National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
February 8, 2019
April 16, 2019
May 16, 2019 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.
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.
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.
Chemical modifications are central to the field of functional RNA and emerging evidence suggests these modifications have substantive roles in basic biological processes. These processes include: embryonic stem cell differentiation, excitotoxic cell death, development, intergenerational inheritance of acquired traits, regulation of RNA stability, temperature adaptation, meiotic progression, and regulation of RNA-RNA and RNA-protein binding interactions. A small number of covalent RNA modifications have been studied extensively, and recent evidence suggests that other newly discovered RNA chemical alterations have interesting biological and disease functions in mammals. Moreover, recent studies have identified thousands of sites in human mRNAs modification, especially for N6-methyladenosine (m6A), suggesting an additional role in the regulation of the mRNA processing and function including alternative splicing and gene expression. While RNA modification is emerging as an important area of research, the impacts of the environment on chemical modifications of RNA molecules (the epitranscriptome) in the development of adverse human health outcomes are relatively unexplored.
Technology advances in recent years have accelerated the detection of RNA modifications and The RNA Modification Database currently lists approximately 160 RNA modifications identified in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. This database also reveals that transfer (tRNAs) and ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) are heavily modified, and many of these same modifications occur in messenger RNA and non-coding RNAs (including long non-coding and microRNAs). The function of most of the modifications found in messenger and non-coding RNAs remains a mystery, despite their potential to influence RNA properties and functions, including RNA stability, trafficking, localization, activity (enzymatic, sensing, or regulatory), and interactions with other molecules.
The underlying importance of this emerging area for environmental health science research is rooted in RNA modifications serving as key regulatory components for multiple biological processes such as: differentiation and cell lineage determination/stem cell fate; mRNA stability, translation, splicing, transport; RNA structure; tRNA stress responses; post-transcriptional regulatory functions; and paternal inheritance. There are >60 known RNA post-transcriptional modifications in eukaryotes. The most prevalent RNA modification in mammals is m6A (N6-methyladenosine), followed by m5C (5-methylcytosine). Recent studies now report m1A (N1-methyladenosine) is emerging as a novel mark. In addition, multiple classes of RNAs (lncRNAs, microRNAs) are proving to be major regulators of cellular functional activities, and dynamic epitranscriptomic processes regulate the actions of these regulatory RNAs. RNA methylation is dynamically controlled; for example, the m6A methyltransferase complex co-transcriptionally adds (writes) methyl marks, while m6A can be removed passively through degradation of modified RNA or via active demethylation by m6A demethylases. These mechanisms can be rapidly deployed in response to stress challenges and importantly alter downstream protein profiles. RNA post-transcriptional modifications can control basic protein synthesis and thereby regulate a wide range of fundamental cellular processes. RNA regulatory processes are likely targets for environmental challenges and associated with disease development and thus there is an enormous potential for discovery of novel mechanisms as well as identifying new exposure responsive and/or therapeutic targets. RNA modifications may also be potentially valuable as biomarkers or signatures for toxicant exposure and/or disease progression.
Program Scope and Research Objectives
This program is intended to enhance understanding of how environmental exposures impact this layer of cellular regulation and elucidate associations between these external perturbations and adverse health outcomes. This FOA is intended to support research applications that will stimulate discovery of novel RNA modification-mediated mechanisms and biomarkers associated with environmental exposures and mechanistically tease out how/what functions/pathways may be associated with disease outcomes. Moreover, the FOA encourages toxicologists to embrace this approach in mechanistic studies of exposure-induced disease. Mounting evidence from recent studies in yeast, Drosophila and rodent models demonstrates stressors afford changes in RNA levels via specific types of ribo modifications, with specific epitranscriptomic reprogramming of some regulatory RNAs. As the number of biological roles associated with RNA modification grows, it is reasonable to consider that minor perturbations to the cellular epitranscriptome could severely compromise/alter gene expression patterns to better accommodate /mitigate the exogenous insults and contribute to global dysfunction associated with an adverse outcome pathway (AOPs). There is a growing literature that mechanistically implicates stress-induced RNA modifications with stressor associated phenotypes. These stressors include UV radiation , high fat diet (Zhang et al., Nat Cell Biol, 2018), low fat diet as well as a battery of other ROS inducing agents, e.g., H2O2, MMS (Methyl methanesulfonate), NaAsO2 . Intriguingly, these studies implicate the potential for other ROS inducing environmental exposures to be mechanistically implicated in RNA modification-mediated phenotypic outcomes. Currently, very little is known regarding the identity of aberrantly modified RNA transcripts. The study of RNA damage/alteration patterns directly caused by toxicants such as methylating or oxidizing compounds represents another untapped area of study linking epitranscriptomics research with environmental health and risk-assessment studies. This line of investigation has the potential to reveal novel biomarkers for environmental exposure as well uncover novel mechanisms of RNA stability/integrity that are crucial for organismal homeostasis. This RFA will support research focusing on functional consequences of toxicant exposures as they relate to the role of RNA modifications. Applications are solicited that propose employment of state of the art technologies including but not limited to: mass spectrometry-based approaches that permit simultaneous identification and quantitation of levels of multiple specific epitranscriptomic marks in purified total RNA as well as specific RNA species (mRNA, tRNA, rRNA, lncRNA, miRNA, and small RNAs). The FOA also encourages approaches that include established methods for mapping several different epitranscriptomic modifications, including but not limited to chemical pull down methods, single base resolution mapping approaches and RNA specific CRISPR-cas platforms.
Specific research questions that may be addressed include but are not limited to the following:
All model organisms including but not limited to Drosophila, yeast, worms, fish, as well as human cells, cell lines or 3D organ cultures are appropriate for use, however, NIEHS will prioritize support for applications that are relevant to exposure associated human pathologies.
Grant: A support mechanism providing money, property, or both to an eligible entity to carry out an approved project or activity.
The OER Glossary and the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide provide details on these application types.
NIEHS intends to commit $2,000,000 in FY 2020 to fund 5 awards.
Higher Education Institutions
The following types of Higher Education Institutions are always encouraged to apply for NIH support as Public or Private Institutions of Higher Education:
Nonprofits Other Than Institutions of Higher Education
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.
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.
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.
This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.
The NIH will not accept duplicate or highly overlapping applications under review at the same time. This means that the NIH will not accept:
The application forms package specific to this opportunity must be accessed through ASSIST, Grants.gov Workspace or an institutional system-to-system solution. Links to apply using ASSIST or Grants.gov Workspace are available in Part 1 of this FOA. See your administrative office for instructions if you plan to use an institutional system-to-system solution.
For information on Application Submission and Receipt, visit Frequently Asked Questions – Application Guide, Electronic Submission of Grant Applications.
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:
The letter of intent should be sent to:
Leroy Worth, Jr. Ph.D.
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
Applications should focus on RNA modifications where studies are likely to yield novel insights. Applicants should provide a discussion of background regarding the area(s) of research proposed and key gaps in our understanding or challenges that need to be addressed relevant to environmental health sciences research. Describe the potential for the identified area(s) of research to be groundbreaking or paradigm-shifting. Describe future impact on research in this area. The Research Strategy should address one or more of the following:
2. Discussion of trans-disciplinary approaches utilizing expertise in toxicology/exposure science combined with expertise in epitranscriptomics and how this can advance environmental health science.
3. Discussion of the functional consequences of exposure-associated alterations in either on specific RNA modifications or the enzyme complexes that install, recognize or remove chemical modifications.
4. Discussion of how exposures may impact signaling pathways regulation mediated by epitranscriptomic processes and how this may contribute to pathological phenotypes.
5. Determine the presence, expression dynamics, and/or functional relevance of exposure induced RNA modifications such as cell-specific occurrence or spatial distribution; conditional expression.
6. Optimize tools, technologies or analytical methods to detect and profile exposure induced RNA modifications.
7. Optimization and/or scaling of assays for detection of exposure induced RNA modifications and/or the perturbation (adding/removing) of modifications at specific sites or in specific cell types.
The following modifications also apply:
If you answered “Yes” to the question “Are Human Subjects Involved?” on the R&R Other Project Information form, you must include at least one human subjects study record using the Study Record: PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information form or Delayed Onset Study record.
Study Record: PHS Human Subjects and Clinical Trials Information
All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
Note: Delayed onset does NOT apply to a study that can be described but will not start immediately (i.e., delayed start). All instructions in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide must be followed.
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.
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
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.
This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.
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.
Applications must be submitted electronically following the instructions described in the SF424 (R&R) Application Guide. Paper applications will not be accepted.
Applicants must complete all required registrations before the application due date. Section III. Eligibility Information contains information about registration.
For assistance with your electronic application or for more information on the electronic submission process, visit How to Apply – Application Guide. If you encounter a system issue beyond your control that threatens your ability to complete the submission process on-time, you must follow the Dealing with System Issues guidance. For assistance with application submission, contact the Application Submission Contacts in Section VII.
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 NIEHS, 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 NIEHS Referral Office by email firstname.lastname@example.org when the application has been submitted. Please include the FOA number and title, PD/PI name, and title of the application.
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.
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?
Are the PD(s)/PI(s), collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or those in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?
Does the application challenge and seek to shift current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions? Are the concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions novel to one field of research or novel in a broad sense? Is a refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions proposed?
Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? 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?
If the project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, are the plans to address 1) the protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion or exclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?
Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?
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.
When the proposed project involves human subjects and/or NIH-defined clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for the inclusion (or exclusion) of individuals on the basis of sex/gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as the inclusion (or exclusion) of children to determine if it is justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Guidelines for the Review of Inclusion in Clinical Research.
The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following 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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.
Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 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.
Information regarding the disposition of applications is available 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.
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.
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.
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 https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/limited-english-proficiency/index.html. The HHS Office for Civil Rights also provides guidance on complying with civil rights laws enforced by HHS. Please see https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/section-1557/index.html; and https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-providers/laws-regulations-guidance/index.html. Recipients of FFA also have specific legal obligations for serving qualified individuals with disabilities. Please see https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/disability/index.html. Please contact the HHS Office for Civil Rights for more information about obligations and prohibitions under federal civil rights laws at https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/about-us/contact-us/index.html or call 1-800-368-1019 or TDD 1-800-537-7697. 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.
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.
Finding Help Online: http://grants.nih.gov/support/ (preferred method of contact)
Telephone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)
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Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov (preferred method of contact)
Grants.gov Customer Support (Questions regarding Grants.gov registration and Workspace)
Contact Center Telephone: 800-518-4726
Frederick L. Tyson, Ph.D.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Leroy Worth, Jr. Ph.D.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
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