Department of Health and Human Services

Part 1. Overview Information

Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

Funding Opportunity Title
Collaborative Approaches to Engineer Biology for Cancer Applications (U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Activity Code

U01 Research Project – Cooperative Agreements

Announcement Type

New

Related Notices

  • November 20, 2020 - Pre-Application Webinar for RFA-CA-20-054, Collaborative Approaches to Engineer Biology for Cancer Applications (U01 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). See Notice NOT-CA-21-017.

Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number
RFA-CA-20-054
Companion Funding Opportunity

None

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)

93.393; 93.394; 93.395; 93.396; 93.399; 93.286

Funding Opportunity Purpose

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) invites applications to develop and apply innovative synthetic biology approaches to address challenges across the spectrum of cancer research. Projects will be required to apply a technology, based on an engineered biological system, to an important and well-defined cancer research question. Collaborative transdisciplinary teams are expected with PIs representing expertise in cancer research, engineering, and other disciplines relevant to synthetic biology.

Key Dates

Posted Date
October 16, 2020
Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)
December 15, 2020
Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

30 days before application due date

Application Due Date(s)

January 15, 2021

 

No late applications will be accepted for this Funding Opportunity Announcement.

All applications are due by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on the listed date(s).

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)

Not Applicable

 

 

Scientific Merit Review

April/May 2021

Advisory Council Review

August 2021

Earliest Start Date

October 2021

Expiration Date
January 16, 2021
Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the Research (R) Instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from 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.

There are several options available to submit your application through Grants.gov to NIH and Department of Health and Human Services partners. You must use one of these submission options to access the application forms for this opportunity.

  1. Use the NIH ASSIST system to prepare, submit and track your application online.
  2. Use an institutional system-to-system (S2S) solution to prepare and submit your application to Grants.gov and eRA Commons to track your application. Check with your institutional officials regarding availability.

  3. Use Grants.gov Workspace to prepare and submit your application and eRA Commons to track your application.


  4. Table of Contents

Part 2. Full Text of Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description

Purpose

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to invite Cooperative Agreement (U01) applications to develop and apply novel synthetic biology approaches to address challenges across the spectrum of cancer research. Projects must define an important cancer research question and then approach that question with a synthetic biology technology, based on an adapted biological system that can sense an input, apply logic to determine a response to the input, and initiate a response. The emphasis is on both the significance of the cancer research question and the innovation and potential of the technical approach. To fully cover the research scope, transdisciplinary teams are expected with a requirement for expertise in cancer research and engineering or other disciplines relevant to synthetic biology. Projects should conduct collaborative research using synthetic biology to study the fundamental mechanisms of cancer development, progression, or response to interventions and the development and evaluation of novel diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic strategies to human cancer.

Background

Technological developments in cellular and molecular engineering and computational methods have spurred new engineering approaches and advanced capacity to reengineer biology to address important cancer research questions. These approaches, termed synthetic biology, focus on the design, construction, and characterization of improved or novel biological systems using engineering design principles. Expanding beyond traditional genetic engineering methods, which are often concentrated on individual genes and proteins, synthetic biology adopts a more systematic approach targeting entire pathways, networks, and whole organisms with quantitative control and modulation.

The holistic approach is a natural complement to systems biology, with synthetic biology tools suited to test predictive models and computational/mathematical modeling needed to predict behavior of engineered systems to inform the design.

Technical and research capabilities include memory circuits to track and report single cell exposures and lineage, biosensors to detect and report disease and treatment response markers, feedback-controlled circuits to deliver defined therapeutic outputs, and a range of other possibilities. While the technology has developed at a rapid pace, the overall application to cancer research has been limited. To enhance this promising research area, the FOA intends to promote collaborations between engineers and cancer researchers to develop innovative synthetic biology approaches to challenges across cancer research.

Research Objectives

Synthetic biology can advance research across cancer biology, prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment using engineered circuits, networks, and cells that can sense inputs, apply logic to determine a response to the inputs, and then initiate a response. This encompasses natural and engineered biological circuits that can implement regulation and decision-making strategies in cells. Key opportunities to be explored span the continuum of cancer research including, but not limited to:

  • Cancer biology, such as synthetic cellular/molecular networks to model, probe, and perturb cancer signaling and immunology pathways; biological tools to monitor and report spatiotemporal changes in pre-cancer, cancer cells, and the tumor microenvironment
  • Cancer prevention, such as engineered biological sensors to identify cell exposure or damage in early cancer development and report the exposure/damage or deliver approaches to prevent progression
  • Cancer early detection and diagnosis, such as engineered biological components to identify and report short-lived, low-level, or other difficult to measure markers of disease
  • Cancer therapeutics, such as engineered mammalian cells or microbes with targeted, controlled therapeutic delivery or therapeutic action

The goal is to support collaborative, transdisciplinary projects to advance synthetic biology approaches to tackle cancer research questions. Importantly, applications must balance the significance of the cancer question with the unique potential of the synthetic biology technology to address that question. Research projects must:

(1) Clearly define and focus on a significant, challenging cancer research question;

(2) Apply a synthetic biology technology, as defined by an engineered/reengineered biological system with sense, compute, and response capability;

(3) Use a technology/method with demonstrated early feasibility

(4) Deploy technologies in mammalian tissue or mammalian model systems

To increase the likelihood of technical success, the technology or methodology should have overcome early feasibility gaps demonstrated by supportive preliminary data. Initial technology development in a cancer setting is not required and many projects may represent the first cancer-relevant application of the technology. Applications may propose reengineering of microbial or mammalian cells as long as engineered technologies are deployed in mammalian tissue or mammalian model systems (cell lines, organoids, animal models animal/human tissue, etc.).

Combined expertise spanning knowledge of the biological systems to be reengineered, engineering capability to design and implement controllable biological components, and mathematical modeling to predict the behavior of the engineered systems are key to successful integration of synthetic biology into cancer research. Collaborative, transdisciplinary teams are expected. Beyond convening appropriate expertise, applicants will be urged to incorporate trainees and early-career scientists into research teams to lead individual components of the overall project.

Overall, the FOA intends to support synthetic biology approaches for cancer research that will expand technology development, promote transdisciplinary partnerships, and spur new efforts to advance mechanistic understanding of cancer and possibilities for cancer management.

Collaborative Activities: Awardees are required to participate in collaborative activities and projects identified post-award to propel the advancement of cancer research through synthetic biology. Requirements include trans-program meetings, data sharing, and synthetic biology technology development projects for tools, components, and models that are applicable to multiple funded projects. Investigators funded through this RFA are expected to participate in an annual investigators' meeting intended to drive connection and collaboration across awardees and promote data and tool sharing.

Depending on the focus of a given Research Project, interactions with investigators from other NIH-supported consortia and networks may be appropriate and encouraged.

Non-Responsive Projects

  • Projects without a focus on a defined cancer research question
  • Projects that do not apply a synthetic biology technology, as defined by an engineered/reengineered biological system with sense, compute, and response capability
  • Projects with an exploratory or early stage technology without a demonstration of technical feasibility
  • Projects without components in mammalian tissue or mammalian model systems

See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.

Section II. Award Information

Funding Instrument

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. See Section VI.2 for additional information about the substantial involvement for this FOA.

Application Types Allowed
New

The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types. Only those application types listed here are allowed for this FOA.

Clinical Trial?
Not Allowed: Only accepting applications that do not propose clinical trials

Need help determining whether you are doing a clinical trial?

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

NCI and NIBIB intend to commit an estimated total of $4.2M in FY 2021 to fund 4-6 awards.

Award Budget

Application budgets are limited to $499,999 in direct costs per year and must reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.

Award Project Period

The maximum project period is 5 years.

NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made from this FOA.

Section III. Eligibility Information

1. Eligible Applicants

Eligible Organizations

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)

For-Profit Organizations

  • Small Businesses
  • For-Profit Organizations (Other than Small Businesses)

Local Governments

  • State Governments
  • County Governments
  • City or Township Governments
  • Special District Governments
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Federally Recognized)
  • Indian/Native American Tribal Governments (Other than Federally Recognized)

Federal Governments

  • Eligible Agencies of the Federal Government
  • U.S. Territory or Possession

Other

  • Independent School Districts
  • Public Housing Authorities/Indian Housing Authorities
  • Native American Tribal Organizations (other than Federally recognized tribal governments)
  • Faith-based or Community-based Organizations
  • Regional Organizations
  • Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions)
Foreign Institutions

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Institutions) are eligible to apply.

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are eligible to apply.

Foreign components, as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, are allowed. 

Required Registrations

Applicant organizations

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) – 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.
  • eRA Commons - Applicants must have an active DUNS number to register in eRA Commons. Organizations can register with the eRA Commons as they are working through their SAM or Grants.gov registration, but all registrations must be in place by time of submission. 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.

Due to the transdisciplinary nature of the anticipated research and the focus on collaboration and expertise sharing, this FOA strongly encourages the use of the multi-PD/PI option. This FOA is open to all collaborating teams with formal training and expertise in both cancer research and engineering or other fields relevant to synthetic biology. Formal training and expertise can be established through undergraduate or graduate degrees or through a body of work that demonstrates contribution to the field. It is recognized that there may be instances where a single PD/PI will already have the combined expertise to bring a synthetic biology perspective to study an important problem in cancer research and may not need to use the multi-PD/PI option.

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).

Section IV. Application and Submission Information

1. Requesting an Application Package

The application forms package specific to this opportunity must be accessed through ASSIST, Grants.gov Workspace or an institutional system-to-system solution. Links to apply using ASSIST or Grants.gov Workspace are available in Part 1 of this FOA. See your administrative office for instructions if you plan to use an institutional system-to-system solution.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the Research (R) Instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide 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.

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:

Michelle Berny-Lang, PhD
National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Telephone: 240-781-3310
Email: michelle.berny-lang@nih.gov

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed.

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.

SF424(R&R) Cover

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.

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

R&R or Modular Budget

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Trans-Program Collaborative Funds: Applicants must set aside a minimum of $20,000 (direct costs) of their annual budget for collaborative trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects. The set-aside amount should be presented in the Other Direct Costs category under the heading “Collaborative Funds." The use of the set-aside funds will be restricted for collaborative studies proposed post-award and released upon advice of the Steering Committee and authorization by NCI and NIBIB.

Travel Expenses Budget: Applicants must budget for travel and per diem expenses for at least one PD/PI to attend annual investigator meetings.

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:

Research Strategy: The goal of this FOA is to support research projects to advance the unique capabilities of synthetic biology to tackle cancer research questions. In support of this goal, investigators should clearly describe:

  • The cancer research question to be addressed and its significance within the broader cancer research landscape
  • The synthetic biology technology, including a description of the engineered/reengineered biological system and its ability to sense, compute, and respond
  • The level of innovation of the proposed synthetic biology technology, including why the technology is uniquely suited to address the cancer research question

Resource Sharing Plan: Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans as provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

The following modifications also apply:

  • All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, should address a Data Sharing Plan.
  • Data, tools, models, and software from this FOA are expected to be shared in an easily accessible format to increase the value of the significant public investment.
  • The resource sharing plan should describe the types of data, tools, models, and software that are expected to be generated and shared.
  • The resource sharing plan should address sharing of data, tools, models, and software across the program, consistent with achieving the goals of this program.
Appendix:

Only limited Appendix materials are allowed. Follow all instructions for the Appendix as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information

When involving human subjects research, clinical research, and/or NIH-defined clinical trials (and when applicable, clinical trials research experience) follow all instructions for the PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information form in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, with the following additional instructions:

If you answered “Yes” to the question “Are Human Subjects Involved?” on the R&R Other Project Information form, you must include at least one human subjects study record using the Study Record: PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information form or Delayed Onset Study record.

Study Record: PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Delayed Onset Study

Note: Delayed onset does NOT apply to a study that can be described but will not start immediately (i.e., delayed start).All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

PHS Assignment Request Form

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.

Foreign Institutions

Foreign (non-U.S.) institutions must follow policies described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement, and procedures for foreign institutions described throughout the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

3. Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM)

See Part 1. Section III.1 for information regarding the requirement for obtaining a unique entity identifier and for completing and maintaining active registrations in System for Award Management (SAM), NATO Commercial and Government Entity (NCAGE) Code (if applicable), eRA Commons, and Grants.gov.

4. Submission Dates and Times

Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates and times. 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. When a submission date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday, the application deadline is automatically extended to the next business day.

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 and time.  If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late. Applications that miss the due date and time are subjected to the NIH Policy on Late Application Submission.

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.

5. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

6. 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.

7. 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 How to Apply – Application Guide. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Dealing with System Issues guidance. For assistance with application submission, contact the Application Submission Contacts in Section VII.

Important reminders:

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 and compliance with application instructions by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by components of participating organizations, NIH. Applications that are incomplete, non-compliant and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

Post Submission Materials

Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in the policy. Any instructions provided here are in addition to the instructions in the policy.

Section V. Application Review Information

1. Criteria

Only the review criteria described below will be considered in the review process. Applications submitted to the NIH in support of the NIH mission are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system.

Overall Impact

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.

Significance

Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? Is the prior research that serves as the key support for the proposed project rigorous? 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?

Specific to this FOA:

  • Is the selected cancer research question compelling and well-defined? How will making progress towards addressing the question advance cancer research broadly?

Investigator(s)

Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or those 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?

Specific to this FOA:

  • How well does the Project integrate the combined synthetic biology and cancer research expertise to address an important question in cancer research?

Innovation

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?

Specific to this FOA:

  • How novel is the proposed application of synthetic biology technologies and how are those technologies uniquely suited to address the cancer research question?

Approach

Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Have the investigators included plans to address weaknesses in the rigor of prior research that serves as the key support for the proposed project? Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed? 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? Have the investigators presented adequate plans to address relevant biological variables, such as sex, for studies in vertebrate animals or human subjects?

Specific to this FOA:

  • How well are synthetic biology technologies integrated into the approach?  
  • Defined for this FOA as engineered biological systems with sense, compute, and response capability that have overcome early feasibility gaps, how well are the synthetic biology technologies integrated into the approach?
  • How well does the proposed synthetic biology approach address the cancer research question being studied?

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 individuals of all ages (including children and older adults), justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?

Environment

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?

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 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 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 Individuals Across the Lifespan

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 individuals of all ages (including children and older adults) 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.

Vertebrate Animals

The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following criteria: (1) description of proposed procedures involving animals, including species, strains, ages, sex, and total number to be used; (2) justifications for the use of animals versus alternative models and for the appropriateness of the species proposed; (3) interventions to minimize discomfort, distress, pain and injury; and (4) justification for euthanasia method if NOT consistent with the AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals. Reviewers will assess the use of chimpanzees as they would any other application proposing the use of vertebrate animals. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.

Biohazards

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.

Resubmissions

Not Applicable

Renewals

Not Applicable

Revisions

Not Applicable

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

Reviewers will assess whether the project presents special opportunities for furthering research programs through the use of unusual talent, resources, populations, or environmental conditions that exist in other countries and either are not readily available in the United States or augment existing U.S. resources.

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)  Genomic Data Sharing Plan (GDS).

Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources:

For projects involving key biological and/or chemical resources, reviewers will comment on the brief plans proposed for identifying and ensuring the validity of those resources.

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 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 will receive a written critique.

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.

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.

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. Refer to Part 1 for dates for peer review, advisory council review, and earliest start date.

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.

Institutional Review Board or Independent Ethics Committee Approval: Grantee institutions must ensure that protocols are reviewed by their IRB or IEC. To help ensure the safety of participants enrolled in NIH-funded studies, the awardee must provide NIH copies of documents related to all major changes in the status of ongoing protocols.

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.

Recipients of federal financial assistance (FFA) from HHS must administer their programs in compliance with federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age and, in some circumstances, religion, conscience, and sex. This includes ensuring programs are accessible to persons with limited English proficiency. The HHS Office for Civil Rights provides guidance on complying with civil rights laws enforced by HHS. Please see https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/provider-obligations/index.html and http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/section1557/index.html.

HHS recognizes that research projects are often limited in scope for many reasons that are nondiscriminatory, such as the principal investigator’s scientific interest, funding limitations, recruitment requirements, and other considerations. Thus, criteria in research protocols that target or exclude certain populations are warranted where nondiscriminatory justifications establish that such criteria are appropriate with respect to the health or safety of the subjects, the scientific study design, or the purpose of the research. For additional guidance regarding how the provisions apply to NIH grant programs, please contact the Scientific/Research Contact that is identified in Section VII under Agency Contacts of this FOA.

Please contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights for more information about obligations and prohibitions under federal civil rights laws at https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/about-us/contact-us/index.html or call 1-800-368-1019 or TDD 1-800-537-7697.

In accordance with the statutory provisions contained in Section 872 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2009 (Public Law 110-417), NIH awards will be subject to the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS) requirements. FAPIIS requires Federal award making officials to review and consider information about an applicant in the designated integrity and performance system (currently FAPIIS) prior to making an award. An applicant, at its option, may review information in the designated integrity and performance systems accessible through FAPIIS and comment on any information about itself that a Federal agency previously entered and is currently in FAPIIS. The Federal awarding agency will consider any comments by the applicant, in addition to other information in FAPIIS, in making a judgement about the applicant’s integrity, business ethics, and record of performance under Federal awards when completing the review of risk posed by applicants as described in 45 CFR Part 75.205 “Federal awarding agency review of risk posed by applicants.” This provision will apply to all NIH grants and cooperative agreements except fellowships.

Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award

The following special terms of the award are in addition to, and not in lieu of, otherwise applicable U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 2 CFR Part 200 Administrative Regulations, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grant administration regulations at 45 CFR Part 75, NIH Grants Policy Statement (which implements the aforementioned HHS Regulations (45 CFR Part 75), 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 for the project as a whole resides with the awardees, although specific tasks and activities may be shared among the awardees and the NIH as defined below.

 

The PD(s)/PI(s) will have the primary responsibility for:

  • Overseeing the project, including defining the research objectives, conducting specific studies, analysis and interpretation of research data, preparation of publications, and broadly disseminating approaches, methods, models, software, and tools;
  • Working closely with the NIH Program Official and Project Scientist(s) in project coordination and management as described below:
    • Participating in program activities, including attending an annual investigator meeting, participating in teleconferences with NIH staff, participating in other program-sponsored meetings and workshops, and participating in collaborative program activities;
    • Serving on the Steering Committee. The PD/PI (contact PD/PI for applications with multiple PDs/PIs) and one key Project personnel are required to serve as members of the Steering Committee (see "Areas of Joint Responsibility" below). The two members should collectively represent both the synthetic biology and cancer research components of the U01;
    • Participating in the establishment and conduct of collaborative trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects;
    • Promoting program and external collaborations to advance cancer-focused synthetic biology research;
    • Participating in collaborative activities with other relevant NIH consortia and network, including research collaborations and meeting participation, as deemed appropriate by NIH program staff;
    • Ensuring that data are deposited in a timely manner in appropriate publicly available locations, and that models, software, and other tools and resources developed as part of this Research Project are made publicly available according to program policies;
    • Reporting progress to the NIH Program Official on all research activities annually. The PD(s)/PI(s) may be expected to provide additional information, outside the scope of the standard reporting requirement, as needed and requested by program staff members on a semi-annual basis;
  • 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 DHHS, PHS, and NIH policies.

NIH staff have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below:

NIH Program staff member(s) acting as a Project Scientist(s) will have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below:

  • Providing substantial NIH scientific programmatic involvement, including serving as subject matter experts and providing scientific advice as needed;
  • Participating in teleconferences with PDs/PIs to monitor progress and facilitate cooperation;
  • Participating in organization of annual program meetings, specialized workshops, and webinars;
  • Facilitating coordination and collaboration among investigators across the program;
  • Facilitating interactions between other NIH-supported investigators and programs to disseminate results, tools, and models and take advantage of existing NIH resources and infrastructures;
  • Serving as voting members of the Steering Committee;
  • Working with the Steering Committee to develop policies and procedures for the solicitation and review of collaborative trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects;
  • Making final decisions for the release of set-aside funds, based on the recommendations of the Steering Committee;
  • Additionally, an agency program official or IC program director will be responsible for the normal scientific and programmatic stewardship of the award and will be named in the award notice.

Areas of Joint Responsibility include:

Steering Committee: The Steering Committee will be composed of the following voting members:

(1) The PD/PI (contact PD/PI for projects with multiple PDs/PIs) and one key Project person who collectively represent both the synthetic biology and cancer research components of the U01;

(2) NIH Project Scientist(s).

Each voting member will have one vote. Additional NIH Program Officials and Project Scientists and other government staff may participate in Steering Committee meetings as non-voting members. The structure is designed to allow awarded investigators and NIH Project Scientists to work together to facilitate and develop collaborative trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects and other activities based on synergistic expertise and projects.

All Steering Committee decisions and recommendations that require voting will be based on a majority vote. Projects will be required to accept and implement policies approved by the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee is responsible for:

  • Developing policies and procedures for the solicitation and review of collaborative trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects;
  • Discussing and recommending the development, review, and selection of trans-program synthetic biology technology development projects;
  • Coordinating and disseminating publications and research progress to the broader cancer research and synthetic biology communities;
  • Ensuring that the program leverages existing NIH resources and programs;
  • Scheduling and organizing an annual investigator meeting where program investigators will present their scientific progress, develop collaborations, and participate in working group discussions.

Dispute Resolution:

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 regulation 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart D and DHHS regulation 45 CFR Part 16.

3. Reporting

When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A final RPPR, 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.

In accordance with the regulatory requirements provided at 45 CFR 75.113 and Appendix XII to 45 CFR Part 75, recipients that have currently active Federal grants, cooperative agreements, and procurement contracts from all Federal awarding agencies with a cumulative total value greater than $10,000,000 for any period of time during the period of performance of a Federal award, must report and maintain the currency of information reported in the System for Award Management (SAM) about civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings in connection with the award or performance of a Federal award that reached final disposition within the most recent five-year period.  The recipient must also make semiannual disclosures regarding such proceedings. Proceedings information will be made publicly available in the designated integrity and performance system (currently FAPIIS).  This is a statutory requirement under section 872 of Public Law 110-417, as amended (41 U.S.C. 2313).  As required by section 3010 of Public Law 111-212, all information posted in the designated integrity and performance system on or after April 15, 2011, except past performance reviews required for Federal procurement contracts, will be publicly available.  Full reporting requirements and procedures are found in Appendix XII to 45 CFR Part 75 – Award Term and Conditions for Recipient Integrity and Performance Matters.

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 Service Desk (Questions regarding ASSIST, eRA Commons, application errors and warnings, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, and post-submission issues)

Finding Help Online: http://grants.nih.gov/support/ (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)

General Grants Information (Questions regarding application instructions, application processes, and NIH grant resources)
Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-945-7573

Grants.gov Customer Support (Questions regarding Grants.gov registration and Workspace)
Contact Center Telephone: 800-518-4726
Email: support@grants.gov

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Michelle Berny-Lang, PhD

National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-781-3310
Email: michelle.berny-lang@nih.gov

David Rampulla, PhD

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Telephone: 301-451-4774
Email: david.rampulla@nih.gov

Peer Review Contact(s)

Referral Officer
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-6390
Email: ncirefof@dea.nci.nih.gov

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Crystal Wolfrey

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Telephone: 240-276-6277

Email: wolfreyc@mail.nih.gov

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 Part 75.


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