Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information

 

Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Funding Opportunity Title

Early Stage Testing of Pharmacologic or Device-based Interventions for the Treatment of Mental Disorders (R61/R33)

Activity Code

R61/R33 Exploratory/Developmental  Phased Award

Announcement Type

New

Related Notices
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number

RFA-MH-17-600  

Companion Funding Opportunity

RFA-MH-17-602, R33 Exploratory/Developmental Grants Phase II, RFA-MH-17-604 R61/R33 Exploratory/Developmental  Phased Award, RFA-MH-17-606 R33 Exploratory/Developmental Grants Phase II, RFA-MH-17-608  R01 Research Project Grant,

RFA-MH-17-610 Collab R01 Research Project Grant,

RFA-MH-17-612 R34 Planning Grant,

RFA-MH-17-614 R01 Research Project Grant

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

93.242 

Funding Opportunity Purpose

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to support the early stage testing of pharmacologic interventions with novel mechanisms of action, or device-based interventions, for the treatment of symptoms or domains of altered functions in individuals with mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia, depression, autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.).  Early intervention studies are also encouraged where symptoms of a disorder have been identified in subjects (a prodromal phase), prior to full diagnostic criteria being met.  Ultimately, this FOA is intended to support early stage testing of pharmacologic or device-based interventions using a protocol design where the presumed mechanism of action of the intervention is adequately tested, to provide meaningful information where target modulation yields a dose-dependent neurophysiological/clinical/behavioral effect.  The R61/R33 FOAs are intended to support biphasic high risk applications. Applicants looking for a single phased award that does not need the developmental (R61) phase should apply to companion RFA-MH-17-602.   

Key Dates

 

Posted Date

December 13, 2016

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

January 15, 2017

Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

30 days prior to the application due date

Application Due Date(s)

February 15, 2017; June 15, 2017; October 15, 2017, February 15, 2018, June 15, 2018, October 15, 2018, by 5:00 PM local time of applicant organization. All types of non-AIDS applications allowed for this funding opportunity announcement are due on these dates.

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

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

July 2017; November, 2017; March 2018, July 2018, November 2018, March 2019

Advisory Council Review

October 2017, January 2018, May 2018, October 2018, January 2019, May 2019

Earliest Start Date

December 2017, April 2018, July 2018, December 2018, April 2019, July 2019

Expiration Date

October 16, 2018

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow 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 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.


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. Go to Grants.gov to download an application package to complete the application forms offline or create a Workspace to complete the forms online; submit your application to Grants.gov; and track your application in eRA Commons.
Learn more about the various submission options.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Overview Information
Part 2. Full Text of the Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Section II. Award Information
Section III. Eligibility Information
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
Section V. Application Review Information
Section VI. Award Administration Information
Section VII. Agency Contacts
Section VIII. Other Information


Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Research Objectives

In the last few years, pharmaceutical companies have shifted their focus away from psychiatric indications, due to the high failure rate of drug approvals, with many of the failures occurring in late stage development after significant funding and testing had occurred.  Meanwhile, neuromodulatory device companies have received FDA clearance for novel approaches to treat serious mental illness (e.g. transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression and deep brain stimulation (DBS) for obsessive compulsive disorder), and improvements in the safety and durability of electroconvulsive therapy have been studied.  However, promising leads for the use of invasive and non-invasive neuromodulatory devices for a broader range of medication-resistant conditions await definitive evaluation.  Two large multi-center trials evaluating promising leads for deep brain stimulation in the treatment of depression did not result in a deeper mechanistic understanding of why those trials did not meet expected outcomes, despite encouraging studies leading up to and subsequent to these trials.

Given the high risk of failure for these CNS intervention studies, there is a need to re-design early stage trials to incorporate objective measures that adequately test both the delivered dosage and the proposed mechanism of action of the intervention in humans and determine if the intervention target has been modulated.  In response to these emergent issues, NIMH has developed this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to encourage Phased Innovation (R61/R33) grant applications that support early stage, novel pharmacologic and device-based intervention studies that incorporate an experimental medicine approach to validate molecular/circuit-based targets and evaluate their association with neurophysiological/behavioral/clinical benefit, as measured through improvements in a symptom or a domain of clinical function.  In this approach, clinical studies should be designed so that even negative results will provide meaningful information:  1) does the intervention selectively engage/modulate the target in a dose/stimulus- dependent manner (here, ‘selectively’ means ratio of action between target and non-target is high enough to support a clinically acceptable risk/benefit ratio)?; 2) if yes, are those doses that enable target engagement independent of side effects and potential safety issues?; and 3) if target engagement occurs, is a measurable change in function demonstrated (i.e. is clinical benefit observed as detected through functional domains or clinical measures)?   If these results are not obtained, the molecular/circuit-based mechanism has not been validated and should not be pursued further.

This FOA uses a phased innovation approach (R61/R33) to manage the risk associated with these early stage clinical studies, by requiring a demonstration of the intervention’s effect on the proposed site of action (intervention’s molecular/circuit-based target) before moving into the R33 phase of the award.  Specifically, the FOA provides support for up to two years (R61 phase) for milestone-driven testing, refinement, and/or validation of the intervention’s engagement with an empirically-supported, measurable molecular/circuit-based target.  If milestones are successfully obtained, the grantee can be awarded up to 3 additional years of support (R33 phase) for studies to confirm target engagement in a larger sample and assess the relationship between target engagement and changes in functional outcomes or clinical symptoms/functional domains. Results from the R33 phase should provide enough evidence to determine whether further development of the intervention is warranted.  This FOA strongly encourages the testing of interventions not previously approved/marketed for psychiatric disorders, including: 1) interventions in active development; 2) pharmacologic interventions repurposed from approved/marketed non-CNS indications; 3) pharmacologic agents discontinued from development in the indication where they were originally developed (see http://www.ncats.nih.gov/ntu/assets/current for a list of examples provided through the NCATS 2014 Industry-Provided Assets); and 4) expanding uses of stimulation devices.

Studies testing multimodal interventions (e.g. a novel pharmacologic agent/device designed to augment a psychosocial intervention such as exposure therapy) are acceptable under this FOA, as long as the pharmacologic agent or the device being tested is novel.

All drugs/devices to be tested must have passed Phase I safety studies.  In addition, responsive pediatric applications must be testing drugs that have already been approved for use in pediatrics in non-psychiatric indications, and are now being repositioned.   Applications to conduct Phase Ia First in Human testing of new chemical entities or trials of novel first-in-children pharmacological agents or federal regulated devices designed for brain stimulation in pediatric populations (i.e., first exposure in children or first in pediatric indication) should be directed to PAR-14-107 "First in Human and Early Stage Clinical Trials of Novel Investigational Drugs or Devices for Psychiatric Disorders (U01)".  Applications that combine industry and academic effort into the design and management of the trial should also apply to PAR-14-107.  Applications focused on clinical trials to establish the effectiveness of interventions where efficacy has already been demonstrated , and to test hypotheses regarding moderators, mediators, and mechanisms of action of these interventions should be directed to RFA-MH-17-608 "Clinical Trials to Test the Effectiveness of Treatment, Preventive, and Services Interventions (R01)", RFA-MH-17-610 "Clinical Trials to Test the Effectiveness of Treatment, Preventive, and Services Interventions (Collaborative R01)" or RFA-MH-17-612 "Pilot Effectiveness Trails for Treatment, Preventive and Services Interventions (R34)", or any subsequent re-issuances of these FOAs.

Applicants are also strongly encouraged to review the information on the NIMH website focused on clinical trials:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/funding/clinical-trials-for-researchers/index.shtml.

Please note, per NOT-MH-14-007, these clinical studies will not be accepted under the R01, R03 orR21   parent announcements.

NIMH is specifically interested in novel molecular targets (for drugs) and circuit-based targets (for brain stimulation devices) and how they relate to functional domains or symptom(s) of mental disorders as opposed to broad diagnostic categories in which not all subjects may share the same underlying disease process. For example, NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) constructs may be helpful in considering subject stratification, in clinical targets, or as intermediate outcome measures.  It’s important to note that other non-RDoC constructs may be suitable as well, especially if they maximize the probability that subjects share the same mechanism of disorder.

Where feasible and appropriate, applicants are strongly encouraged to include assessment of suicidal behavior (attempts or ideation) using strategies that can facilitate the sharing of data (e.g., see NOT-MH-15-009 and https://www.phenxtoolkit.org/ for constructs and corresponding assessment strategies).

Examples of studies that are not responsive to this FOA and will not be reviewed include the following:

  • Applications whose scope of work does not include the objective measurement of molecular/circuit-based target engagement, the choice of which is supported by empirical evidence of its potential relationship in the functional domain(s) or symptoms, and of its potential to address an unmet therapeutic need. 
  • Animal studies.
  • Applications using only the R61 mechanism or only the R33 mechanism will not be accepted under this FOA.  Applicants who already have sufficient preliminary data to progress to the R33 phase should apply directly to RFA-MH-17-602 "Early Stage Testing of Pharmacologic or Device-based Interventions for the Treatment of Mental Disorders (R33)". 
  • Applications that propose to test pharmacological or device-based interventions where there are studies already underway to test them in that population and with the same target.  Applicants should check ClinicalTrials.gov to determine if the project they are considering is innovative or not. 

Applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with NIMH staff when developing plans for an application (see Agency Contacts, Section VII). This early contact will provide an opportunity to clarify NIMH policies and guidelines, identify whether the proposed project is consistent with NIMH program priorities, and to discuss how to develop an appropriate project timeline, which is subject to peer review.

For multi-site trials, use of centralized IRBs is encouraged.

The R61 Phase

The R61 phase focuses on testing whether the molecular/circuit-based target can be modulated by varying the dose or stimulation exposure in clinical studies.  Target modulation needs to be measured objectively and may assess intervention effects at the molecular, circuit, neural oscillatory, or system level (i.e., target engagement), and may also include a preliminary assessment of symptoms/domains if an acute study is not feasible due to a safety need for incremental dosing. The specific activities and milestones appropriate for the R61 phase will depend on the type of intervention under study and its stage of development. Generally, these activities and milestones include: 1) objective measures of the molecular/circuit-based target and hypothesized mechanism of action (including ratio of target versus non-target activity); 2) evidence that the measure(s) of target engagement can be reliably and validly manipulated in a dose-dependent fashion; 3) demonstration of adequate target engagement with established dose selection or stimulus range; 4) feasibility data to indicate that an adequate dose range for the intervention can be applied in the selected human population with good safety and tolerability; and 5) adequate and feasible recruitment plans to enable study completion in two years.

Additional information for specific intervention types

Medical devices. All aspects of delivered dose should be thoroughly defined, modeled, and where appropriate, measured, including its spatial and temporal components, as well as the context of its administration.  Characterization of the spatial aspects of delivered dose for electromagnetic devices should use realistic head modeling to simulate the amplitude of the electric field induced across the brain, and should evaluate degree of target to non-target stimulation.  Characterization of temporal elements of dosage should specify pulse shape, pulse direction, frequency, train duration, inter-train interval, etc.  Characterization of the context of delivered dosage should specify brain state at time of administration, engagement in on-line or off-line cognitive/behavioral therapies, social context of device delivery, concomitant pharmacological intervention, etc.  Evaluation of target engagement should use on-line (e.g., TMS/fMRI interleaving, TCS-EEG, TMS-PET, DBS-EEG) or off-line (PET, fMRI/rsfcMRI, MRS, etc) approaches, depending on the nature of the spatial anatomical and/or neural oscillatory targets.  Note that ‘dose’ of neuromodulatory devices refers to all aspects of the administered electric field or alternative form of energy, including the spatial distribution (e.g., where in the brain the electric field or other form of energy is deposited, and its amplitude at each location), the temporal characteristics (e.g., pulse shape, pulse direction, frequency, train duration, inter-train interval, etc), and the contextual aspects of when and how the dose is administered (e.g., temporal correspondence to underlying neural oscillations in an open or closed-loop fashion, brain state at time of administration, engagement in on-line or off-line cognitive/behavioral therapies, social context of device delivery, concomitant pharmacological intervention, etc).

Focus should be placed on identifying the stimulation paradigm (including the spatial, temporal, and contextual features) that most effectively results in a CNS modification, based on the proposed mechanism of action of the intervention to improve symptoms/domains.  Subjects randomized should be the patient population (not healthy controls).  Careful attention should be paid to time-course of action. In the event of rapidly acting interventions, where clinical change is expected acutely during administration (as in the case of intra-operative stimulation with DBS), it is necessary to use outcome measures that are sensitive to rapid clinical change (e.g. neurocognitive task performance, quantification of behavioral/speech/facial measures, etc.).

Additionally, sham/control--stimulus comparators should be included.  In the event that a sham is used, demonstration not only of adequate masking procedures but also lack of biological action that would exert CNS effects must be provided.  In the event of implanted neurostimulators, blinded discontinuation designs may be particularly useful.

Pharmacological interventions:  Evaluation of target engagement should use positron emission tomography (PET), if available, to establish receptor occupancy (RO). If RO was previously established, it should be used together with PK data to help inform initial dose range in the R61.  Pharmacological intervention studies must include a functional pharmacodynamic (PD) readout as well as plasma drug levels (which can be compared to existing pharmacokinetic (PK) data). The PD readout may be based on acute dosing and if appropriate, may be tested in healthy controls or in patients.  Studies to adapt pharmacologic interventions to pediatric populations should be directed to PAR-14-107 "First in Human and Early Stage Clinical Trials of Novel Investigational Drugs or Devices for Psychiatric Disorders (U01)”. Studies of multi-target drugs or dietary supplements will be considered only if the study design can provide non-ambiguous results about all the CNS targets of interest.

The R61 phase will support development of novel interventions, including testing safety and determining an optimal dose/stimulus range for a subsequent trial by assessing dose-response with respect to pharmacokinetic (PK), if appropriate, and a functional pharmacodynamic (PD) readout of target engagement. Adequate functional target engagement, in relationship to PK and dosing must be a key criterion of a “go/no-go” decision to move from the R61 to R33 phase.

The R33 Phase

Funding for the R33 phase is contingent on successfully meeting the milestones in the R61 phase (see Section VI. Award Administration Information, 1. Award Notices for further information).

Pilot studies supported by the R33 phase should be powered for testing the link between the degree of the intervention's target engagement and functional outcomes in a patient population, in a dose ranging study. In addition to the aims of testing safety and measuring target engagement, functional/symptoms will be measured and evaluated for how they associate with target engagement.  Specific R33 activities may also include: 1) evaluating how the molecular/circuit-based target relates to biomarkers/measures of brain function and domains of functions, as well as symptom/functional measures; 2) further testing of the intervention’s feasibility, safety, and acceptability; 3) evaluating the feasibility of recruitment, randomization (if appropriate), retention, assessments, and reporting of adverse events; and 4) developing target engagement, brain functional and symptom/functional measures.  It is not expected that the R33 phase would be powered for efficacy.

The results of the R33 phase should inform a decision about whether the intervention has the potential to substantially improve functional/symptom outcomes, including evidence of safety, tolerability; alter CNS physiology; and strength of the association between target engagement and change in symptoms/function.

Other Resources

Applicants are encouraged to leverage existing resources and infrastructure such as those provided by institutions with Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) and/or other existing consortia/networks to promote efficient cross-disciplinary collaborations.

Applicants with data collection plans that involve multiple respondent groups (e.g., clients/patients, therapists/providers, supervisors, administrators) should address provisions for human subject protections and consenting procedures for all participant groups, accordingly. The NIMH has published updated policies and guidance for investigators regarding human research protection and clinical research data and safety monitoring (NOT-MH-15-025). The application's Protection of Human Subjects section and data and safety monitoring plans should reflect the policies and guidance in this notice. Plans for the protection of research subjects and data and safety monitoring will be NIMH for consistency with NIMH and NIH policies and federal regulations. See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Grant: A support mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity.

Application Types Allowed

New
Resubmission from RFA-MH-15-300, RFA-MH-16-400 or RFA-MH-17-602
Revision from RFA-MH-15-300, RFA-MH-16-400 or RFA-MH-17-602

The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

NIMH intends to commit $27 million in FY 2018 to fund this FOA and the companion FOAs listed in Part 1. Overview Information.

Award Budget

Application budgets are not limited but need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.

Award Project Period

The scope of the proposed project should determine the project period. The maximum period of the combined R61 and R33 phases is 5 years, with up to 2 years for the R61 phase and up to 3 years for the R33 phase. Applications with a project period less than 5 years are encouraged where feasible.      

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
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:

o   Hispanic-serving Institutions

o   Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)

o   Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs)

o   Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions

o   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)

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)
  • 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) (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.

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

Buttons to access the online ASSIST system or to download application forms 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 Research (R) 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:

Email: NIMHClinicalTrials@mail.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. with the following additional instructions.

Other Attachments: Applicants should upload the attachments described below, as separate files.  Applicants should use the headers below to name these other attachment files (i.e., “Recruitment and Study Timeline, FDA Regulations and Additional Documentation” and “Intervention Manual/ Protocol Materials” (if applicable)) and use the format, below, in their description of the Participant Recruitment/Retention Procedures and the Study Timeline. 

I. "Recruitment Study Timeline and FDA Regulations” (Required): Applications that lack this attachment will be considered incomplete and will not be reviewed.  Note: Recruitment and Study Timeline and FDA Regulations must be no more than 4 pages, and include Sections A-C described below. Applications that exceed this limit will not be reviewed.

A.  Participant Recruitment and Retention Procedures.   Applications must provide a clear description of:

  • Recruitment and Referral sources, including detailed descriptions of the census/rate of new cases and anticipated yield of eligible participants from each source;
  • Procedures that will be used to monitor enrollment and track/retain participants for follow-up assessments;
  • Strategies that will be used to ensure a diverse, representative sample;
  • Potential recruitment/enrollment challenges and strategies that can be implemented in the event of enrollment shortfalls (e.g., additional outreach procedures, alternate/back-up referral sources);
  • Evidence to support the feasibility of enrollment under this accelerated timeline (compared to traditional R01s), including descriptions of prior experiences and yield from research efforts employing similar referral sources and/or strategies.

B. Timeline: Applications must provide a timeline for reaching important study milestones such as: (i) finalizing the study procedures, standard operating procedures, assessment protocols and training participating clinical site staff; (ii) enrollment milestones; (iii) completing all subject assessments and data collection activities, including all data quality checks; (iv) analyzing and interpreting results;  (v) preparing de-identified data and relevant documentation to facilitate data sharing, as appropriate; and  (vi) presenting a timeline for establishing necessary agreements with all partners (e.g., compound or device supplier for the studies).

C. FDA-regulations: For studies of pharmacologic compounds and devices, at the time of the application’s submission, there must be either an open Investigational New Drug application (IND) or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) in place, or a documented FDA-submitted application/request for an IND or IDE. The grant application should describe the status of any such pending regulatory submissions.  If an FDA IND or IDE application/request has not yet been submitted by the time of the grant application submission due date, the grant application should describe the plan and timeline for submitting the request for and obtaining the IND/IDE. If the drug/device is exempt from the IND/IDE, the grant application should include the justification and documentation for why the drug/device would be exempt.

II."Additional documentation"  All necessary agreements for use of the drug or device in the study, including clinical research agreements and licensing agreements, must be executed prior to grant award. There must be documentation of sufficient formulated supply or devices and matching placebo/sham stimulation devices available for testing at the time of award, including expiration date (as appropriate). Documentation should be provided from the 3rd party supplying the drug or device. A timeline should be included in the application showing activities with 3rd parties, such as: 1) execution of necessary agreements, 2) availability of drug or device, and 3) permission to reference an open IND/IDE (as applicable). There are no page limits for this information (Section D).

III. “Intervention Manual/ Protocol Materials” (if applicable): It is strongly recommended that intervention protocols and manuals be included as an Other Attachment, if applicable. As appropriate, this may include screenshots of mobile interventions, technological specifications, training manuals or treatment algorithms.

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed with the following additional instructions:

As appropriate, Senior/Key Personnel should demonstrate their expertise and track record in pharmacologic or device-based clinical trials, including expertise in industry-funded trials, recruitment and retention of trial subjects and methodological and statistical expertise. Also include recent collaborative clinical research efforts among members of the proposed team, if any. Describe the expertise within the research team in the measurement methods proposed (e.g., PET, fMRI, MRS, task based measures).

Provide evidence that the PD(s)/PI(s) successfully carried out studies of similar structure and complexity as in the current application in the specified setting.

R&R Budget

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

The R61 and R33 cannot be funded in the same fiscal year.

Budget Justification: For each budget year, indicate if the requested budget is for the R61 phase or the R33 phase. Describe the staffing for conducting the study as proposed and within specified timelines.

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: Include headers titled R61 Specific Aims and R33 Specific Aims and state the specific objectives of the research effort in the two phases of this project. Provide a concise description of the experimental medicine-designed clinical study(s) as well as how the proposed intervention could fill an important unmet need for those living with mental disorders.

Research Strategy: Applicants should include the following sections as part of the Research Strategy. Applications should not duplicate information provided in the attachment described in Section IV.2., “SF424 (R&R) Other Project Information”, but may reference it to provide context as needed.

Significance: In this section of the Research Strategy, the application should:

  • Describe the unmet therapeutic need that will be addressed by the intervention. Describe the intervention’s potential to significantly reduce the burden of serious mental illness.
  • Propose a novel intervention with a strong, well-supported theoretical rationale that is ready for early-phase testing.
  • Propose clear hypotheses that are refutable. Describe how the project will advance knowledge of intervention and its potential mechanism of action, whether the trial results are positive or negative.
  • Present a clear rationale for the effect size for the proposed study.

Investigators:

  • Describe the combined expertise of the research team as a whole in terms of its ability to promote synergy and cover the critical elements of clinical trials expertise, track record in successfully conducting early clinical trials (e.g. subject recruitment and retention rates, reporting in clinicaltrials.gov, publications, experience in industry-funded trials), methodological and statistical expertise, and experience in all measures to be included in the study. (e.g., handling repeated measures designs, missing data, effect size).
  • Describe the governance, and organizational structure for conducting the study as proposed and within specified timelines

Innovation: In this section of the Research Strategy, the application should:

Propose compelling rationale that the intervention selected is highly innovative (not already approved for a psychiatric indication, not ones used in standard practice such as SSRIs and ECT) and addresses an unmet therapeutic need, or otherwise has the potential for substantially improving outcomes for people with mental disorders. Innovation is reflected in the choice of a novel molecular/CNS target.

Approach: In this section of the Research Strategy, the application should:

  • Provide a compelling scientific rationale for the protocol chosen. Present a clearly-specified molecular/circuit-based target and how target engagement relates to biomarkers/measures of brain function and domain of function as well as symptoms/function.  Present a clear conceptual framework that includes relevant empirical support for the intervention, its mechanism of action, and how the mechanism of action should lead to functional improvement.
  • Provide a clear rationale for the choice of clinical domain or measure of function in a clinical population (it may be a population that is selected or enriched on the basis of a measure of function or biomarker.)

Describe both the R61 and R33 phases:

  • For the R61 phase, the study design will include the approach to determine dose/stimulus response relationships, PK (for drugs), electric field modeling (for devices) and target engagement, to determine a narrower dose range that adequately engages the target, for use in the R33 phase. 
  • Address whether a tolerable and safe dose range has been proposed that will adequately test the mechanism, with sufficient target exposure. Present a sufficiently robust and reproducible body of evidence to support the study hypothesis and rationale. When appropriate, include pre-clinical data supporting the intervention approach.  Provide information on the specificity, safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and brain penetration to support the study, to provide evidence that this is the right intervention to test the hypothesis. Note:  Drugs must be sufficiently potent and selective for critical evaluation of target engagement and brain exposure.  Studies of multi-target drugs (e.g. triple re-uptake inhibitors) will only be considered if the study design can provide non-ambiguous results about the CNS targets of interest, where each molecular target is measured for engagement, not just one.  Devices must be appropriately designed to selectively reach the anatomical target.  For deep penetrating devices, it must be demonstrated that deep targets are effectively and selectively reached, with a clinically acceptable target-to-nontarget ratio.  Claims of deep targeting using noninvasive devices must be accompanied with rigorous pre-clinical and modeling data supporting the claims.
  • Propose a rigorous test of target engagement and strong milestones (Go/No-Go Criteria) in the R61 phase. The research strategy should utilize reliable, objective and valid measures of target engagement, including dose and/or stimulus optimization to definitively test the intervention’s ability to modulate the target.  Additionally, safety and side effects need to be carefully monitored.
  • In the R33 Phase, further validate the dose or stimulus range needed for target engagement, based on the R61 results, and collect additional data using reliable outcome measures that quantify changes in the disorder, functional domain, or symptom(s) within the context of a trial.
  • Describe how the properly controlled, GCP standard, validation study will be conducted, not limited to these examples of methodologies: placebo controlled, PK, plasma levels of drugs, safety, and tolerability. Additionally, describe: a) how the stimulation/dose exposure range will be narrowed in the R33 phase based on the initial target engagement findings in the R61 phase and how replication and extension will be conducted and b) how this phase will evaluate associations between target engagement and subsequent symptom or functional change. Describe how sufficient data will be collected in the R33 phase in order to determine molecular/CNS target validation, based on relationships between target engagement, measures of brain function and clinical or functional effects.
  • Describe the feasibility of the approach in terms of having in place all the necessary elements to carry out data acquisition and analysis in a timely manner.  This information is critical because of the shorter timelines required for these studies.

Where feasible and appropriate, applicants are strongly encouraged to include assessment of suicidal behavior (attempts or ideation) in applications responding to this FOA using strategies that can facilitate the sharing of data (see NOT-MH-15-009 and https://www.phenxtoolkit.org/ for constructs and corresponding assessment strategies).

Milestones (Go/No-Go Criteria): Applications must provide a section titled “Milestones (Go/No-Go Criteria)", which addresses the following issues:

Adequate functional target engagement must be a key criterion of a “go/no-go” decision to move from the R61 to R33 phase. This section should include a clear description of the R61 phase milestones that, if met, will justify taking the proposed intervention into the R33 pilot study. The milestones proposed in the application must be pre-specified, objective, quantifiable, rigorously defined, feasible (in terms of timeline and approach), and scientifically justified to assess milestone achievement and operational feasibility relevant to advancing from the R61 to the R33 phase. Criteria of success in target engagement must be defined in terms of outcomes achieved (e.g., specific measures of target engagement) rather than as tasks completed, and quantitative threshold values should be specified for the proposed measures. The criteria for success should be designed to: (a) demonstrate that the intervention displays dose/stimulation-dependent effects at the proposed site of action (thus providing an initial proof of mechanism), and (b) provide preliminary evidence that at the same dose/stimulation range that modulates the CNS, safety issues and side effects impacting tolerability are not evident to the patients.  Conditions should be clearly spelled out under which the PI would not proceed to the R33 phase. 

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, with the following modification:

In order to advance the goal of advancing research through widespread data sharing among researchers, investigators funded under this FOA are expected to share those data via the National Database for Clinical Trials related to Mental Illness (NDCT; http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/; see NOT-MH-14-015 and NOT-MH-15-012). Established by the NIH, NDCT is a secure informatics platform for scientific collaboration and data-sharing that enables the effective communication of detailed research data, tools, and supporting documentation. NDCT links data across research projects through its Global Unique Identifier (GUID) and Data Dictionary technology. Investigators funded under this FOA are expected to use these technologies to submit data to NDCT.

To accomplish this objective, it will be important to formulate a) an enrollment strategy that will obtain the information necessary to generate a GUID for each participant, and b) a budget strategy that will cover the costs of data submission. The NDCT web site provides two tools to help investigators develop appropriate strategies: 1) the NDCT Budgeting Spreadsheet http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/preplanning/budget - a customizable Excel worksheet that includes tasks and hours for the Program Director/Principal Investigator and Data Manager to budget for data sharing; and 2) plain language text to be considered in your informed consent http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/preplanning/informed-consent. Investigators are expected to certify the quality of all data generated by grants funded under this FOA prior to submission to NDCT and review their data for accuracy after submission. Submission of descriptive/raw data is expected semi-annually (every January 15 and July 15); submission of all other data is expected at the time of publication, or prior to the end of the grant, whichever occurs first (see Data Sharing Expectation http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/preplanning/#tab-1 for more information); Investigators are expected to share results, positive and negative, specific to the cohorts and outcome measures studied by using the Study functionality(see http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/results). The NDCT Data Sharing Plan is available for review on the NDCT web site (http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/NDCT_Data_Sharing_Policy_20141002.pdf ). NDCT staff will work with investigators to help them submit data types not yet defined in the NDCT Data Dictionary http://ndct.nimh.nih.gov/submit/data-dictionary.

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.

PHS Inclusion Enrollment Report

When conducting clinical research, follow all instructions for completing PHS Inclusion Enrollment Report as described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

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 Applying Electronically. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Guidelines for Applicants Experiencing System Issues. 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.

In order to expedite review, applicants are requested to notify the NIMH Referral Office by email at nimhreferral@mail.nih.gov when the application has been submitted. Please include the FOA number and title, PD/PI name, and title of the application.

Use of Common Data Elements in NIH-funded Research

NIMH encourages the use of common data elements (CDEs) in basic, clinical, and applied research, patient registries, and other human subject research to facilitate broader and more effective use of data and advance research across studies. CDEs are data elements that have been identified and defined for use in multiple data sets across different studies. Use of CDEs can facilitate data sharing and standardization to improve data quality and enable data integration from multiple studies and sources, including electronic health records. NIH ICs have identified CDEs for many clinical domains (e.g., neurological disease), types of studies (e.g. genome-wide association studies (GWAS)), types of outcomes (e.g., patient-reported outcomes), and patient registries (e.g., the Global Rare Diseases Patient Registry and Data Repository). NIH has established a "Common Data Element (CDE) Resource Portal" (http://cde.nih.gov/) to assist investigators in identifying NIH-supported CDEs when developing protocols, case report forms, and other instruments for data collection. The Portal provides guidance about and access to NIH-supported CDE initiatives and other tools and resources for the appropriate use of CDEs and data standards in NIH-funded research. Investigators are encouraged to consult the Portal and describe in their applications any use they will make of NIH-supported CDEs in their projects.

 
Post Submission Materials

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

Section V. Application Review Information
1. Criteria

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.

For this particular announcement, note the following:

The R61/R33 phased innovation grant supports investigation of novel scientific ideas or new interventions, model systems, tools, or technologies that have the potential for significant impact on biomedical or behavioral and social sciences research. An R61/R33 grant application need not have preliminary data; however, they may be included if available. Appropriate justification for the proposed work can be provided through literature citations, data from other sources, or, when available, from investigator-generated data.  Accordingly, reviewers will focus their evaluation on the conceptual framework, the level of innovation, and the potential to significantly advance our knowledge or understanding.  Reviewers will assign a single impact score for the entire application, which includes both the R61 and R33 phases. Peer reviewers will address the strengths and weaknesses of each phase of the award in their review as both phases may not garner the same degree of enthusiasm. 

 
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 there a strong scientific premise for the project? 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? 

Could the intervention fill an important unmet therapeutic need for those living with a mental disorder, or substantially (not incrementally) improve clinical care?

Does the proposed project have the potential to validate or reject the molecular/CNS target being tested?  Does it propose a novel intervention with a strong, well-supported theoretical rationale that is ready for early-phase testing?  Will the project advance knowledge of the intervention and its potential mechanism of action, whether the trial results are positive or negative?

Is there a clear rationale for the effect size?

Investigator(s)

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?  Is there sufficient evidence that the investigators can work as a team?  Does the research team have demonstrated industry-funded clinical trials expertise and a track record in successfully conducting early clinical trials (e.g., subject recruitment and retention rates, reporting in clinicaltrials.gov, publications, GCP training and maintenance, blinding to randomization assignment, rater reliability assessments, effective management of all of the activities listed here)? Does the investigative team have sufficient methodological and statistical expertise in the study to evaluate target engagement, brain functional effects and functional outcomes (e.g., association of these different measures, handling repeated measures designs, missing data, effect size)? Does the investigative team include sufficient expertise in the measurement methods proposed, e.g., PK/PD, PET, fMRI, MRS, task-based measures? Does the investigative team have sufficient expertise in measurement methods to ensure consistent application of those measures to limit site drift during data collection? 

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? 

Does the application introduce a novel, well-specified intervention (not ones used in standard practice such as SSRIs and ECT), and address an unmet therapeutic need, or otherwise have the potential for substantially improving outcomes for people with mental disorders? Innovation is also reflected in the choice of a novel molecular/CNS target.  Is the rationale for the intervention and molecular/CNS target based on empirical evidence about how the mechanism may be involved in producing an improvement in symptoms or function? 

Is it clearly-specified how molecular/circuit-based target engagement relates to biomarkers/measures of brain function and domain of function as well as symptoms/function?  Does the application include a clear conceptual framework, and relevant empirical support, for the intervention, its mechanism of action, and how the mechanism of action should lead to functional improvement?

Approach

Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the 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? 

Is the study design properly controlled including variables such as (but not limited to) PK, blinded control arm, GCP standards, sufficient safety and tolerability monitoring?

Is there a strong conceptual rationale, including empirical support, for choice of the intervention, the molecular/CNS target, how the target affects brain function, and potential for the intervention to alter the target and how it should lead to clinical improvement?   Is there a clear rationale for the choice of clinical domain or measure of function in a clinical population (note: it may be a population that is selected or enriched on the basis of a measure of function or biomarker)?  Is the rationale for the selection of the intervention in terms of potency, selectivity and mechanism of action strong? Is there a compelling scientific rationale for the biological measures (RO, PK, PD, and intermediate outcome measures) used to assess the link between target engagement and clinical effect?

Does the R61 phase of the study include the approach to determine dose response relationships, PK (for drugs), electric field modeling (for devices) and target engagement to determine a narrower dose range that adequately engages the target, in the R33 phase?  Is the need for the R61 phase well justified; is there a need to test target engagement in a proof of concept phase?

Has a tolerable and safe dose range been proposed that will adequately test the mechanism, with sufficient target exposure? Does the applicant present a sufficiently robust and reproducible body of evidence to support the study hypothesis and rationale? When appropriate, were pre-clinical data included to support the intervention approach?  Was sufficient information provided on the specificity, safety, e-field modeling, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and brain penetration to support the study, to provide evidence that this is the right intervention to test the hypothesis? Note:  Drugs and devices must be sufficiently potent and selective for critical evaluation of target engagement and brain exposure.  If multi-target drugs are proposed (e.g. triple re-uptake inhibitors), does the study design provide non-ambiguous results about the CNS targets of interest, such that each molecular target is measured for engagement, not just one target? 

Is a rigorous test of target engagement and strong go/no-go milestones in the R61 phase included in the application? Does the research strategy utilize reliable, objective and valid measures of target engagement, including dose and/or stimulus optimization to definitively test the intervention’s ability to modulate the target?  Does the strategy include careful monitoring of safety and side effects? 

In the R33 Phase, is there a plan for further validation of the dose or stimulus range needed for target engagement, based on the R61 results, and will additional data be collected using reliable outcome measures that depict changes in the disorder, functional domain, or symptom(s) within the context of a trial?

Has the applicant described how the properly controlled, GCP standard, validation study will be conducted, not limited to these examples of methodologies: placebo controlled, PK, plasma levels of drugs, safety, and tolerability? Additionally, have they described: a) how the stimulation/dose exposure range will be narrowed in the R33 phase based on the initial target engagement findings in the R66 phase and how replication and extension will be conducted, and b) how this phase will evaluate associations between target engagement and subsequent symptom or functional change? Will sufficient data be collected in the R33 phase in order to determine molecular/CNS target validation, based on relationships between target engagement, measures of brain function and symptom or functional effects?  Is there a clear strategy for tracking recruitment and facilitating retention?

Is there sufficient detail about intervention delivery and monitoring? Will results from the R33 phase definitively validate or reject the clinical target (through associations between target engagement and subsequent clinical or functional change)?  Is there evidence of safety, tolerance, protocol feasibility; preliminary signal of symptom or functional improvement; and strength of the association between target engagement and change in clinical status?

Is the approach feasible in terms of having in place all the necessary elements to carry out data acquisition and analysis in a timely manner?  This information is critical because of the shorter timelines required for these studies.

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?  

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?

Does the environment support timely subject recruitment and completion of each of the two phases (R61 and R33)?

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.

Milestones (Go/No-Go Criteria)

Are quantitative criteria pre-specified and rigorously defined to assess milestone achievement and operational feasibility relevant to advancing from the R61 to the R33 phase? Are success criteria defined in terms of outcomes achieved (e.g., specific measures of target engagement) rather than as tasks completed? Are R61 milestones feasible, well developed and quantifiable with regard to the specific aims of each stage to assess optimal dosing? Are quantitative threshold values specified for the proposed measures? Are the criteria rigorous enough in: (a) demonstrating that the intervention displays dose/stimulation-dependent effects at the proposed site of action (thus providing an initial proof of mechanism), and (b) providing preliminary evidence that at the same dose/stimulation range that modulates the CNS, safety issues and side effects impacting tolerability are not evident to the patients?  Does the application specify conditions under which they would not proceed to the R33 phase?

Timeline

Is there a realistic timeline for establishing necessary agreements with all partners (e.g., compound or device supplier for the studies)? Is there evidence that all necessary regulatory clearances and permissions (e.g., IND for compound, permissions for rating scales) have been obtained or will be in place before funding?

Are the recruitment plan and procedures manageable under this accelerated timeline? Are strategies proposed to minimize recruitment shortfalls?

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.

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

For Resubmissions, the committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group and changes made to the project.

Renewals

Not Applicable

Revisions

For Revisions, the committee will consider the appropriateness of the proposed expansion of the scope of the project. If the Revision application relates to a specific line of investigation presented in the original application that was not recommended for approval by the committee, then the committee will consider whether the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group are adequate and whether substantial changes are clearly evident.

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 NIMH, 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 appropriate National Advisory Council or 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.

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 law. This means that recipients of HHS funds must ensure equal access to their programs without regard to a person’s race, color, national origin, disability, age and, in some circumstances, sex and religion. This includes ensuring your programs are accessible to persons with limited English proficiency.  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. HHS provides general guidance to recipients of FFA on meeting their legal obligation to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to their programs by persons with limited English proficiency. Please see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/resources/laws/revisedlep.html. The HHS Office for Civil Rights also provides guidance on complying with civil rights laws enforced by HHS. Please see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/section1557/index.html; and http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/index.html. Recipients of FFA also have specific legal obligations for serving qualified individuals with disabilities. Please see http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/disability/index.html. Please contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights for more information about obligations and prohibitions under federal civil rights laws at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/office/about/rgn-hqaddresses.html or call 1-800-368-1019 or TDD 1-800-537-7697. Also note it is an HHS Departmental goal to ensure access to quality, culturally competent care, including long-term services and supports, for vulnerable populations. For further guidance on providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services, recipients should review the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care at http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=2&lvlid=53.

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

Not Applicable

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.

Recruitment Reporting and Trial Registration

NIMH requires reporting of recruitment milestones for participants in all NIMH extramural-funded clinical research studies proposing to enroll 150 or more subjects per study, and all clinical trials, regardless of size (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-MH-16-013.html).  While research in response to this FOA might not seek 150 subjects or more (the level at which this reporting has been required), all trials funded under this FOA must report recruitment milestones, including those with fewer than 150 subjects. This expectation will be stated in the notice of grant award. 

The NIMH expects the registration and results reporting for all NIMH-supported clinical trials, regardless of whether or not they are subject to FDAAA (see http://grants.nih.gov/ClinicalTrials_fdaaa/at-a-glance.htm). This expectation will be stated in the notice of grant award

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.

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 registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, 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)

Grants.gov Customer Support (Questions regarding Grants.gov registration and submission, downloading forms and application packages)
Contact Center Telephone: 800-518-4726

Email: support@grants.gov

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov (preferred method of contact)

Telephone: 301-710-0267

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

For Pediatric Studies

Margaret Grabb, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-3563
Email: mgrabb@mail.nih.gov

For Adult Studies

Mi Hillefors, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone:  301-443-2738
Email:  mi.hillefors@nih.gov

For Geriatric Studies

Jovier Evans, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone:  301-443-6328
Email:  jevans1@mail.nih.gov

Peer Review Contact(s)

David Armstrong, Ph.D.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-3534
Email: armstrda@mail.nih.gov 

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Tamara Kees
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Telephone: 301-443-8811 
Email: tkees@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.

NIH Office of Extramural Research Logo
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - Home Page
Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS)
USA.gov - Government Made Easy
NIH... Turning Discovery Into Health®


Note: For help accessing PDF, RTF, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Audio or Video files, see Help Downloading Files.