Department of Health and Human Services
Part 1. Overview Information
Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is developed as a Common Fund Initiative through the NIH Office of the NIH Director, Office of Strategic Coordination.  The FOA will be administered by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) on behalf of the NIH.

Funding Opportunity Title

Pre-application: Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC):   Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT1)

Activity Code

OT1 Pre-application for an Other Transaction Award 

Announcement Type


Related Notices
Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number


Companion Funding Opportunity

 RFA-RM-15-018, OT2 Research Project -- Other Transaction Award

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


Funding Opportunity Purpose

The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to invite pre-applications from applicants who have an interest in ultimately submitting an application to "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC):  Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT2)" (RFA-RM-15-018).

The OT1 SPARC OT pre-application is the required first step in the application process for the companion OT2 FOA (RFA-RM-15-018).  Potential applicants should read both FOAs.

Applicants whose OT1 pre-applications are found to be meritorious and programmatically relevant will be invited to submit a full application to the OT2 "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC):  Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs" FOA (RFA-RM-15-018).  There will be substantial interaction with NIH Program Staff leading to the development of programmatic and budget elements for an acceptable OT2 application.  OT2 applications must include a copy of the Invitation to Submit from the SPARC program as a requirement for submission.  The Invitation to Submit an OT2 application is not an indication of any award.

No Other Transaction awards will be made under this FOA.

Key Dates
Posted Date

November 16, 2015

Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

December 15, 2015  

Letter of Intent Due Date(s)

Not Applicable

Application Due Date(s)

Applications are accepted bimonthly on or around the 15th of the month:

January 15, 2016           January 17, 2017           January 15, 2018

March 15, 2016              March 15, 2017            

May 16, 2016                 May 15, 2017               

July 15, 2016                 July 14, 2017               

September 15, 2016       September 15, 2017     

November 15, 2016        November 15, 2017  

Applications submitted after 5:00 PM local time of the applicant organization will automatically roll forward to the next due date except for the last due date, for which no late applications will be accepted..

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

Review will be conducted approximately six weeks following the applicable due date

Advisory Council Review

Not Applicable 

Earliest Start Date

Not Applicable 

Expiration Date

January 16, 2018

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable 

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. Applicants must read and follow all application instructions in the Application Guide as well as any program-specific instructions noted in Section IV. When the program-specific instructions deviate from those in the Application Guide, follow the program-specific instructions. Applications that do not comply with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

There are several options to submit your application to the agency through You can use the ASSIST system to prepare, submit and track your application online. You can download an application package from, complete the forms offline, submit the completed forms to and track your application in eRA Commons. Or, you can use other institutional system-to-system solutions to prepare and submit your application to and track your application in eRA Commons. Learn more.

Problems accessing or using ASSIST should be directed to the eRA Service Desk.
Problems downloading forms should be directed to Customer Support.
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

The purpose of this FOA is to invite innovative research pre-applications from applicants who have an interest in submitting an application to "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC):  Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT2)", companion announcement RFA-RM-15-018.  These projects will use a multi-expertise approach to comprehensively understand the neuroanatomy and neurobiology of both afferent and efferent innervation of a major organ, as well as characterize nervous system regulation of function of that organ.  Data from these projects will support the development of detailed, functional and anatomical neural circuit maps by the SPARC data coordination center with the long term goal of significantly advancing development of neuromodulation therapies.  Target organs proposed for these projects must present significant opportunities for developing neuromodulation therapies.


The SPARC program ( is supported by the NIH Common Fund, which supports cross-cutting programs that are expected to have exceptionally high impact. All Common Fund initiatives invite investigators to develop bold, innovative, and often risky approaches to address problems that may seem intractable or to seize new opportunities that offer the potential for rapid progress. The overall goal of the SPARC program is to provide the scientific foundation necessary to pilot new and/or improved closed-loop neuromodulation devices and stimulation protocols to treat diseases and conditions through precise neural control of end-organ system function. Significant advances in neuromodulation therapies to treat disease have led to industry-supported large, randomized and blinded, controlled trials. While the degree of efficacy of the neuromodulation devices has varied depending on the trial and condition under investigation, the data and approach show great promise for scientific and therapeutic development. In many cases, however, the detailed underlying physiology and mechanisms of action of these neuromodulation therapies are poorly understood. This poor understanding, in turn, limits improvement in neuromodulation therapy designs.  Examples of areas where our understanding is incomplete include: what specific and diverse neural signals are carried by nerve fibers at different end organs; what are the functional relationships between neural signals and end-organ responses; whether there is altered peripheral nerve function in some conditions in which neuromodulators are currently utilized; what is the functional relationship between neural stimulation and unwanted side effects; what variability exists in expression/anatomical representation of the neural cell-types at each potential point of implantation; what are the optimal points of surgical intervention relative to the end-organ; what differences exist between animal models and humans with regard to neuroanatomy and control of organ activity by the nervous system; and the extent of variance in these functional mechanisms from subject to subject as they pertain to effects and side effects. 

Through the SPARC program, the NIH plans to support multidisciplinary teams of investigators to deliver:  foundational understanding of the physiological mechanisms of neural control of several major organs, novel electrode designs, minimally invasive surgical procedures, and stimulation protocols. Driven by end goals of improving existing, and developing new, neuromodulation therapies to relieve conditions, the program will be iterative and dynamic, with the technologies informing neural mapping efforts, and the mapping results defining new technology requirements. 

The SPARC program will use recent advances in technology – as well as anticipated new technological developments facilitated by the program – to produce detailed, predictive, functional and anatomical neural circuitry maps of the autonomic and sensory innervation of multiple major organs in humans. These maps will provide a foundation for the development and testing of novel electrodes, stimulation protocols, and minimally invasive surgical procedures to improve existing, or develop new, neuromodulation therapies, and to test existing approved neuromodulation devices in new applications.

The SPARC program is envisioned as four components to be managed in an interactive manner as a consortium in order to achieve the overall SPARC program goals.  To maximize progress, the NIH will actively manage needed expertise, technologies and shared information within the SPARC consortium by adding or subtracting research components as necessary.

The SPARC program will be supported through a combination of Cooperative Agreement and Other Transaction mechanisms.  The projects to be submitted under the companion announcement (RFA-RM-15-018) to this OT1 announcement will use the Other Transaction (OT) mechanism (see SPARC Program Other Transaction Management, below).

The four components of the SPARC program  are: 1) Anatomical and Functional Mapping of the Innervation of Major Organs, 2) Next Generation Tools and Technologies, 3) Use of Existing Market-Approved Technology for New Market Indications, and 4) SPARC Data Coordination. 

Component 1, Anatomical and Functional Mapping of the Innervation of Major Organs, will consist of two phases. The first phase will be addressed by four FOAs (RFA-RM-15-003, RFA-RM-15-018, RFA-RM-15-019 and RFA-RM-15-020) and will focus on anatomical and functional mapping using current state-of-the-art technologies. The second phase of the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component is planned to include application of next generation technologies to enhance and refine the functional mapping, and design and pilot new therapies.  The studies under this component are expected to develop the scientific foundation for more effective use of existing neuromodulation therapies and for development of additional neuromodulation therapies. 

Two types of projects are envisioned during the first phase of the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component. This announcement applies only to Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs.  Support for Foundational Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs projects will be through RFA-RM-15-019 and RFA-RM-15-020

  • Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs projects are appropriate when the knowledge base supports a full, multi-expertise approach to understanding both afferent and efferent components of nervous system control of organ function.  These large projects will comprehensively provide data for the detailed, predictive functional and anatomical neural circuit map for neural control of medically relevant functions of a specific organ and its functionally-associated structures (for example, the bladder and associated sphincter).  It is anticipated that Comprehensive Functional Mapping projects will enable later competitive high resolution mapping projects and pre-clinical testing for new therapies.  
  • Foundational Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs projects are smaller projects focused on major organs where it is necessary to fill current knowledge gaps in order to provide foundational functional neuroanatomy and neurobiology data, potentially leading to a subsequent large Comprehensive Functional Mapping project.

In addition to mapping and characterizing components of the nervous system involved in control of organ function, the SPARC Anatomical and Functional Mapping projects include development of methods to assess the related organ function.

The Anatomical and Functional Mapping projects will be integrated with other SPARC components described below in order to maximize progress and provide data for development of maps.  The descriptions of the other SPARC components, below, are for information only.  These components will be the focus of separate FOAs.

Component 2, Next Generation Tools and Technologies, started with the issuance of RFA-RM-15-002 on Exploratory Technologies to Understand the Control of Organ Function by the Peripheral Nervous System for SPARC (U18).  This FOA was focused on developing exploratory tools and technologies needed to study function and establishing a quantitative scientific foundation for this overall program. The exploratory technologies solicited through this FOA were intended to address the gaps in understanding detailed underlying physiology and targeted mechanisms of action of future neuromodulation therapies.

Additional phases of the Next Generation Tools and Technologies component will include further technology developments to assist in mapping and future development of neuromodulation therapies.  The next generation tools and technologies developed will be responsive to, and freely shared with, other SPARC projects.

The third component, Use of Existing Market-Approved Technology for New Market Indications, will encourage development of partnerships between industry and NIH-supported investigators to explore the utility of existing devices to address new indications.  Future iterations of this component will make extensive use of information generated by the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component and the Next Generation Tools and Technologies component to determine possible new therapeutic opportunities and methodologies.

The fourth component, SPARC Data Coordination, will support assembly of data from all projects into a SPARC data coordination center resource, including the detailed, integrated, predictive functional and anatomical neural circuit maps.  Standardized methods, standard operating procedures, and other aspects of consortium coordination will be a part of this component.

Although the description above pertains to the entire SPARC program, and is included so potential applicants can consider formulation of their project within the context of the entire program, THIS ANNOUNCEMENT APPLIES ONLY TO PRE-APPLICATIONS (OT1) for "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC): Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs", described here and in companion announcement RFA-RM-15-018 (OT2).

Specific Objectives for Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology Projects (This FOA)

Data generated by these projects will be provided to the SPARC data coordination center, which in turn will generate detailed, functional and anatomical neural circuit maps for major organs and their functionally-associated structures.  Projects will closely coordinate with the data coordination center in order to integrate data into the neural circuit maps.

Examples of target organs that would be considered appropriate for these mapping projects include the major internal organs (major viscera) such as the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, colon, bladder, adrenal gland, spleen or kidneys; and the skin.  Examples of organs that would not be appropriate as the primary focus for these projects include the sensory structures of the head and the named voluntary muscles, except as allowed below.

While it is expected that most projects will focus on innervation of a single major organ, consideration will be given to incorporation of connections across organs.  Examples include: cutaneous and subcutaneous afferent innervation which indirectly affect efferent input to internal organs, particularly where such novel inputs pose potentially minimally-invasive targets for eventual neuromodulation therapies; or circuits by which conditions of the duodenum may affect pancreatic function.

Each project will focus on both the afferent and efferent innervation of a single organ and its functionally, closely associated structures, and is expected to comprehensively collect data on innervation and nervous system regulation of function of that organ.  The exact scope and data proposed for each project will likely depend on the base of knowledge already available and the specific organ of focus.   Data for neural circuit maps may include, for example:

  • detailed  autonomic and sensory neuroanatomy including synapses, ganglia and interneurons
  • molecular identity of neurons
  • functional connectivity
  • conduction properties of neurons
  • functional and anatomic characterization of intrinsic innervation at the organ (for example, the enteric nervous system)
  • organization of fibers and fascicles within nerves
  • recordings of nerve activity
  • potential points of surgical access
  • other parameters of innervation that will be important to design and testing of neuromodulation therapies for the organ, such as neural plasticity in response to stimulation
  • variability of all of the above animal-to-animal and patient-to-patient

In addition, research on organ function that is modulated by the nervous system will be expected, and may include, for example:

  • identification of end-organ cells being innervated
  • understanding of the minimum functional unit of nerve activity eliciting an organ function
  • what organ functions result from different types of stimulation
  • development of assays for assessment of changes in organ function due to nerve activity and neuromodulation
  • other parameters of organ function that will be important to design and testing of neuromodulation therapies for the organ

Due to the comprehensive nature of these projects, it is expected that multiple areas of expertise will be needed.  Projects should be developed to include investigators who have outstanding, committed expertise in the areas required by the research that is to be proposed.  A necessary consideration is that these projects will be conducted as part of a consortium of projects under SPARC and this consortium will be expected to develop common standards, format, and means of communicating data between projects and to the SPARC data coordination center.  Thus, each project must include expertise sufficient to develop and adhere to these data handling and communications processes.

The focus of the SPARC program is on peripheral neural control circuits for organ function in humans (excluding the brain and sensory organs of the head and the named voluntary muscles).  However, there is interest in understanding the basic connections within the brain and spinal cord to the extent necessary to understand the peripheral nervous system circuits for specific organs.  Research on neuromodulation through central brain stimulation is not the appropriate focus of SPARC.

Where organ function is dependent on a mixture of autonomic, sensory and voluntary innervation, investigation of all of these circuits is considered within the scope of the project.

It is anticipated that significant steps in the understanding of peripheral nervous system control of organ function will require the use of animals. The animals planned for use must be justified in terms of the technologies to be employed, the information to be gained, and eventual applicability of the information to humans. Accordingly, the research plan must include validation of results in humans to the maximum, feasible extent. 

The Comprehensive Mapping Projects also may include development of technology that is specific and necessary to the proposed Comprehensive Mapping Project.  Such technology development, where justified, may be proposed for support as part of these projects but should not be the main focus of the project.  The SPARC program, as explained above, includes a formal effort for Next Generation Tools and Technologies and these technologies will be exchanged and available for use among all projects in the program.  Studies with a major focus on technology development related to SPARC should seek funding support through the appropriate SPARC component.

A main focus on healthy organs is anticipated for mapping studies in this initial phase of SPARC.  In some cases data collection on disease states may be necessary to further understand innervation or effects of innervation on normal organ function.  Inclusion of such studies in a project will need to be justified in the application.

SPARC Program Other Transaction Management

The SPARC program will be a consortium of research projects managed by a SPARC Program Manager and an Agreement Officer, and will incorporate significant programmatic input into projects beginning with the OT1 pre-application process, before an OT2 application can be accepted, and throughout the life of the program.

The SPARC program will develop high resolution functional and anatomic neural circuit maps of the innervation of organs by integrating ideas and expertise from several disciplines, including anatomy, surgery, neuroscience, engineering, biotechnology, neuromodulation, physiology, data management and device design. In cases where additional or new expertise or approaches are required beyond those already included in the project, the SPARC program staff will aggregate the necessary expertise by adding or subtracting specific expertise, tools, technologies, and approaches to the problem of mapping peripheral neural circuits in relevant animal models and humans. A significantly different baseline of knowledge is expected in various organs/organ systems and expertise gained on one organ could be flexibly combined with projects focused on less-advanced areas to accelerate gains in knowledge across organs.  Similarly, within the SPARC consortium, information, models, expertise, data and technologies will be shared in order to maximize progress.

The SPARC program will involve substantial risk, since entirely new technologies need to be developed and used to create an exceptionally complex data set. The specifications of the functional neural circuit map of the innervation of organs will be defined over time, as new data and technologies are established.

No award will be made in response to this announcement.  Awards under the companion OT2 announcement (RFA-RM-15-018), specifically, will be made as OTs, which are not grants, contracts or cooperative agreements (as described in the NIH Other Transaction Award Policy Guide for the SPARC Program).  For SPARC OT awards, NIH will use an active management structure to accommodate the need for flexibility in soliciting new collaborators as needed, for combining projects, for modified review processes, for rapid cessation of the high risk components that fail, and for adjusting the vision for the deliverables as new data are required.  The planned review and management strategy will allow the addition or subtraction of aims and expertise to or from the research activities throughout the award period. Furthermore, NIH plans to develop hybrid projects, as needed, from multiple, independent applications to solve research problems for the SPARC program.

The funded projects in SPARC will be integrated across approaches to accelerate the research as a whole.  Projects within SPARC must propose information sharing and include expertise for data exchange among research projects and with the SPARC data coordination center.  It is anticipated that there will be two face-to-face meetings of the SPARC investigators per year, in addition to more frequent programmatic web-assisted meetings as deemed necessary by the SPARC Program Manager.  Travel for these meetings is to be included in the project budget.

Milestones and Individual Project Benchmarks

Investigators must propose project benchmarks that are quantitative, and with clear go, no-go criteria that are aligned with achieving SPARC programmatic milestones (see below).  Project goals, deliverables and benchmarks should be included in the Research Plan.

The overall programmatic milestones for the first phase of the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component, Comprehensive Mapping Projects, are:

Year 1:  initiate mapping projects and collect initial anatomical and functional data; hold investigator meetings for planning, sharing of data and technologies, and development of parameters of research for mapping data; determine methods of data exchange with the SPARC data coordination center.

Year 2:  continue investigator meetings and data exchange; for each particular organ, have a preliminary anatomical assessment, including variability of innervation at various potential intervention points; collect data on organ function regulated by innervation; begin or continue comparisons of animal model and human data; integrate new technologies for higher resolution data.

Year 3:  complete functional mapping data using existing technologies; continue collecting higher resolution data with new technologies; complete initial development and validation of sensing technology and techniques to measure organ function, translate animal results into human, including subject-to-subject variance at logical surgical access points;

Potential applicants should develop preliminary project benchmarks commensurate with achieving these programmatic milestones.  The programmatic milestones are listed here for planning purposes.

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Other: A mechanism that is not a grant or cooperative agreement. Examples include access to research resources or pre-applications 

Application Types Allowed


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

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

No awards will be made under this OT1 FOA.  The timeline for OT1 applications received by the first due date will allow consideration of a possible OT2 application for FY16 funds under the companion announcement "Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC): Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs (OT2)" RFA-RM-15-018.

Award Budget

Not Applicable

Award Project Period

Not Applicable  

NIH policies as described in the NIH Other Transaction Award Policy Guide for the SPARC Program 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:

  • 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)


  • 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


  • 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 here, are allowed:

The performance of any significant scientific element or segment of a project outside of the United States, either by the awardee or by a researcher employed by a foreign organization, whether or not funds are expended, is considered a foreign component.  Activities that would meet this definition include, but are not limited to, (1) the involvement of human subjects or animals, (2) extensive foreign travel by project staff for the purpose of data collection, surveying, sampling, and similar activities, or (3) any activity of the awardee that may have an impact on U.S. foreign policy through involvement in the affairs of environment of a foreign country.  Examples of other award-related activities that may be significant are: 

  • Collaborations with investigators at a foreign site anticipated to result in co-authorship;
  • Use of facilities or instruments at a foreign site; or
  • Receipt of financial support or resources from a foreign entity

Foreign travel for consultation is not considered a foreign component.

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. 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 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.
  • – Applicants must have an active DUNS number and SAM registration in order to complete the 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

Not Applicable

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

Applicants must download the SF424 (R&R) application package associated with this funding opportunity using the “Apply for Grant Electronically” button in this FOA or following the directions provided at SPARC OT applications will use the same electronic infrastructure as grant applications.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide, including Supplemental Grant Application Instructions except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the SF424 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed, with the following exceptions or additional requirements:

  • For this specific FOA, the Research Strategy section is limited to 12 pages.
Instructions for Application Submission

The following section supplements the instructions found in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide and should be used for preparing an application to this FOA.

SF424(R&R) Cover

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

Type of Submission:  Select "Pre-application"                

Total Federal Funds Request:  Enter “0”

Total Federal and Non-Federal Funds:  Enter "0"

Estimated Program Income:  Enter "0"  

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.  Along with the following additional instructions:

Are Human Subjects Involved: Answer "No".  Note: no award will be made, or human subjects work performed, as a result of this OT1 FOA.

Are Vertebrate Animals Used: Answer "No".  

SF424(R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile

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: Briefly state the specific aims of the project, indicating how the project will contribute to advancing neuromodulation science related to the organ of focus. Briefly describe relevant major knowledge gaps and/or barriers for the neuromodulation of the proposed organ.  Highlight any conceptual, technical, and/or methodological innovations for the proposed project.

Research Strategy: This section must include:

  • Background information related to the need for understanding of neural circuitry of the organ; current knowledge related to the innervation of the organ; brief discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the major approaches used for the anatomical and functional studies of the organ.
  • Significance of the project and how this project will fill important gaps in information needed for effective neuromodulation therapy.
  • A description of the scope and goals of the project and how these relate to the SPARC program.
  • A description of the expected main 3-year outcomes and deliverables of the project and a summary of major project benchmarks with estimated timeline under which these will be achieved.  Benchmarks must be commensurate with achieving the overall programmatic plans for the first phase of the Anatomical and Functional Mapping component, Comprehensive Mapping Projects (see Section I) and any deviations from the programmatic milestones must be justified.  Include projected timelines for transmission of data to the SPARC data coordination center.  It may be helpful to reference examples of benchmarks/milestones at
  • A description of the proposed overall approach and methodology to achieve each benchmark and deliverable, including the outcome measures as well as  assessment of current technologies for the study, and justification of any new technologies to be developed within the project.  Describe how the outcome measures relate to the proposed organ function.  Describe innovative aspects of the project and approaches, and how they will yield the highest resolution possible.
  • A description of animal models to be employed and their relevance to human data.  Describe plans to validate animal model data in humans.
  • A table of effort for the key investigators.
  • If the project is to be carried out in more than one department or institution, the collaborative plans and what parts of the project will take place at each different department or institution.
  • A statement of the expertise needed to meet the various goals and, without duplicating the biosketch, what each investigator will bring to the project to fulfill the needed expertise (two page maximum).
  • A total direct cost estimate for each year. This is not the final budget, but should be an informative estimate which may be revised in the OT2 application.  No detailed budget request is required in the OT1 application.
  • Optional element:  The submitters are encouraged to describe technologies that would help to optimize future high resolution mapping and accelerate projects as a part of the overall Next Generation Tools and Technologies component to be developed under SPARC, in addition to the technologies that they are planning to use for the proposed comprehensive mapping studies.  This will be treated as program planning information.

Letters of Support:  Letters of support are NOT required for the OT1 pre-application.

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: 

All applications, regardless of the amount of direct costs requested for any one year, must include a Resource Sharing Plan.  This plan must include timely data release to the SPARC data coordination center, as well as to other projects within SPARC as determined by the SPARC Program Manager, and more broadly to the research community in general.

  • All applications must commit to making data, biomaterials, models, reagents, tools, resources and methods available to the other SPARC projects, including the SPARC data coordination center, and more broadly to the research community in general. The terms and timelines for sharing within SPARC; adjustments for coordination of research plans, validation of models, materials, methods and data; and sharing with the research community will be established by the SPARC Program Manager consistent with achieving the goals of the program and applicable NIH policies and all participants must adhere to these terms as a condition of award.
  • The sharing plan must include an agreement that investigators will work collaboratively with the SPARC program to maximize research accomplished by the program, and to implement procedures to provide quality controlled data and information.
  • In addition, applications must include plans for the form and method to make resources, materials and models available to other investigators consistent with achieving the goals of the program. These plans must include a strategy for release of data and information to the SPARC data coordination center, including timing of this release, and make materials and resources available to the research community.
  • Upon completion or termination of the research projects(s), the awardees are responsible for making all study materials, data and procedures available to the SPARC data coordination center, as well as making them broadly available (e.g., putting them into the public domain) or making them accessible to the research community according to the NIH-approved plan submitted for each project.  The resource sharing plan must include a plan to accomplish this availability and accessibility no later than at the end of the project period or as negotiated with the SPARC Program Manager.  

Appendix:  Not Allowed. Appendix material is NOT allowed for the OT-1 pre-application.

Foreign Institutions

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

3. Submission Dates and Times

See Part I. Section III.1 for information regarding the requirements for obtaining a Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Number and for completing and maintaining an active System for Award Management (SAM) registration. Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates. Applicants are encouraged to submit applications before the due date to ensure they have time to make any application corrections that might be necessary for successful submission.

Organizations must submit applications to (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  and SPARC OT administration. NIH and 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 on or before the application due date.  If a Changed/Corrected application is submitted after the deadline, the application will be considered late.

Applicants are responsible for viewing their application before the due date in the eRA Commons to ensure accurate and successful submission.

Information on the submission process and a definition of on-time submission are provided in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.

4. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

5. Funding Restrictions

No awards will be made under this OT1 FOA.

6. Other Submission Requirements and Information

Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide.  Paper applications will not be accepted.

Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.

For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit Applying Electronically. 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.

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. Applications that are incomplete or non-compliant will not be reviewed.

Post Submission Materials

Not Applicable

Section V. Application Review Information
1. Criteria

Only the criteria described below will be considered in the review process.

For this particular announcement, OT1 applications for the SPARC Comprehensive Functional Mapping of Neuroanatomy and Neurobiology of Organs will be reviewed according to the following criteria.  The criteria below are not listed in order of relative importance and no weights are assigned.

Relevance and Justification

Will this research fill a needed gap in our understanding of innervation of organs and nervous system modulation of organ function?  Will the goals and outcomes significantly advance development of neuromodulation therapies by providing critical foundational knowledge that will be required to inform neuromodulation of one or more organs or through increased specificity, increased effectiveness, and decreased unwanted side effects compared to existing therapies?

Benchmarks and Deliverables

Are the proposed benchmarks and deliverables feasible and congruent with the goals outlined in the FOA?  Will the expected research meet the programmatic milestones?  Will the anatomical and functional data enable the development of a detailed, predictive functional and anatomical neural circuit map of the organ of focus?  Will the data enable evaluation of organ function that results from the innervation and are assays of organ function to be developed?  Do the plans include the most innovative applicable methodology to yield the highest resolution possible?  Will data be relevant to human physiology and enable higher resolution data with further technology development?


Is the necessary expertise enlisted and the environment and facilities appropriate for a multi-disciplinary approach to the proposed research?  Is expertise for data processing and communication to the SPARC data coordination center included?  Is there evidence of sufficient commitment on the part of the key investigators for the project?

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, but will not give separate scores for these items.


For Resubmissions, the committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the changes made to the project, as described in the Introduction.

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

Not Applicable

Resource Sharing Plans

Reviewers will comment on whether the following Resource Sharing Plans are reasonable: 1) Data Sharing Plan; 2) Sharing Model Organisms; and 3) Genomic Data Sharing Plan.

Budget and Period of Support

Not Applicable

2. Review and Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated by an appropriate review group convened by the Office of the Director, NIH, using the criteria described in Section V.1., above.  Investigators on OT1 SPARC OTA pre-applications that are judged to be meritorious and align with the SPARC research mission will be invited to submit an OT2, SPARC Research Project -- Other Transaction Award application under RFA-RM-15-018.

As part of the objective review, all applications:

  • Will receive a written summary.

Appeals of the objective review will not be accepted for applications submitted in response to this FOA.

The following will be considered in making selections for OT2 applications:

  • Merit of the proposed project as determined by objective review.
  • Relevance of the proposed project to program priorities.
3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates

After the review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will receive the written summary of the review.  No awards will be made under this FOA.  The SPARC Program Manager will communicate the results of the review, including any potential Invitation to Submit an OT2 application.  OT2 applications will ONLY be accepted if the applicant has received, and includes, an Invitation to Submit an OT2 application.

Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices

Not Applicable

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

Not Applicable

3. Reporting

Not Applicable

Section VII. Agency Contacts

We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.

Application Submission Contacts

eRA Commons Help Desk (Questions regarding eRA Commons registration, submitting and tracking an application, documenting system problems that threaten submission by the due date, post submission issues)
Finding Help Online: (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free) Customer Support (Questions regarding registration and submission, downloading forms and application packages)
Contact CenterTelephone: 800-518-4726

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Email: (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-945-7573

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Jill L. Carrington, Ph.D.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Telephone: 301-402-0671

Objective Review Contact(s)

Examine your eRA Commons account for review assignment and contact information (information appears two weeks after the submission due date).

Financial/Agreement Officer Contact(s)

Irene Haas 
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-435-0836

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, and other considerations described in the NIH Other Transaction Award Policy Guide for the SPARC Program.

Authority and Regulations

Other Transaction awards are made pursuant to Section 480 (e)(3)(C) of the PHS Act, 42 U.S.C 287 a(e)(3)(C)  .

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