SCTL Frequently Asked Questions

Why is NIH seeking collaborations on stem cell projects?

Part of the NIH Common Fund Regenerative Medicine Program (RMP), the Stem Cell Translation Laboratory (SCTL) at NCATS is seeking new collaborations to help achieve common goals in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) biology in a faster and more coordinated fashion. Interested investigators may propose to collaborate with the SCTL on projects to bring iPSC technology closer to clinical application, drug discovery and regenerative medicine. View NOT-RM-17-030 for more details.

What are major research goals for NCATS’ SCTL?

Using a multidisciplinary collaborative team approach, NCATS’ SCTL scientists aim to:

  • Establish detailed quality control (QC) standards to define pluripotency and differentiated cell types;
  • Use multi-omics methods to assess molecular and cellular variations/signatures in cellular phenotypes derived from iPSCs;
  • Develop standardized methods for producing mature cells from iPSCs that meet QC and reproducibility standards; and
  • Discover, validate and disseminate small molecule reagents to replace expensive recombinant proteins, xenogenic material and undefined media components in cell differentiation protocols.

An NIH Guide notice announced the opportunity to collaborate with the SCTL. Is the collaboration considered a funding opportunity? Will the SCTL provide funding to selected collaborators?

NIH Guide notice NOT-RM-17-030 is not a grant application, and no external funding is available. Rather, it is an opportunity to collaborate with NCATS scientists and have access to the expertise and resources of the SCTL.

What is the process to establish a collaboration project with the SCTL?

Prospective collaborators are encouraged to contact the SCTL for additional details about preparing a proposal. Proposals will be assessed for scientific merit, technical feasibility, fit with available resources and alignment with SCTL programmatic goals. View the SCTL Proposal Process to learn more about this process.

When should potential collaborators submit a proposal?

Interested investigators may submit proposals to collaborate with the SCTL throughout the year. Proposals will be accepted on July 1, November 1 and March 1. Peer review of submitted proposals will be held in August, December and April of each year.

What is the review process for submitted proposals?

NCATS staff expect collaborative projects to emphasize overcoming technological hurdles impeding the transition of iPSC research from “bench” to “bedside” (e.g., significant protocol improvement). Proposals will be assessed for scope and availability of internal SCTL resources. Then, NCATS staff will seek stem cell experts’ feedback on select proposals to measure enthusiasm for the proposed science, competitiveness within the research area and feasibility of success. Finally, there will be a second level of review to ensure programmatic fit with SCTL goals.

The review process will solicit feedback in the following areas:

  • Strength of current data package;
  • Feasibility to complete goals;
  • Translational impact relative to current standard; and
  • Likelihood of external adoption and broad impact.

Details of the NIH and external expert deliberations are kept confidential by SCTL program staff, but investigators will receive a letter regarding the proposal’s final outcome. All materials submitted to the SCTL via proposalCENTRAL are considered confidential.

Following the scientific assessment, SCTL staff will evaluate select proposals further, conducting face-to-face meetings with potential collaborators. During this time, SCTL staff may request additional supporting data. Portfolio balance and availability of resources will also affect final decisions.

Will SCTL staff establish an agreement with collaborators?

Research projects are governed by formal NIH collaborative agreements. When a collaborative agreement is agreed to and signed by all parties, the collaborative project will start. Learn more about NCATS’ standard model agreements.

How will SCTL staff implement and/or terminate collaborative projects?

Once a collaborative agreement has been executed, a project team will be formed. In consultation with the collaborating investigator, the project team will develop and define the following elements:

  • Project plan
  • Timeline
  • Milestones and deliverables
  • Go/no-go decision points

At that point, a project plan and any subsequent changes will be approved by SCTL leadership. The project team will make go/no-go decisions based on the project plan. In coordination with governance team members, SCTL leadership will make the final decision regarding changes to project scope or termination.

SCTL leadership may terminate a project if it fails to meet timelines, milestones and/or deliverables or if the governance team recommends it. Whenever possible, SCTL staff will provide collaborating investigators with guidance on how to move the project forward.