocols/SOPs.
- Selection of optimal target sequences, primers, and/or probes;
- Handling single versus multiple targets;
- Selection of specimen types;
- Handling problematic specimens; and
- Designing internal controls, controls for contamination, reagent and instrument standards, and well characterized panels of reference reagents.
- Extraction methods, sampling, internal controls, specimen storage, and processing conditions
- Length, sequence, efficiency, and specificity of primers/probes;
- Efficiency and specificity of enzymes/antibodies/immunoreagents;
- Configuration and performance of controls, calibrators, capture probes, detectors, etc.;
- Optimization of parameters that may affect reproducibility;
- Assay conditions: time, temperature, storage, and transport stability;
- Extended reproducibility testing: multiple sites, operators and kit lots, different days. Proficiency testing: single operator, multiple days and kit lots.
Assay Validation and Application Development:
- Development of appropriate high-throughput assays/technologies for early detection screening tests that are accurate, reproducible, and cost-effective;
- Planning, design, and conduct of analytical validation studies, including development of assay procedures, protocols, sample collection, etc.;
- Development of a scale-up and automated methods for high volume throughput;
- Multi-center cross-checks for pooled specimens, and other inter- and intra-laboratory interfering factors;
- Development of appropriately rigorous, GLP-compliant formats and systems (paper or electronic) for reporting/archiving test results; and
- Development of kits for rapid, inexpensive testing.
Quality Control Program:
Although each of the BDLs and CVCs will have primary responsibility for on-site quality control and quality assurance activities, BRLs may be asked to advise the Steering Committee on quality control issues and to implement them in collaborative Network-directed studies. Quality control at a minimum should consist of:
- Device and instrument calibration, precision, and reproducibility;
- Quality control of data. The BRL will follow the Network procedures for data quality and laboratory quality control in accordance with the network guidelines and policies; and
- Interim evaluation and consideration of assays/reagents developed by the Network scientific units for tests/reagent scale-up for multi-center studies per direction of the Steering Committee.
With the rapid advances in molecular, genomic, and proteomic-based diagnostic technologies, reference materials for controls in molecular assays/technologies, such as mass spectrometry-based multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) for quantitative proteomic analysis; or DNA-based Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH), or gene and oligonucleotide microarrays, are of great importance for proficiency testing. A BRL may be asked to develop and/or test such reference materials at the onset of analytical validation of specific biomarkers.
Industry Participation: The BRLs from academic institutions are required to demonstrate substantive participation in the project by at least one industry participant. For the purpose of this FOA, "industry" is defined as domestic, large or small, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, bioengineering, and/or chemical companies, or non-profit agencies with demonstrated experience in product development. “Substantive participation" is defined as a commitment of one or more resources including, but not limited to: product/prototype development support/guidance; personnel; in kind contributions of materials and/or reagents (i.e., diagnostic analytes, innovative biotechnology platforms, material/reagent scale-up following cGMP, etc.); or regulatory support.
To facilitate biomarker translation into ultimate clinical application, BRL applicants are encouraged to actively seek additional funding/resources to push the biomarkers validation/implementation efforts beyond the EDRN-sponsored scope of research.
Core BRL responsibilities:
- The primary responsibility of a BRL will be to develop diagnostic assays for the early detection of cancer, hereafter called "Product Development". Examples of research areas include, but are not limited to: assay/prototype development; sample preparation; development of broad-spectrum platforms and/or production technologies; adaptation of products or platform technologies to new applications; optimization of products or technologies; process development; manufacturing; and diagnostic validation.
- The secondary responsibility of a BRL will be to conduct collaborative studies related to the EDRN Steering Committee-approved validation studies, verification and optimization of assays relevant to the goals of the EDRN and primarily associated with improvement of diagnostic methods. The BRLs will be responsible for standardizing laboratory assays and methodologies, instituting quality control for reagents and technologies for Network collaborative studies, and collaborating in other studies as directed by the Steering Committee. BRLs must be able to follow Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and the GLP-compliant guidelines to ensure consistency and reliability of results.
Types of Cancer: Applications for research on cancers of common occurrence (e.g., those of the prostate, breast, colon, and lung) are encouraged. Proposed studies may also focus on other cancers that are major causes of cancer-related morbidity and mortality (e.g., those of the ovary, pancreas, liver, esophagus, and stomach).
Non-responsive Applications: This FOA will not support biomarker discovery projects or other mechanistic studies, such as studies on growth regulation, cell cycle control, or other basic studies, which are not explicitly focused on risk assessment, detection, and molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer in humans. Studies that did not consider ways to minimize bias between the compared groups and did not adopt principles described in the PRoBE study design (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs) (or a similar design) will not be supported. Non-responsive applications will not proceed to review.
Note: NCI will hold a pre-application informational webinar for this FOA. Date, time, and other details will be posted at http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/.
Section II. Award Information
Cooperative Agreement: A support mechanism used when there will be substantial Federal scientific or programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that, after award, NIH scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate, or participate in project activities.
Application Types Allowed
The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.
Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards
The NCI expects to commit $2 million in FY2015 to fund four to five BRL awards.
A budget of up to $300,000 per year (direct costs) may be requested. Application budgets need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.
Award Project Period
An applicant may request a project period of up to 5 years.
NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made in response to this FOA.
Section III. Eligibility Information
1. Eligible Applicants
Higher Education Institutions
- Public/State Controlled Institutions of Higher Education
- Private Institutions of Higher Education
The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:
- Hispanic-serving Institutions
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
- Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)
- Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions
- Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)
- Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education
- Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
- Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS Status (Other than Institutions of Higher Education)
- Small Businesses
- For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)
- State Governments
- Eligible Agencies of the Federal Government
- U.S. Territory or Possession
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are not eligible to apply.
Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are not eligible to apply.
Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are not allowed.
Applicant organizations must complete and maintain the following registrations as described in the SF 424 (R&R) Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. Registration can take 6 weeks or more, so applicants should begin the registration process as soon as possible. The NIH Policy on Late Submission of Grant Applications states that failure to complete registrations in advance of a due date is not a valid reason for a late submission.
- Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) - All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin both SAM and eRA Commons registrations. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the grant application.
- System for Award Management (SAM) (formerly CCR) – Applicants must complete and maintain an active registration, which requires renewal at least annually. The renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. SAM registration includes the assignment of a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations which have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.
- NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) Code – Foreign organizations must obtain an NCAGE code (in lieu of a CAGE code) in order to register in SAM.
- eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the eRA Commons registration. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or Grants.gov registration. eRA Commons requires organizations to identify at least one Signing Official (SO) and at least one Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) account in order to submit an application.
- Grants.gov – Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the Grants.gov registration.
Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD(s)/PI(s))
All PD(s)/PI(s) must have an eRA Commons account. PD(s)/PI(s) should work with their organizational officials to either create a new account or to affiliate their existing account with the applicant organization in eRA Commons. If the PD/PI is also the organizational Signing Official, they must have two distinct eRA Commons accounts, one for each role. Obtaining an eRA Commons account can take up to 2 weeks.
Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator)
Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) (PD(s)/PI(s)) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.
For institutions/organizations proposing multiple PDs/PIs, visit the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator Policy and submission details in the Senior/Key Person Profile (Expanded) Component of the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
A proposed PD/PI may not serve as a contact PD/PI on more than one application submitted in response to this FOA.
2. Cost Sharing
This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
3. Additional Information on Eligibility
Number of Applications
Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.
The NIH will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time. This means that the NIH will not accept:
- A new (A0) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of an overlapping new (A0) or resubmission (A1) application.
- A resubmission (A1) application that is submitted before issuance of the summary statement from the review of the previous new (A0) application.
- An application that has substantial overlap with another application pending appeal of initial peer review (see NOT-OD-11-101).
In addition, the NIH will not accept a resubmission (A1) application that is submitted later than 37 months after submission of the new (A0) application that it follows. The NIH will accept submission:
- To an RFA of an application that was submitted previously as an investigator-initiated application but not paid;
- Of an investigator-initiated application that was originally submitted to an RFA but not paid; or
- Of an application with a changed grant activity code.
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
1. Requesting an Application Package
Applicants must download the SF424 (R&R) application package associated with this funding opportunity using the “Apply for Grant Electronically” button in this FOA or following the directions provided at Grants.gov.
2. Content and Form of Application Submission
It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, including Supplemental Grant Application Instructions except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.
For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.
Letter of Intent
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 IC staff to estimate the potential review workload and plan the review.
By the date listed in Part 1. Overview Information, prospective applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent that includes the following information:
- Descriptive title of proposed activity
- Name(s), address(es), and telephone number(s) of the PD(s)/PI(s)
- Names of other key personnel
- Participating institution(s)
- Number and title of this funding opportunity
The letter of intent should be sent to:
Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Chief, Cancer Biomarkers Research Group
Division of Cancer Prevention
National Cancer Institute
9609 Medical Center Drive, Room 5E136, MSC 9790
Bethesda, MD 20892-9790 (for USPS Regular or Express delivery)
Rockville, MD 20850 (for non-USPS delivery)
All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed, with the following exceptions or additional requirements:
- For this specific FOA, the Research Strategy must not exceed 30 pages.
Instructions for Application Submission
The following section supplements the instructions found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and should be used for preparing an application to this FOA.
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
SF424(R&R) Project/Performance Site Locations
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
SF424(R&R) Other Project Information
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed. Additional instructions are defined below.
Facilities & Other Resources: In addition, applicants must describe any relevant ongoing institutional, and/or private sector support and resources that augment or complement resources for which funding from this FOA is sought.
Other Attachments: Applicants should provide additional supporting materials relevant to the proposed BRL in the categories defined below. Upload these materials as individual pdf files using the indicated file names (these file names will become bookmarks in the application).
- Filename "Developed Assays": Provide Tables listing previously developed biomarker assays.
- Filename "Certifications": Include relevant certifications such as CLIA, GLP, College of American Pathologists (CAP), etc.
- Filename "Patents": List patents that are relevant to the proposed study and are owned or licensed by the institutions of the PD(s)/PI(s) or other participating investigators. For all unpublished patents and patent applications, include their abstracts. For publically accessible patents, list the corresponding patent numbers/identifiers.
SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed. All Key Personnel must provide a detailed description of their expertise that is relevant to the proposed studies. The PD/PI must have knowledge and practical experience with SOPs for the development of reagents, assays, and technology, and in the evaluation of the accuracy, precision, reproducibility, and performance characteristics (e.g., sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values) of tests in multi-center settings. These characteristics are important when sampling bodily fluids or mixed cell types where only a very small percentage of cells may exhibit the specific genetic, epigenetic or other molecular changes. BRL awardees may be asked to conduct studies on a variety of assays in order to improve their performance characteristics.
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
The following additional instructions apply:
a) The PD/PI must commit a minimum of 1 person-month effort per year to the U24 award. This commitment cannot be reduced in later years of the award.
b) Applicants must set aside 30 percent of their annual budget for Network collaborative studies. The use of the set-aside funds will be restricted for collaborative studies proposed post-award and must be reviewed by the Steering Committee. The release of these funds will be contingent upon the advice of the EDRN Executive Committee and authorization by the NCI. The amount should be presented in the Other Expenses category under the heading “Network Collaborative Funds.”
c) Applicants must budget for travel and per diem expenses for Steering Committee meetings. In the first year, applicants should plan for at least two senior investigators (all PDs/PIs, if desirable, or the PD/PI and a senior investigator if multi-PDs/PIs option is not used), to attend a Planning Meeting and two Steering Committee meetings. In the second and subsequent years, applicants should plan for at least two senior investigators (all PDs/PIs, if desirable, or the PD/PI and a senior investigator if multi-PDs/PIs option is not used) to attend two Steering Committee meetings per year and an EDRN Scientific Workshop every 18 months (this usually coincides with one of the Steering Committee meetings).
d) Support for industrial partner activities may be included in the project budget under appropriate sub-contractual consortium arrangements.
R&R Subaward Budget
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
PHS 398 Cover Page Supplement
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
PHS 398 Research Plan
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed, with the following additional instructions:
Specific Aims: One (or more) Specific Aims need to be focused on the proposed product development and its relevance to a specific unmet clinical need in the management of human malignancies.
Sub-section A: Overview
Outline how the proposed BRL will provide the anticipated lines of laboratory support for the core responsibilities, including:
- Development of diagnostic assays for the early detection of cancer; and
- Participation in collaborative validation studies, verification and optimization of assays, and improvement of diagnostic methods.
The proposed diagnostic assays must be designed to detect the target analytes in tissue, blood (serum, plasma) and other bodily fluids. The proposed diagnostic platforms and/or technologies must be supported by proof-of-concept data demonstrating feasibility and have and meet Phase 1 and Phase 2 criteria of the Five-Phase EDRN Guidelines. Such biomarkers or analytes may also come from existing ongoing EDRN discoveries.
Explain briefly the rationale of the proposed development(s) of previously identified candidate diagnostic technology(s), including proof-of-concept data demonstrating feasibility. Applications on diagnostics, currently in the final stage(s) of product development and in preparation for manufacture and validation, are encouraged but not required. Include the following:
- A clear description of the capabilities of the platform, method, technology or assay;
- A clear description of how the diagnostic/technology will be used;
- Plans for determining the sensitivity, specificity and validation of the technology, assay or diagnostic test;
- A description of a specimen type (e.g., blood, serum, plasma, or other bodily fluids) in which biomarkers will be detected;
- Applications must include plans to detect one or more of the major epithelial tumors or tumors associated with high morbidity and mortality (e.g., breast, colon, prostate, ovary, lung, pancreas, etc.).
Explain the strategy to ensure that the proposed BRL can meaningfully contribute to collaborative studies and assist Network partners in such activities as:
- Assay verification/optimization;
- Standardizing laboratory assays and methodologies;
- Instituting quality control for reagents and technologies for Network collaborative studies; and
- Collaborating in other studies as directed by the Steering Committee.
Note that in all these activities, BRLs must be able to follow Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and the GLP-compliant guidelines to ensure consistency and reliability of results.
Sub-section B: Previous Accomplishments
Relevant Recent Accomplishments (all applications): Applicants must provide a brief description of previous research accomplishments/preliminary studies relevant to the goals of the proposed BRL.
Progress Report (renewal applications only): Include additional information in this section summarizing the current 5-year funding period and include the following items (a-e):
a) List the specific aims from your previously funded application. Describe the progress made relevant to these specific aims, and indicate the status of any developed biomarker assays. Applicants should highlight their progress using the EDRN-developed Evaluation Metrics as described in the EDRN Manual of Operations (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs).
b) Provide highlights illustrating the team's ability to serve as a resource for a bigger network, including, as appropriate, their history of sharing of research resources, dissemination of procedures and expertise, collaborative efforts resulting in new intellectual property, etc..
c) Describe the progress made on biomarker research supported by other EDRN funding sources such as projects funded through the restricted set-aside funds or the EDRN Core Fund. If the applicant has participated in any Network-wide validation studies or other projects supported by the EDRN Core Fund, elaborate on the role(s) played and the contribution(s) made to the outcome of the studies.
d) Describe participation in EDRN activities and contributions in terms of collaborations within and outside the Network in meeting the goals of the EDRN (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs).
e) Provide a synopsis of the review from the latest site visit by external reviewers and describe steps taken to address any concerns in these reviews.
Note: Supplementary data for this sub-section are requested under "Other Attachments" in Section IV.2. Content and Form of Application Submission.
Sub-section C: Plans for the Required Areas of Responsibility
Study Organization. In this block, applicants should describe their plans for the organization of research activities in the proposed BRL. Applicants should describe goals (both short-term and long-term) that are consistent with the practice of a typical reference laboratory, but should also ensure sufficient flexibility needed for changing and expanding needs of EDRN. Applicants should address at least the following specific aspects:
- Ability to contribute to diverse projects and responsibilities of the Network that may require expertise in broad subject areas within the clinical diagnostic field;
- Flexible organization that would allow to adjust the number of investigators and/or the scope of their expertise in response to specific scientific needs and opportunities; and
- Availability of qualified supporting personnel (e.g., in specialized laboratory technologies) who could assume diverse responsibilities in a flexible, need-driven manner.
- Product Development
Applicants are required to propose a Product Development strategy that includes a “Product Development Plan" and a “Milestones and Timeline” blocks. Applications lacking either of these required sections of the Product Development strategy will be deemed incomplete and will not be reviewed. Proposed projects are not required to result in a “final” product or FDA approval. However, projects that would significantly advance a candidate diagnostic marker up to the point of readiness for validation within the time frame of the award are highly desirable.
Product Development Plan must include:
- A statement of the intended use/indication of the proposed product and public health gap the product is intended to fill;
- A statement on the significance of the project, including a brief description of key technology, objectives, innovation, and advantages compared to competing products, technologies, or services;
- A clear description of the goal(s) of the project, including one or more intermediate or final products, or stage(s) of product development to be completed during the award period. The scientific rationale must be established by prior discovery, translational and/or clinical research that provides the scientific basis for the proposed strategy. A specific final product profile that is intended for licensing indication is not requested;
- Descriptions of preclinical product development activities pertaining to the product proposed. For the purpose of this FOA, “preclinical” is defined as all activities preceding diagnostic assay/platform/prototype development;
- The performance specifications of the product (diagnostic assay, method, technology, etc.), should have to demonstrate that it is equivalent or superior to the current gold standard for identifying the proposed agent(s), including analytical sensitivity (limit of detection), specificity, and analytical reproducibility (test replicates at different agent concentrations, at different sites, etc.), as well as clinical sensitivity and specificity in appropriate human samples. If no FDA-cleared test is available for the agent(s), the specifications should be equivalent to or exceed performance specifications of FDA-cleared tests for similar types of agent(s);
- Data that support the selection of the candidate biomarkers for further development, including an assessment of the present capacity of the diagnostic method, technology or assay to meet the performance specifications;
- Discussions with FDA, if any, which are relevant to development activities for the candidate product;
- Applicants should document, when appropriate, compliance with guidelines that govern GLP, as defined by 21 CRF (58), and cGMP, as defined by 21 CRF (211), manufacturing and/or IND/IDE enabling studies that will be performed under the award as they would be applicable to eventual product licensure in the U.S. Applications for projects involving cGMP manufacture should ensure inclusion of appropriate personnel to provide regulatory guidance before, during and after manufacture.
Types of product development studies relevant to the EDRN goals and objectives include but are not limited to the following:
- Analytical validation of published candidate biomarkers, which have not been previously validated. High-throughput deep sequencing of the cancer transcriptomes revealed a large number of mutations, fusion transcripts and chromosomal rearrangements in a variety of cancers (colon, pancreas, breast, lung, prostate, and glioblastoma multiforme). Some of these recurrent genetic alterations are potential cancer biomarkers. Similarly, recurrent epigenetic alterations are reportedly highly associated with specific cancers. Development of high-throughput assays and tools for analysis of such aberrations as candidate biomarkers will also be supported. Applicants are encouraged to develop partnerships with investigators or private diagnostic/pharmaceutical companies who are engaged in the whole genome sequencing of various cancer types. For example, an NCI program that could be used to identify potential collaborators/partners in this area would be The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) (http://tcga.cancer.gov/);
- Development of functional assays (e.g., enzymatic assays) to quantitatively measure activities associated with putative cancer risk markers identified in several recent Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS). For such studies, applicants are encouraged to develop collaborations with the GWAS community, including NCI's Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS) Project (http://cgems.cancer.gov/);
- Development and verification of affinity reagents (e.g., aptamers, monoclonal antibodies, recombinant antibodies such as scFv) for quantitative assays of human candidate biomarkers and proteins (including aberrantly modified proteins) associated with cancer. The developed quantitative assays should target biomarkers for risk assessment, early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis;
- Development of standardized technologies, assays and methods for validation of proteins and peptides, transcripts or metabolites, highly or specifically associated with cancer. The focus should be on candidate biomarkers for early detection, diagnosis and prognosis of early cancers;
- Development of innovative assay(s) for detection of cancer stem cells from pre-malignant lesions (e.g., ductal carcinoma in situ [DCIS], high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia [HPIN]) or from exfoliated cells of early stage cancer patients (e.g., urine sediment of bladder cancer).
Milestones and Timeline block must include:
- A tentative timeline for conducting the proposed product development project (with brief descriptions of how the goals of each of the proposed specific aims will be achieved on the basis of tentative, interim milestones, which should be provided on a year-by-year basis). Applicants must also identify any impediments that could require a revision in the work plan or milestones with a discussion of alternative approaches;
- Overall project milestones, which must be well described, quantitative, and scientifically justified. Provide quantitative criteria by which milestone achievement will be assessed. Specific aims may not be regarded as milestones (unless they include quantitative end points). Quantitative milestones are a way of determining whether an applicant has successfully reached the specified goals. Examples of quantitative milestones are:
- numerical specifications of analytical sensitivity of developed assay relative to the current “gold-standard”; and
- projected maximum level of inter-assay reproducibility (CV).
Any application lacking acceptable milestones as determined by involved NCI program staff members will be considered incomplete.
Shortly before completion of the third year of award, the progress made towards these milestones will be reviewed by a site visit of the laboratory by Program staff and external expert consultants. A decision by NCI will be made at this time based on the comments from the site visit review team whether funding for this BRL should continue for the remaining period of the 5-year term.
Network Collaborative Studies
BRL awardees may be asked by the Steering Committee to conduct studies on a variety of assays in order to improve their performance characteristics. Based on the capabilities of the proposed BRL and the knowledge and experience of its investigators, describe:
- Optimal strategies and standard procedures, if applicable, for the development of reagents, assays, technologies, etc., and
- Approaches and procedures for the evaluation of the accuracy, precision, reproducibility, and performance characteristics (e.g., sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values) of tests in multi-center settings.
Explain to what degree these strategies and approaches will be applicable to:
- Multi-center settings; and
- Sampling bodily fluids or mixed cell types, where only a very small percentage of cells may exhibit the specific genetic, epigenetic or other molecular changes.
As a collaborative resource of the Network, BRLs will be expected to facilitate the discovery, clinical validation, and clinical application of biomarkers through participation in collaborative Network studies with BDLs, CVCs and other BRLs. Outline your anticipated role(s) in this context. Examples of collaborative projects include but will not be limited to the following:
- BRL consulting with BDLs and CVCs on addressing reference-related needs of biomarker development studies;
- BRL consulting with BDLs and CVCs on quality control and selection of specimens, as well as performance parameters for the analytical validation of marker assays;
- BRL working jointly with BDLs and CVCs to validate biomarkers.
All applications submitted in response to this FOA by academic or non-academic organizations must demonstrate substantive participation in the project by at least one industry participant as outlined in Section I. Funding Opportunity Description. Specific Research Objectives and Requirements. The PD/PI of the project may be affiliated with either an academic organization or industry. Applications submitted by industrial institutions or product development non-profit agencies do not require an additional partner.
Letters of Support: In addition to standard items, provide:
- Letters of commitment for resources and/or technology made available by industry partners involved in the proposed research.
Resource Sharing Plan: Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans (Data Sharing Plan, Sharing Model Organisms, and Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS)) as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide with the following modifications.
All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, should address a Resource and Data Sharing Plan.
In addition to the standard NIH rules, the following EDRN-specific expectations apply:
(a) Specimen Sharing: The success of EDRN is dependent on collaborative interactions of all its laboratories. Clinical specimen collections funded through EDRN cooperative agreements must become available to all investigators in the Network and must be made available for Network validation studies. Applicants seeking to use funding via this U24 mechanism to collect clinical specimens must state their willingness to share these samples with others in the Network.
(b) Intellectual Property: Collaboration among EDRN investigators, as well as between Network investigators and third-party industry partners is a core mission of the EDRN, which entails the sharing of intellectual property arising out of research resources developed in Network-related activities.
- Applicants are expected to submit an Intellectual Property Management Plan (IPMP) in line with the accepted IP Rights and Responsibilities (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/docs). The proposed plan should address the strategy to be followed for both solely or jointly owned inventions (including patents and licensing issues) and how these resources will be made available to the broader scientific community, consistent with the EDRN initiative. Any approved IPMP will become a condition of the award.
Appendix: Do not use the Appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
Planned Enrollment Report
When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Planned Enrollment Reports as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
PHS 398 Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report
When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing Cumulative Inclusion Enrollment Report as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
3. Submission Dates and Times
Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications before the due date to ensure they have time to make any application corrections that might be necessary for successful submission.
Organizations must submit applications to Grants.gov (the online portal to find and apply for grants across all Federal agencies). Applicants must then complete the submission process by tracking the status of the application in the eRA Commons, NIH’s electronic system for grants administration. NIH and Grants.gov systems check the application against many of the application instructions upon submission. Errors must be corrected and a changed/corrected application must be submitted to Grants.gov on or before the application due date. If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late.
Applicants are responsible for viewing their application before the due date in the eRA Commons to ensure accurate and successful submission.
Information on the submission process and a definition of on-time submission are provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
4. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)
This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.
5. Funding Restrictions
All NIH awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Pre-award costs are allowable only as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
6. Other Submission Requirements and Information
Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. Paper applications will not be accepted.
Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.
For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit Applying Electronically.
All PD(s)/PI(s) must include their eRA Commons ID in the Credential field of the Senior/Key Person Profile Component of the SF424(R&R) Application Package. Failure to register in the Commons and to include a valid PD/PI Commons ID in the credential field will prevent the successful submission of an electronic application to NIH. See Section III of this FOA for information on registration requirements.
The applicant organization must ensure that the DUNS number it provides on the application is the same number used in the organization’s profile in the eRA Commons and for the System for Award Management. Additional information may be found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.
See more tips for avoiding common errors.
Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by NCI, NIH. Applications that are incomplete and/or non-responsive will not be reviewed.
Post Submission Materials
Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in NOT-OD-13-030.
Section V. Application Review Information
Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. As part of the NIH mission, all applications submitted to the NIH in support of biomedical and behavioral research are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system.
Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).
Scored Review Criteria
Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.
Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
In addition, specific to this FOA: For the proposed product development, does the applicant address an important need for technology, reagent, and other resource development, standardization, quality control, or protocols suitable for risk assessment, detection, molecular diagnosis and prognosis of early cancer?
Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?
In addition, specific to this FOA: How extensive are the research experience and expertise of the research team in assay development (including high volume assays) and laboratory quality control (including adherence to established standards, such as GLP, when appropriate)? How strong is the background of the team in the fields related to the expected collaborative EDRN projects and the proposed product development (e.g., in molecular genetics, genomics, proteomics, and pathology for early cancer detection, diagnosis and risk assessment)? Is the PD(s)/PI(s) qualified to participate in multi-institutional collaborations?
Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?
Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented? If the project is in the early stages of development, will the strategy establish feasibility and will particularly risky aspects be managed?
In addition, specific to this FOA: How strong is the rationale for the product development? Are parameters chosen to characterize the biomarkers/reagents to be developed sufficient and appropriate? Does the applicant demonstrate understanding of the technical requirements and the technical challenges in biomarker validation? Are the knowledge base and practices of assay validation adequate for meeting the requirements of a BRL as defined by this FOA? What is the likelihood that the proposed strategy will lead to a routine clinical practice? Can the proposed approaches be used for clinical testing of biomarkers/reagents for a variety of incipient neoplastic lesions?
Are there adequate plans for effective interaction and coordination with the Network units, the Steering Committee, the DMCC, and the NCI?
Are the provided Milestones and Timelines appropriate for the success of the product development strategy and do they allow for an evaluation of the progress the BRL has made on the proposed product development and on partnering with BDLs and CVCs?
If the project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, are the plans to address 1) the protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion or exclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?
Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?
In addition, specific to this FOA: Are appropriate facilities and infrastructure (including equipment for high-throughput testing) available to the applicant’s team? If collaboration with a private sector entity is proposed, will such collaboration be beneficial to the BRL goals and to the mission of EDRN?
Additional Review Criteria
As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact score, but will not give separate scores for these items.
Protections for Human Subjects
For research that involves human subjects but does not involve one of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate the justification for involvement of human subjects and the proposed protections from research risk relating to their participation according to the following five review criteria: 1) risk to subjects, 2) adequacy of protection against risks, 3) potential benefits to the subjects and others, 4) importance of the knowledge to be gained, and 5) data and safety monitoring for clinical trials.
For research that involves human subjects and meets the criteria for one or more of the six categories of research that are exempt under 45 CFR Part 46, the committee will evaluate: 1) the justification for the exemption, 2) human subjects involvement and characteristics, and 3) sources of materials. For additional information on review of the Human Subjects section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Human Subjects.
Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
When the proposed project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for the inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion (or exclusion) of children to determine if it is justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Inclusion in Clinical Research.
The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following five points: 1) proposed use of the animals, and species, strains, ages, sex, and numbers to be used; 2) justifications for the use of animals and for the appropriateness of the species and numbers proposed; 3) adequacy of veterinary care; 4) procedures for limiting discomfort, distress, pain and injury to that which is unavoidable in the conduct of scientifically sound research including the use of analgesic, anesthetic, and tranquilizing drugs and/or comfortable restraining devices; and 5) methods of euthanasia and reason for selection if not consistent with the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.
Reviewers will assess whether materials or procedures proposed are potentially hazardous to research personnel and/or the environment, and if needed, determine whether adequate protection is proposed.
For Renewals, the committee will consider the progress made in the last funding period. The following aspects will be evaluated:
Given the past accomplishments, what is the likelihood that the applicant team will be successful in developing viable clinical biomarker candidates? Did the applicants undertake and complete the biomarker development projects proposed in the previous application or supported with set-aside/Core funds? Have the applicants developed any biomarkers that have been tested or are currently being tested in prevalidation or validation studies? Did the PD(s)/PI(s) participate in EDRN Steering Committee meetings, workshops and other collaborative activities? Is the review from the site visit conducted by NCI Program staff and external consultants described as positive and have the applicants addressed any concerns identified by the reviewers?
Additional Review Considerations
As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact score.
Applications from Foreign Organizations
Select Agent Research
Reviewers will assess the information provided in this section of the application, including 1) the Select Agent(s) to be used in the proposed research, 2) the registration status of all entities where Select Agent(s) will be used, 3) the procedures that will be used to monitor possession use and transfer of Select Agent(s), and 4) plans for appropriate biosafety, biocontainment, and security of the Select Agent(s).
Resource Sharing Plans
Reviewers will comment on whether the following Resource Sharing Plans, or the rationale for not sharing the following types of resources, are reasonable: 1) Data Sharing Plan; 2) Sharing Model Organisms; and 3) Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS)
Intellectual Property Management Plan: Reviewers will comment, as appropriate, on the adequacy and feasibility of the sharing of research resources plan and the Intellectual Property Management Plan (IPMP). Comments on the plans and any concerns will be presented in an administrative note in the Summary Statement. NCI Program staff will consider the adequacy of the plans in determining whether to recommend an application for award.
Budget and Period of Support
Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.
2. Review and Selection Process
Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by the NCI, in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria. Assignment to a Scientific Review Group will be shown in the eRA Commons.
As part of the scientific peer review, all applications:
- May undergo a selection process in which only those applications deemed to have the highest scientific and technical merit (generally the top half of applications under review) will be discussed and assigned an overall impact score.
- Will receive a written critique.
Appeals of initial peer review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to this FOA.
Applications will be assigned on the basis of established PHS referral guidelines to the appropriate NIH Institute or Center. Applications will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to this FOA. Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the National Cancer Advisory Board. The following will be considered in making funding decisions:
- Scientific and technical merit of the proposed project as determined by scientific peer review.
- Availability of funds.
- Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities. This aspect will include the adequacy of the Intellectual Property Management Plan.
3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates
After the peer review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will be able to access his or her Summary Statement (written critique) via the eRA Commons.
Information regarding the disposition of applications is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices
If the application is under consideration for funding, NIH will request "just-in-time" information from the applicant as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
A formal notification in the form of a Notice of Award (NoA) will be provided to the applicant organization for successful applications. The NoA signed by the grants management officer is the authorizing document and will be sent via email to the grantee’s business official.
Awardees must comply with any funding restrictions described in Section IV.5. Funding Restrictions. Selection of an application for award is not an authorization to begin performance. Any costs incurred before receipt of the NoA are at the recipient's risk. These costs may be reimbursed only to the extent considered allowable pre-award costs.
Any application awarded in response to this FOA will be subject to terms and conditions found on the Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants website. This includes any recent legislation and policy applicable to awards that is highlighted on this website.
The award will also include a restricted Network Collaborative Fund that will be used to support research collaboration between the awardee and other EDRN units as recommended by the EDRN Steering Committee and approved by the NCI.
2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements
All NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards include the NIH Grants Policy Statement as part of the NoA. For these terms of award, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart A: General and Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities. More information is provided at Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants.
Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award
The following special terms of award are in addition to, and not in lieu of, otherwise applicable OMB administrative guidelines, HHS grant administration regulations at 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92 (Part 92 is applicable when State and local Governments are eligible to apply), and other HHS, PHS, and NIH grant administration policies.
The administrative and funding instrument used for this program will be the cooperative agreement an "assistance" mechanism (rather than an "acquisition" mechanism), in which substantial NIH programmatic involvement with the awardees is anticipated during the performance of the activities. Under the cooperative agreement, the NIH purpose is to support and stimulate the recipients' activities by involvement in and otherwise working jointly with the award recipients in a partnership role; it is not to assume direction, prime responsibility, or a dominant role in the activities. Consistent with this concept, the dominant role and prime responsibility resides with the awardees for the project as a whole, although specific tasks and activities may be shared among the awardees and the NIH as defined below.
The PD/PI will have the primary responsibility for:
- Defining the scientific objectives for the product development project, including research design and protocol development (if applicable), quality control, safety monitoring, conduct data collection and analysis, and publication of results;
- Under Network collaborative studies or under a separate activity funded through EDRN Core Funds, the BRL may be asked to provide services (e.g., assay optimization), and standards for reagents, assays and specific technology;
- Awardees will retain custody of and have primary rights to the data and software developed under these awards, subject to Government rights of access consistent with current HHS, PHS, and NIH policies.
PD/PI Responsibilities for Network Collaborative Studies:
- Collaborate with other EDRN units including other BRLs to advance promising biomarkers towards EDRN validation studies;
- Accept and implement the goals, priorities, common protocols, procedures, and policies agreed upon by the Steering Committee for the individual and Network collaborative studies;
- Ensure Network and NCI review and approval of protocols, concepts, final protocol documents, informed consents, and study amendments, and advise NCI of changes in protocol status;
- Collaborate on common research designs or protocols, including methods and requirements for joint participation and collaboration as recommended by the Steering Committee, and handling of data, including appropriate sharing of methods and data among collaborating organizations.
- Advise any collaborating investigators outside of EDRN that their institutions will also need to agree to be subject to the EDRN resource sharing and intellectual property requirements.
NIH staff will have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below:
A designated NCI Program staff member serving as Project Coordinator will have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below. Additional NCI staff members may also become substantially involved as needed.
Main NCI responsibilities include the following:
- Coordinating and facilitating various activities of the EDRN program;
- Participating in the activities of the EDRN Steering Committee;
- Serving as a liaison between the Steering Committee, the EDRN awardees, and the NIH;
- Ensuring that there are effective mechanisms to enable electronic communication among the Network units, and between the EDRN and the NCI. The NCI Project Coordinator will oversee this in coordination with the NCI CBIIT;
- Assisting the Steering Committee in developing and drafting operating policies and policies for dealing with recurring situations that require coordinated action;
- Assisting the investigators in avoiding unwarranted duplications of effort across the Network;
- Co-organizing and participating in the EDRN-sponsored meetings;
- Monitoring the scientific progress of individual U01/U24 awards and the entire EDRN program;
- Reviewing the compliance of EDRN awardees with the recommendations developed by the Steering Committee; and coordinating external evaluation of the Network.
- Authorizing the use of funds from the EDRN Core Fund and individual set-aside funds for activities reviewed and recommended by the Steering Committee.
- The NCI reserves the right to adjust funding, withhold, suspend, or terminate the support to those Network awardee institutions that are unable to meet the performance requirements set forth in these Terms and Conditions of Award, or significantly change the level of performance.
- Additionally, an NCI Program Director acting as Program Official will be responsible for the normal scientific and programmatic stewardship of the award and will be named in the award notice. Program Officials may also have substantial programmatic involvement (as Project Scientists).
Areas of Joint Responsibility Include:
Steering Committee: The Steering Committee will be the main governing body of the EDRN, as defined below.
The EDRN Steering Committee will convene after all the Network units have been funded and will be composed of the following voting members:
- All PD(s)/PI(s) representing each EDRN U01/U24 award; and
- The NCI-designated Project Coordinator.
Each voting member will have one vote.
Additional NIH staff members may participate in Steering Committee meetings as non-voting members as needed (for example to provide additional expertise). The non-voting members may include representatives from NCI extramural divisions and a representative from the NCI CBIIT.
Additional non-voting members may participate on the Steering Committee in an advisory capacity on an as needed basis and decided by the existing voting committee members.
The Chair of the Steering Committee (who cannot be NIH staff member) will be selected by the Steering Committee. The awardee institution represented by the Chair of the Steering Committee will serve as the Headquarters (for definition, see Section I. Funding Opportunity Description. EDRN Administrative Structure).
The Steering Committee will meet twice every year, at locations selected by the Steering Committee in consultation with the NCI.
The Steering Committee may establish sub-committees for specific purposes. The NCI Project Coordinator/Scientists will serve on such sub-committees, as they deem appropriate.
Primary responsibilities of the Steering Committee include, but are not limited to, the following activities:
- Updating and refining established Network policies and procedures;
- Updating and refining established policies and procedures for collaborative projects, protocols, and Network-defined projects;
- Updating and refining established policies and procedures for reviewing changes in projects not showing translational significance at the request of the laboratories/centers, and making recommendations to the NCI for replacing the project with more promising ones with revised scope and adjusted budget (increase in the budget will not be permitted);
- Updating and refining established standards or “decision criteria” for validating biomarkers/reagents for further clinical studies, such as testing early detection strategies, or as risk factors;
- Updating and refining established policies and procedures for accepting, reviewing, and recommending proposals from investigators outside the Network for supplemental funding and expanding the Network participation;
- Establishing a Data and Safety Monitoring Committee for clinical trials as appropriate to ensure protection of human subjects;
- Reviewing patient accrual, follow-up, protocol compliance, results of audits, and regulatory requirements at the participating Centers and formally report the results of its reviews to the NCI;
- Promoting and fostering the inclusion of women and ethnic minorities in clinical studies and assure the completeness of informed consent;
- Tracking the Network research progress and assuring that the results of laboratory research and clinical studies are published in peer-reviewed journals in a timely manner and in accordance with the publication policies of the Network;
- Planning one Workshop every 18 months during the Network project period to inform the scientific community and relevant advocacy groups of the progress made toward development and clinical application of biomarkers developed through the Network. The NCI Project Coordinator, members of the Network Consulting Team, and other NCI staff will provide the Steering Committee with advice on participants for the workshops. The DMCC will manage the logistics for these meetings.
- At any time during the course of a Network project (e.g., collaborative research supported by the Core Fund), the Steering Committee may ask a BDL or CVC to serve as a BRL on an as needed basis with appropriate compensation from the Core Fund. The Steering Committee may also examine the validation data for biomarkers/reagents developed by the Network, and decide when a biomarker is sufficiently validated, or recommend when to stop non-productive experiments relating to biomarkers validation.
- Discussing and authorizing the development of reagents or assay refinement through BRLs, CVCs, or the private sector.
- Approving collaborative studies/protocols. Data will be submitted centrally to the DMCC. The Steering Committee will define the rules regarding access to data and publications consistent with NCI policies.
- Determining the lead investigators of Network-wide validation studies in consultation with the NCI.
- Discussing and authorizing collaborative projects to be pursued with support of the set-aside funds from individual U01/U24 awards.
- Reviewing (with assistance of external reviewers, as needed) and discussing collaborative projects to be pursued with support of the EDRN Core Fund and individual set-aside funds.
- Advising NCI on activating funds for the recommended collaborative projects.
- Implementing the policy that the resource sharing and intellectual property requirements set forth for EDRN awardees are also adhered to by collaborating non-EDRN investigators and their institutions, including those involved in Core Fund supported activities (e.g., investigators/institutions participating in validation studies).
Dispute Resolution Process
Any disagreements that may arise in scientific or programmatic matters (within the scope of the award) between award recipients and the NIH may be brought to Dispute Resolution. A Dispute Resolution Panel composed of three members will be convened. It will have three members: a designee of the Steering Committee chosen without NIH staff voting, one NIH designee, and a third designee with expertise in the relevant area who is chosen by the other two; in the case of individual disagreement, the first member may be chosen by the individual awardee. This special dispute resolution procedure does not alter the awardee's right to appeal an adverse action that is otherwise appealable in accordance with PHS regulations 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart D and HHS regulations 45 CFR Part 16.
When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the annual Non-Competing Progress Report (PHS 2590 or RPPR) and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Approved Resource Sharing and Intellectual Property plans will become a condition of the grant award and Progress Reports must contain information on activities for the sharing of research resources and intellectual property.
A final progress report, invention statement, and the expenditure data portion of the Federal Financial Report are required for closeout of an award, as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act), includes a requirement for awardees of Federal grants to report information about first-tier subawards and executive compensation under Federal assistance awards issued in FY2011 or later. All awardees of applicable NIH grants and cooperative agreements are required to report to the Federal Subaward Reporting System (FSRS) available at www.fsrs.gov on all subawards over $25,000. See the NIH Grants Policy Statement for additional information on this reporting requirement.
Section VII. Agency Contacts
We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.
Application Submission Contacts
eRA Commons Help Desk (Questions regarding eRA Commons registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, post submission issues)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)
Finding Help Online: https://grants.nih.gov/support/index.html
GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Sudhir Srivastava, Ph.D., M.P.H.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Peer Review Contact(s)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Section VIII. Other Information
Recently issued trans-NIH policy notices may affect your application submission. A full list of policy notices published by NIH is provided in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. All awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
Authority and Regulations
Awards are made under the authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 52 and 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92.