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GEN News Highlights : Dec 6, 2012

NIDA Refocuses on Translational, Genetic Medicine

NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has revamped its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant program, by refocusing on supporting projects that advance translational and genetic medicine aimed at substance-abuse drug discovery.

“We’re interested in areas of genetics, in terms of smoking cessation, pharmacogenomics, treatment of substance abuse, and particularly right now, issues related to prescription substance abuse,” Jonathan D. Pollock, Ph.D., chief of the Genetics and Molecular Neurobiology Research Branch at NIDA’s Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, told GEN.

NIDA operates on a series of rolling deadlines for project submissions. The upcoming deadline, January 7, 2013, is one of three set aside for AIDS and AIDS-related applications via NIH as well as FDA, CDC, and the Administration for Children and Families; the others are May 7 and September 7. The agencies accept standard applications on April 5, August 5, and December 5. Funding priorities for all agencies and units like NIDA can be found in a formal “omnibus” solicitation available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/sbir.htm.

In addition to that solicitation, Dr. Pollock said, the branch is interested in supporting commercialization and development of products, resources, and services through SBIR/STTR relevant to brain research. They include protein capture reagents, proteomics, genomics, pharmacogenomics, molecular diagnostics, nanotechnology, gene delivery and viral vectors, identification of RNA and DNA sequences in formalin fixed nervous tissue, shRNA, microfluidics, epigenetics diagnostics, therapeutics, and tools to detect epigenetic modifications.

The branch is also looking to support commercialization and development of biomarkers, optogenetics, reagents for iPS and neural stem cells, technologies to uniquely barcode cell types, improved super resolution microscopy methods, in vivo gene expression imaging, automated sectioning, image acquisition and 3D reconstruction of electron micrographic sections, genetically encoded markers for electron microscopy, and “big” genomic and proteomic data, including data visualization, data contextualization, and data analysis.

“What we’re really looking for is products that you could basically commercialize coming out of research. These can be things that are either products or services. I think that there are opportunities, particularly for groups of individuals that have an idea, IP, and want to have a startup company.”

SBIR/STTR grants account for 2.8% of NIDA’s roughly $1 billion annual budget. NIDA spent $26.679 million on SBIR and STTR in fiscal year 2012, which ended September 30—up from $26.497 million in FY 2011. The number of SBIR/STTR research projects grants rose to 56 in FY 2012 from 44 a year earlier.