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Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Review Board

Advisory Council Concept Clearances

Concepts describe the basic purpose, scope and objectives of proposed initiatives and represent an early planning stage for potential NCATS activities. Concepts are discussed with the NCATS Advisory Council and Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Review Board and through other public venues. Council approval of a concept does not guarantee it will become an initiative. That decision is made based on scientific and programmatic priorities and the availability of funds.

View approved Advisory Council concept clearances by year:


CTSA Program Data to Health Initiative

Sept. 15, 2016

The objective of NCATS’ CTSA Program Data to Health initiative is to demonstrate and disseminate through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program the advances in informatics that can help catalyze the translation of discoveries into health benefits. To maximize its potential impact on human health, NCATS, through the CTSA Program, should promote the collaborative collection, management and analysis of biomedical research data from diverse sources, including CTSA Program-affiliated researchers, health care organizations, mobile devices, patients and/or caregivers. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 95KB).

NIH-Industry Program: Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules

Sept. 15, 2016

NCATS launched the Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules program in May 2012. The objective of a re-issued initiative is to support the exploration of new therapeutic uses for investigational drugs or biologics (assets) from across a broad range of human diseases. Assets have undergone significant pre-clinical and safety testing in humans and are ready for additional testing in patient populations. Bringing together the best assets from pharmaceutical companies with the best new ideas from academic researchers could produce new treatments much more quickly than starting from scratch. The overarching goal is to enable an efficient drug repurposing partnership model that is adopted broadly by the biomedical research community. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 71KB).

Development of Drone Labware

June 13, 2016

The objective of this contract is to develop an autonomous drone capable of taking a laboratory consumable (such as a well plate) from one station to another. NCATS has had success in using the Small Business Innovation Research contract mechanism to address needs for improvement in the high-throughput screening (HTS) realm. NCATS believes that there would be a potential market opportunity for a small business to develop lab drone technology for HTS applications because:

  • Drones have a much greater range of motion than stationary robotic arms and are cheaper to maintain.
  • In an HTS setting, it is difficult to have robotic arms in shared workspaces, due to synchronization concerns and the possibility of collision. Lab drones can occupy the same airspace, allowing for the coordination of multiple drones in the same work area.
  • The open-source community is constantly developing new tools to make drones more efficient and cheaper.
  • While there is a great deal of drone technology in the marketplace, its use in the lab is limited and not available to the research community, specifically in the HTS field.

Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 60KB).

NIH-CASIS Coordinated Program in Tissue Chip Systems for Translational Research in Space

June 13, 2016

This proposed initiative seeks to leverage recent advances in tissue engineering and microfabrication to create microphysiological systems and organ-on-chip technology platforms that recapitulate human physiology, to better determine the molecular basis of human disease and/or the effectiveness of diagnostic markers and therapeutic intervention for disease treatment. The initiative will focus on the deployment and further development of tissue chip technology to facilitate space-related research at the International Space Station and integrate results from that research into an improved understanding of human physiology. This initiative will advance biomedical research approaches and clinical technologies for use on Earth and in space and for research in Earth- and space-based facilities that could improve human health.

It is now widely known that accelerated aging occurs in space, due to muscle wasting, osteoporosis, reduced cardiopulmonary function, immune response, and other factors, but that these conditions are reversible when astronauts return to Earth. It is anticipated that this initiative by NCATS and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space will delve into the molecular basis, including epigenome changes, for these human conditions and provide information for novel targets for drug development. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 20KB).

The NIH/NCATS Registry Program

June 13, 2016

The objective of this initiative is to provide a coordinated and comprehensive approach for NCATS to promote standardized patient registries that are feasible and sustainable and that result in high-quality data to advance clinical research and therapy development.

The awardee(s) will provide centralized operational, informatics, and data and project management support to ensure a sound and efficient approach to supporting high-quality and high-impact patient registries for NCATS. Patient registries, collections of standardized information, are an indispensable resource in rare diseases research, since they contribute to multiple phases of the research lifecycle, including participant recruitment for research studies (contact registries); development of datasets to better understand disease progression, biomarkers and clinical outcomes (natural history registries); and collection of safety and efficacy data after regulatory approval (post-marketing registry). Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 22KB).

Clinical and Translational Science Data Metrics Coordinating Center

Jan. 14, 2016

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program supports a national network of medical research institutions — called hubs ― that work together to improve the translational research process to get more treatments to more patients more quickly. Ensuring that this investment transforms the entire spectrum of clinical and translational science, including multi-site clinical trials, requires CTSA Program hubs to catalyze innovation in training, research tools and processes.

Achieving this goal requires significant coordination and collaboration across the CTSA Program hubs. The functions of the proposed center are integral to the success of the entire CTSA Program. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 87KB).

Collaborative Innovation Pilot Projects for the CTSA Program

Jan. 14, 2016

The purpose of this initiative is to allow teams of investigators from different Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program hubs to carry out collaborative, innovative projects to evaluate novel approaches to important translational science questions.

This exploratory grant program will allow some novel approaches to be quickly evaluated for feasibility and will provide a potential source of funding for collaborative innovative approaches that are not well suited to the Collaborative Innovation Awards (PAR-15-172 and PAR-15-173). Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 66KB).


Drug Repurposing/Repositioning

Sept. 3, 2015

The purpose of this concept is to develop a set of funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) to support robust, pre-clinical studies (to establish rationale for a clinical trial), clinical trial planning and clinical trial implementation. The pre-clinical studies will serve as “use cases” to demonstrate the usefulness of the drug-indication pairing method. Appropriate FOAs will be issued to complement the ongoing NCATS New Therapeutic Uses initiatives.

While the goal of an individual project will be to explore the potential new use of existing investigational and Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, NCATS seeks to identify strategies that may improve the efficiency of drug repurposing studies. Funding will be used to repurpose drugs where the hypothesis originates from the use of a publicly available method for identifying new indications for existing drugs such as independent crowdsourcing strategies for investigational drugs or computational algorithms. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 34KB).

Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Biomedical and Translational Research

Sept. 3, 2015

As technology and science advance, members of the research community confront evolving and recurring questions about the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of their research and its translation to improve human health. ELSI arise across the entire spectrum of biomedical and translational research, including basic, pre-clinical, clinical, behavioral, implementation and dissemination science as well as population health. This collaborative initiative with multiple NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) would seek research projects that address the ELSI of biomedical and translational research of high importance to the participating NIH ICs.

Applications to conduct empiric research as well as those that propose to develop new conceptual frameworks would be allowed. Interdisciplinary and collaborative projects using multiple approaches would be strongly encouraged. ELSI research is critical in the biomedical and translational science domain. The results of projects under this initiative are expected to contribute knowledge that will enhance the ethical conduct and social value of biomedical and translational research in support of the NIH mission. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 18KB).

Translational Research Informatics and Operations Support

Sept. 3, 2015

The purpose of this contract requirement is to provide coordinated and comprehensive scientific and technical support for NCATS translational and clinical research operations and management in order to harmonize and centralize activities across NCATS. Activities are wide-ranging and will include translational and clinical research operations support, information management, safety oversight and administrative support.

This contract will provide clinical, operational and administrative support for the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program to achieve its goals to catalyze clinical and translational science. The contractor will assist NCATS staff in managing the clinical and operational activities and provide information management of NCATS’ clinical activities. A centralized information system will allow NCATS to quantify and describe characteristics of individual clinical studies to analyze the overall clinical program. Additionally, the awardee will provide support for ensuring human subject safety and quality monitoring of NCATS clinical studies. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 26KB).

Collaborative Innovation Supplements for CTSA Program

June 18, 2015

This supplement program will allow NCATS to provide administrative supplement funds to investigators from different Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) hubs to carry out collaborative, innovative demonstration projects and move towards dissemination. The focus is aligned with that of the Collaborative Innovation Awards but intended to be smaller in scale and shorter in duration. This supplement program will allow novel approaches to be quickly evaluated for feasibility and provide a potential source of funding for collaborative innovative approaches that are not well suited to the Collaborative Innovation Awards program (PAR-15-172 and PAR-15-173).

The purpose of the administrative supplement is to allow teams of investigators from different CTSA hubs to carry out collaborative, innovative projects to evaluate novel approaches to important translational science questions. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 22KB).

Development of SmartPlate Technology

June 18, 2015

The term “smartplate” was adopted to imply flexibility to the technology and multiple applications of the smartphone. Once a platform was built to create a phone that could perform a variety of functions, as opposed to simply one, a huge amount of innovative ideas sprang forth. The key goal of this Small Business Innovation Research solicitation is to fundamentally transform the idea of a microtiter plate from a single-use laboratory ware for an experiment to nearly becoming an instrument that could provide more data about the tested samples by in-line monitoring and sensing technologies.

Instead of limiting these plates to a variety of plastics with a lifespan of one use, if different materials and manufacturing techniques were utilized, it could greatly affect the purpose(s) for which a plate could be used. Imagine the plate as a multilayer circuit, for example; it could be possible for a variety of monitor and control applications be built directly into the plate, such as temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 and O2 levels, instead of relying on external pieces of instrumentation to perform these measurements. A key goal tied to this technology is to greatly improve the utility of a microtiter plate being completely disposable and instead treat each plate as a fully integrated device that can be used many times. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 39KB).

Development of Stem Cell- or iPS Cell-Based Assays for Compound Toxicity Evaluation

June 18, 2015

There is a growing interest in testing environmental chemicals by using human stem cell or cells derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, because transformed and immortal cell lines lack xenobiotic metabolic capability and fail to represent normal physiology and pathophysiology. For the phase I contract, the goal is to develop toxicologically related assays in a homogenous format that can be used in human stem cell or iPS-derived cells with short-time compound treatment. For phase II contracts, the goal is to miniaturize the assays into 384-well and 1,536-well plate formats. Assays with various endpoints using iPS-derived cells in a 1,536-well plate format will greatly speed up the capacity of screening thousands of environmental chemicals. Also, using human stem cells and/or iPS-derived stem cells will make this screening approach even more relevant and the data more valuable in establishing predictive models of how these chemicals compounds affect human tissues and pathways, ultimately making this technology the basis for future screening for the Toxicology in the 21st Century program and other quantitative high-throughput screening initiatives.

The purpose of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract solicitation is to use assays developed from the SBIR contract proposals to test toxicologically related targets in a large compound collection of environmental chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 104KB).

NCATS Exploratory Clinical Trials for Small Business

June 18, 2015

This proposed funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will use small businesses under the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer grant program to support early and exploratory clinical trials. Examples of appropriate clinical studies under this FOA include those whose primary aim is to evaluate and optimize the dose, formulation, safety, tolerability or pharmacokinetics of an intervention or diagnostic in healthy volunteers or the target population; conduct prospective clinical validation of a therapeutic intervention; and evaluate whether an intervention produces sufficient evidence of short-term activity (e.g., biomarker activity, dose-response trends, pharmacodynamic response) in a human proof-of-concept trial.

The purpose of the FOA is to support applications from small businesses for clinical trials (i.e., phase I and II clinical studies) of drugs, biologics, devices or diagnostics — as well as surgical, behavioral or rehabilitation therapies — that contribute to the justification for and provide the data required to design a future trial to confirm efficacy (i.e., a phase III clinical trial). Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 46KB).

R&D Contract Support for NCATS Translational Sciences

June 18, 2015

NCATS is interested in advancing collaborative research projects across the phases of the translational science spectrum. These research projects are designed to overcome key obstacles and inefficiencies in the translational process. While the mechanisms for overcoming obstacles differ, multiple NCATS programs require access to contract resources to achieve their missions. For example, the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) and Bridging Interventional Development Gaps (BrIDGs) programs heavily rely on contract research organizations (CROs) to provide manufacturing, pharmacology, toxicology, regulatory and clinical operations services to achieve milestones of their projects. All projects within TRND and BrIDGs programs require services compliant with Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Laboratory Practice, which cannot be performed within NCATS’ own laboratories. Other NCATS programs, such as Chemistry Technology and Matrix Combination Screening, regularly use CROs to profile molecules that are being investigated internally.

Under this proposed initiative, NCATS will request proposals from vendors to provide long-term contract services for NCATS programs in various pre-clinical and clinical therapeutic development areas.

The purpose of the request for proposals is to obtain long-term contract laboratory services in support of the mission of the NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 87KB).

Small Business Translational Science Innovation Award Program

June 18, 2015

This proposed Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer program announcement (PA) will focus on innovative translational science. Translating biomedical discoveries into clinical applications is essential to improving human health. It is also a complex process with high costs and substantial failure rates that can result in delays of years or decades before improved patient outcomes result from discoveries in biomedical research. The scientific and operational issues that underlie most translational inefficiency are not specific to a particular disease, discipline, institution or geographic locale. Rather, they are systematic issues, which require systematic and generalizable solutions. Further, every stage of the translational process currently is fraught with ineffectiveness and in need of bold, innovative new solutions. Through this PA, we aim to enlist the small business community in this effort. We anticipate that the efforts supported through this PA will proceed in parallel with and synergize with ongoing activities in the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) consortium under PAR-15-172 and PAR-15-173.

The goal of the proposed PA is to incentivize small businesses to develop products to address bold and innovative new solutions to problems in translational sciences, as outlined in PAR-15-172 and PAR-15-173. Another goal is to stimulate partnerships between small businesses and the CTSA network. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 47KB).

Tissues-on-Chips: Part II

June 18, 2015

The goal of Part I of the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program was to develop bioengineered microdevices that represent functional units of the 10 major human organ systems: circulatory, respiratory, integumentary, reproductive, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, urinary, musculoskeletal and immune. Through the first part of this program, several unique and novel in vitro platforms have demonstrated human organotypic physiological functions and response to drug exposure, ensuring that safe and effective therapeutics are identified sooner and ineffective or toxic ones are rejected early in the drug development process. These microfabricated devices also have proven useful for modeling human diseases and may prove to be sufficient alternatives to animal testing. At the end of the proposed five-year extension of the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program, it is anticipated that the availability of these systems to the broader scientific community will foster a multitude of new research applications, including but not limited to studies in personalized medicine, environment exposures, reproduction and development, autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, cancer, countermeasures for chemical warfare, immune responses and neuro-inflammation.

The purpose of the proposed request for applications is to evolve the technology developed under Part I of the program in order to fully exploit the use of the tissues-on-chips not only at the preclinical stage but also as a clinical tool. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 66KB).


Innovative Collaborations for the CTSA Consortium

Sept. 19, 2014

Turning discoveries into clinical advances is a long and inefficient process. The proposed initiative aims to accelerate translational research in specific areas of research and at the same time to more broadly advance our understanding of translational science, the field focused on best scientific and operational methods. The focus of the innovative collaborations initiative is less on the development of technologies de novo, but more on the demonstration that innovative approaches can be applied to translational research problems, or can help address roadblocks. The projects should define the positive outcome, describe how it is measured, and include plans for next steps under different outcome scenarios. At project completion, the data generated should allow for a decision as to whether the approach should be abandoned in favor of alternatives, or whether it should be optimized and disseminated more widely in support of translational research. Therefore, data quality is critical, and robust experimental approaches are encouraged. When feasible, approaches might for example include the randomization or cluster randomization to different interventions that would allow for comparisons between contemporary arms or between pre- and post-intervention scenarios. Projects under this initiative are demonstration projects, and will be considered successful if they provide high-quality data on an innovative and generalizable approach so that the field moves forward. The projects are thus expected to have an impact almost regardless of their outcome by accelerating the uptake of an effective innovation, or by alternatively making it clear which approaches should be discontinued in favor of alternative investments.  As appropriate, projects will include pre-defined milestones to monitor progress.

The goal of this initiative is to stimulate collaborative research in the CTSA consortium. Building on the existing strengths at the CTSA hubs, and utilizing resources already funded by NCATS under the CTSA program, the collaborative projects under the proposed initiative will address important gaps in clinical and translational research, and will advance innovative solutions with the goal to get more treatments to more patients more quickly. Read the full Concept Clearance (PDF - 122KB).

Proposed CTSA Initiatives

May 16, 2014

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program has evolved continually since its inception in 2006. In 2011, the CTSA program was positioned under the leadership of NCATS to build upon its existing strengths and to ensure its further development in alignment with the NCATS mission to enhance the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) study of the CTSA program, released in June 2013, recommended that NCATS take a more active role in the program’s governance and direction, formalize the evaluation processes of the program, advance innovation in education and training programs, and ensure community engagement in all phases of research, among other recommendations. In December 2013, NCATS tasked a Working Group of its Advisory Council with developing measurable goals for the CTSA program. The Working Group reported to the NCATS Advisory Council in May 2014.

NCATS is proposing to develop a number of new initiatives starting in Fiscal Year 2015 that are aimed at further strengthening the CTSA program, taking into account the IOM and Council Working Group reports. The proposed set of initiatives will emphasize measurable progress in overcoming barriers to translational efficiency across the translational science spectrum and will include, but not be limited to, pre-clinical research, clinical research and training.

Platform Delivery Technologies for Nucleic Acid Therapeutics

Jan. 16, 2014

Nucleic acids have shown proof of concept as therapeutics in pre-clinical models of numerous genetic diseases. The major hurdle is finding effective methods to deliver nucleic acids to specific cell types, particularly to the nervous system. Platform-type nucleic acid delivery technologies that are safe and effective could, in principle, enable therapies for multiple genetic diseases for which there are no treatments, but also increase therapeutic options for more common conditions, such as viral infection. The goal of the proposed funding opportunity will be to encourage SBIR /STTR applications for platform technologies to deliver nucleic acid therapeutics (siRNAs, miRNAs, antisense oligonucleotides, splice-switching oligonucleotides, plasmid/chromosomal DNAs, or messenger RNA) to specific cell types in humans. To be responsive to this solicitation, technologies must be, in principle, applicable to the treatment of multiple diseases.


Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Opportunities

May 17, 2013

NCATS is interested in the development of innovative tools, technologies and intervention (drug, device, diagnostic) platforms that would support the creation of novel therapeutics and/or diagnostics, especially for rare and neglected diseases. The NCATS SBIR/STTR program proposes to initiate new funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) for small businesses on topics relevant to the Center’s mission.

NCATS SBIR/STTR set-aside funds will support opportunities for the following topics using SBIR Phase I and Phase II award mechanisms:

  • Development of neurocognitive pediatric tools for measuring and analyzing clinical study endpoints in rare neurocognitive disorders
  • Development of biomarkers for rare diseases as endpoints for clinical trial measurements

As part of the U.S. Public Health Service’s 2014-1 SBIR Contract Solicitation call for topics, NCATS will develop solicitations for the topics listed below. All research topics for this contract solicitation must have received concept review. Topics selected for Phase I project awards must have the potential to continue to Phase II.

  • Portable parathyroid hormone pump and calcium monitoring device
  • Development of improved genome-editing technologies
  • Development of droplet detection system for high-throughput screening
  • Platforms for the rapid development of cell-based assays for rare diseases

Ethical Challenges in Translational Research: Evidence-Based Research

Jan. 23, 2013

Researchers face many ethical challenges in the translation of basic findings into clinical testing and, ultimately, implementation in the clinic. Evidence-based research is needed to provide data to inform solutions. This concept proposes to help the Clinical and Translational Science Awards community and NIH-funded networks by integrating evidence-based ethics research into current research activities. The concept will be supported with bioethics funding from the NIH Office of the Director.

Increasing National Capacity for Clinical and Translational Research

Jan. 23, 2013

Industry, academia and regulatory bodies exhibit willingness to change currently inefficient practices in translational research. However, all in the biomedical research community need a national environment that supports innovation. This concept will provide opportunities to pilot expansion of innovative and effective practices, methodologies and technologies across multiple sites in real time to support a sustainable national capacity for translation research.


Strengthening Community-Engaged Research in the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program

Sept. 14, 2012

The development of innovative approaches to engage communities in research efforts and to improve the dissemination and implementation to the community of insights from NIH research are important for developing and implementing new preventives, diagnostics and therapeutics. This concept will identify major challenges to effective community-engaged clinical research, especially those encountered by institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, and will solicit focused, highly innovative demonstration projects to test strategies to overcome these barriers.

Last updated: 11-02-2016
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