The FOA will provide support for extramural investigators to take advantage of the unique research opportunities available at the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory within the NCATS Division of Pre-clinical Innovation (DPI), and develop innovative ASPIRE modules that will facilitate identification of novel chemical entities targeted towards currently un-drugged biological space.
Limited Submissions Internal Call for Proposals: NIH New Chemistries for Un-drugged Targets through (ASPIRE) Collaborative Research Program
UNC Internal Deadline: 11:59PM, Wednesday, April 7, 2021
NIH LOI Deadline: June 8, 2021
NIH Full Proposal Deadline: July 8, 2021
Number of Applications per Institution: Only one application per institution is allowed.
For internal submissions, ORD must see evidence of the following:
- Pre-Application Consultation-Applicants must consult with NCATS Extramural Program Staff early in the planning of an application. This early contact will provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify NIH policies and guidelines, including the scope of the project and intent of this FOA.
- Prospective applicants are required to discuss their proposed projects with the DPI Director of Compound Management and Automation and include in their application a letter of collaboration from the Scientific Director of NCATS/DPI that documents agreement to participate in the proposed collaboration. See Letters of Support and the Intramural Program contacts below.
- See also Applicant Webinar information under Section IV.7 within the complete NIH Solicitation linked at the end of this page (“Other Submission Requirements and Information”).
Award Budget: Application budgets are limited to $750,000 direct costs per year for the UG3 phase and $1,000,000 in direct costs per year for the UH3 phase. Application budgets need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project.
Program Description: This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) aims to promote partnerships between NCATS intramural investigators (e.g., those conducting research within the labs and clinics of NCATS) and extramural investigators (e.g., those conducting research in labs and clinics outside of the NIH). Specifically, The FOA will provide support for extramural investigators to take advantage of the unique research opportunities available at the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory within the NCATS Division of Pre-clinical Innovation (DPI), and develop innovative ASPIRE modules that will facilitate identification of novel chemical entities targeted towards currently undrugged biological space. Funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be made available through the bi-phasic UG3/UH3 cooperative agreement award mechanism. While its companion FOA, RFA-TR-21-002, focuses on development of virtual, cloud-based modules, this FOA focuses on physical modules that will enhance the existing capabilities of NCATS ASPIRE infrastructure, initially established at NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory. Details about the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory and current platform’s capabilities are provided at the laboratory’s site (ncats.nih.gov/aspire/about/intramural-laboratory). Physical modules developed through this extramural-intramural collaboration will be incorporated into the NCATS ASPIRE platform to enhance the process of drug discovery and development and bring novel, safe and effective treatments to more patients more quickly, and at lower cost.
The focus is to expand the chemical space from which new and improved therapeutics can be drawn upon through the identification, synthesis, and validation of new chemical entities. Extramural investigators will collaborate with the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory (ncats.nih.gov/aspire/about/intramural-laboratory) to develop a physical module that will be integrated with the overall NCATS ASPIRE platform to help address a translational problem proposed by the extramural laboratory. The module will be initially designed and developed in the extramural PI/PDs laboratory based on the technical and functional specifications provided by the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory. The module will then be transferred to NCATS on an agreed upon timeline, validated at the NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory and coupled to NCATS ASPIRE platform’s chemical synthesis and biological screening capabilities. The goal is to enhance the overall capabilities of the NCATS ASPIRE platform and, ultimately, open the platform to non-chemists who can formulate a molecular hypothesis and utilize the platform to translate their ideas into testable compounds.
Active engagement with open communication channels is expected between the extramural researchers and NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory. To promote collaborative efforts from the outset, the partnering intramural and extramural investigators must work jointly in developing the application for this FOA. Extramural collaborators will provide expertise relevant to the development of a physical module of interest. Where applicable, this must include disease and disease-relevant biological assay development expertise. The applicants must have infrastructure and experiences that will allow them to immediately begin designing and building a proposed module. This includes adequate facilities that allow for development of complex mechanical, electrical and chemical interfaces, as well as access to software, mechanical electrical, chemical and automation engineering resources, strong familiarity with complex laboratory instrumentation, and experience with distributed software development projects using shared cloud shared repositories and cloud resources. The role of NCATS ASPIRE Laboratory will be to provide additional expertise relevant to development of the module and how it will be integrated with the overall platform to address a scientific question posed by the investigator. Depending upon the type of a physical module selected, the involvement of NCATS may vary, ranging from cloud computing, expertise in a biological target of interest, small molecule or biological synthesis, automation, informatics analysis, or other related computational, chemistry and biology disciplines.
The collaborations will sustain an innovative and collaborative ecosystem where the intramural ASPIRE platform provides access to capabilities that may be beyond the capabilities of extramural investigators. In turn, the extramural investigators will provide access to, for example, disease expertise and the latest cutting-edge techniques for potential integration. Specifically, this FOA is seeking collaborators with:
- Extensive clinical and biological knowledge of the disease and specific biological target of interest, respectively. NCATS is particularly interested in previously undrugged biological targets.
- Expertise in developing protocols for fast, high-throughput quantitative measurements of drug candidate efficacy such as colorimetric or fluorescence analysis, either cell or tissue-based, enzymatic, or other activity test.
- If applicable to the physical module proposed, identified a specific disease-relevant biological target
- Developed a bioassay to quantitatively test the efficacy of a potential drug candidate. If the assay is currently in a low throughput format, the assay needs to be amenable to high-throughput screening (HTS). NCATS will assist the PI/PD in amending the assay to the capabilities of NCATS HTS. Assays that require manual processing and transfer to a different platform (e.g., histology) most likely will not be compatible to high throughput screening but should be discussed with the investigators at DPI before submission for alternative options.
- Knowledge of a drug or a family of drug candidates with known potential to modulate a specific disease is beneficial, but not required.
To Apply: Submit the following via the Limited Submissions, Awards, and Internal Funding Management System by 11:59PM, Wednesday, April 7, 2021.
- PI/Proposed team member’s NIH formatted biosketch (five-page maximum)
- Project Summary (no more than 4 pages). Include in the project summary a confirmation that the project team discussed their idea with a NCATS ASPIRE representative.
- List of potential/committed collaborators (internal and external to UNC)
- Names of three internal (to UNC) experts who could speak knowledgeably about the candidate’s research and who could potentially serve on an internal review panel.
- Please do not include the names of faculty named on the project, chairs, deans, directors, direct reports, or others who have a conflict of interest.
- Please notify all potential internal reviewers before submitting the pre-proposal packet to ORD.
FOA PAR-21-001: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-TR-21-001.html