Department of Health and Human Services

Part 1. Overview Information
Participating Organization(s)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Components of Participating Organizations

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)

Funding Opportunity Title

Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research (U54)

Activity Code

U54 Specialized Center- Cooperative Agreements

Announcement Type

This is a reissue of RFA-HD-09-032

Related Notices

Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Number

RFA-HD-12-169

Companion FOA

None

Number of Applications

See Section III. 3. Additional Information on Eligibility.

Catalog of Federal Domestics Assistance (CFDA) Number(s)

 93.865   

FOA Purpose

The purpose of this FOA is to announce the re-competition of the Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research (SCCPIR).  The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) provides funding for a limited number of research centers in the reproductive sciences.  These centers provide an arena for multidisciplinary interactions between basic and clinical scientists interested in establishing high quality translational research programs in the area of reproduction and infertility.  The centers also serve as national resources for the training and career development of new scientists electing to pursue careers conducting translational research in high priority areas of reproduction and infertility.  Finally, center investigators are expected to participate in important community outreach and education efforts to increase awareness and convey the importance and implications of their research activities to the general public.

Key Dates
Posted Date
Open Date (Earliest Submission Date)

 Not Applicable

Letter of Intent Due Date

April 26, 2011

Application Due Date(s)

May 26, 2011

AIDS Application Due Date(s)

Not applicable

Scientific Merit Review

October/November 2011

Advisory Council Review

January, 2012

Earliest Start Date(s)

April 2012

Expiration Date

May 27, 2011

Due Dates for E.O. 12372

Not Applicable

Required Application Instructions

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the PHS398 Application Guide except where instructed to do otherwise (in this FOA or in a Notice from the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts). Conformance to all requirements (both in the Application Guide and the FOA) is required and strictly enforced. While some links are provided, 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.

Table of Contents

Part 1. Overview Information
Part 2. Full Text of Announcement
Section I. Funding Opportunity Description
Section II. Award Information
Section III. Eligibility Information
Section IV. Application and Submission Information
Section V. Application Review Information
Section VI. Award Administration Information
Section VII. Agency Contacts
Section VIII. Other Information

Part 2. Full Text of Announcement

Section I. Funding Opportunity Description

Purpose

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), through the Reproductive Sciences Branch (RSB) in the Center for Population Research (CPR), provides funding for a limited number of research centers in the reproductive sciences.  These centers provide an arena for multidisciplinary interactions among basic and clinical scientists interested in establishing high quality translational research programs in the reproductive sciences.  The centers also serve as national resources for the training and career development of young scientists electing to pursue careers conducting research in high priority areas of reproduction and infertility. Accordingly, the purpose of this FOA is to announce a re-competition of the Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction and Infertility Research (SCCPIR).  Applications are sought from investigators willing to participate with the NICHD under a cooperative agreement in a multicenter cooperative research program. Center investigators will be expected to work with NICHD staff in facilitating research collaborations and interactions within and among centers.  Such a cooperative program will form a national network that facilitates and accelerates bidirectional knowledge transfer between the laboratory and clinic with the ultimate goal of improving human reproductive health through enhanced communication, innovation and research excellence.

Background

Families, family values, and family planning form the cultural essence and cohesiveness of our existence as human societies.  One of the most basic of human rights -- the right to procreate -- is frustrated or denied by the occurrence of infertility in couples desiring children.  It has been estimated that infertility affects between 37 and 70 million married couples around the world.  In U.S. studies described over 50 years ago, it was stated that up to 10 percent of married couples were ‘sterile,’ with the remaining 90 percent having varying degrees of fertility.  More recent and technically rigorous U.S. survey studies have conservatively identified that there are about 2.3 million infertile couples, which is about nine percent of the domestic married couple population base with wives aged 15-44. According to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, 7.4 percent of married women, or about 2.1 million women were infertile (12 months or longer without birth control and without a pregnancy). This represents a significant decline from the prevalence of 8.4 percent reported in 1982.  On the other hand, about 15% of married women or 4.3 million had an impaired ability to have children (impaired fecundity) in 2002 compared to 8.5% of married women 20 years earlier. This latter trend likely is indicative of the delay in childbearing found in the contemporary couple population base in which significant age-related increases in infertility and subfecundity have been reported. 

Physician office visits reflecting current societal life style requirements for infertility services have markedly increased in the U.S. almost four fold between 1968 (600,000) and 2000 (2,100,000).  Indeed, it is estimated that 13 percent of American women will receive infertility services during their lifetime.  Interestingly, this represents only half the number of women who actually need infertility services.  Of the infertile couples seeking treatment for infertility, it has been estimated that up to one half will be unsuccessful in achieving their desired outcome.  In concert with the increased medical assistance sought, U.S. infertility service costs have risen to exceed a several billion dollars annually.

In couples, at least 25-40 percent of infertility is attributable to male factor infertility for which the pathophysiology is either not understood at all or, at best, poorly understood.  The prognosis for male infertility treatment outcomes is extremely poor at present.  Indeed, whereas 80 percent of infertile women can be successfully treated, male infertility can be treated in only 10-20 percent of such men.  However, the widespread use of assisted reproductive technologies such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and its variants has enabled otherwise infertile men to father children, although possible genetic causes of the infertility are likely transmitted to the progeny.

Reproductive tract disorders affecting fertility are associated with significant morbidity and a degree of mortality in some specific instances that cannot be ignored.  Accompanying the human costs of morbidities of reproductive tract disorders are the attendant substantial costs to the U.S. health care system involving the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up services provided to the patients, as well as the added costs to the patient and the U.S. economy of lost employment and family service hours. In reproductive-aged couples, the obstructive sequelae of male accessory gland infections account for eight to 12 percent of male partner diagnostic costs for fertility impairment.  In reproductive-aged females, it has been estimated that the general incidence of endometriosis is five to 15 percent, but can be as high as 50% in women with pelvic pain or infertility. While the causative role of endometriosis in infertility remains poorly understood and its optimal diagnosis and treatment remain a goal not an accomplishment of contemporary medicine, the morbid impact of the associated pelvic pain has significant human cost as well as national economic costs.  Indeed, the health care burden of endometriosis has been estimated to be an astounding 22 billion dollars per year!

Similarly, the role of dysfunctional uterine bleeding, either in the presence or the absence of uterine leiomyomata (fibroids), is not well understood despite its common occurrence and decades of research.  It is a significant factor in noncompliant contraceptive use or discontinuance and, therefore, in the unintended pregnancy problem. 

Uterine leiomyomata occur in nearly 20% percent of all reproductive-aged women, are the single most common diagnosis in gynecological hospital admissions, may be the only abnormality observed in an infertile couple, and represent the most common medical indication for an unintended and often unwanted hysterectomy that prematurely ends a female’s reproductive options. Fibroids disproportionately affect African Americans with some studies indicating a three-fold higher prevalence in this racial group than in the Caucasian population.  Annual cost expenditures for this condition approximates 2.1 billion dollars.     

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a major cause of female infertility, as well as of other reproductive system and other tissue and organ system morbidities. Identified more than 60 years ago by Stein and Leventhal, the etiology of PCOS remains misunderstood despite 60 years of research.  This insidious disease is currently the most common endocrine disorder of reproductive-aged women, affecting between five and 10 percent of women aged 15-44 or more than four million women in the U.S.  Most, if not all women with PCOS present with hyperandrogenemia, irregular menstrual cycles and polycystic ovaries.  Often, these conditions are accompanied by obesity and insulin resistance.  Indeed, the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus among PCOS patients is five- to 10-fold higher than in the normal population, and the prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome is nearly two-fold higher in PCOS women than in the general population.  Considering the high prevalence of diabetes in PCOS women, a very recent study estimated that the total annualized cost of evaluating and providing care to PCOS women is a staggering $4.6 billion dollars.  

Also poorly understood is the pathogenesis of premature ovarian failure that affects one in 100 women by age 40.  Interestingly, 16 percent of women carrying the fragile X pre-mutation present with premature ovarian failure.  The mechanism(s) underlying pre-mutation-based ovarian insufficiency is not known, but once known could provide critical insights into the basic biological processes regulating ovarian follicular growth, differentiation and atresia.

With the hopes that earlier diagnosis of these devastating infertility disorders will result in earlier intervention and amelioration of the condition, attention is now turning to the adolescent.  Here, research efforts are needed to better define hormonal changes during normal progression of sexual maturation, particularly at the time of menarche.  In this regard, initial menstrual cycles are often irregular and are anovulatory making it difficult to diagnose conditions such as PCOS.  Likewise, endometriosis had been thought to occur rarely in adolescence, but it is being diagnosed more frequently in this population thanks to a greater awareness by the medical community.  Even so, efforts to refine diagnostic criteria for children and adolescents so that effective interventional strategies can be employed are likely to be pay enormous dividends in decreasing the incidence of disease and infertility in adulthood.   

Data now firmly support the contribution of genetics and epigenetics in male and female infertility.  In males, there is considerable evidence from breeding studies and gene knockout experiments in animals that mutation of over 100 separate genes results in infertility.  More limited studies in humans show that a number of inherited diseases are associated with abnormal sperm morphology and function.  These data suggest that a significant number of men with infertility may have one or more mutations that predispose to their condition.  However, it is currently not possible to determine which men have genetic infertility.  Similarly, it is estimated that 15-20 percent of human pregnancies are chromosomally abnormal as a result of division errors during oocyte meiosis or early embryonic cleavage.  Such errors not only are the leading cause of birth defects, but may be the single most important factor contributing to human infertility.  Finally, evidence is mounting to show that altered epigenetic modification of gene expression through histone modifications, methylation defects or RNA stability changes may underpin diseases such as endometriosis.

An area of emerging public health interest is the preservation of fertility in individuals undergoing treatments for diseases such as cancer.  Currently, there are more than 9 million cancer survivors in the U.S. of whom approximately 5% are under the age of 35.  The chemical or radiological consequences of these treatments oftentimes target vital reproductive organs such as the gonads depleting the gamete stem cell pool thereby causing permanent infertility.  Therefore, providing options for preserving fertility in men, women and children is not only an important reproductive health issue, but a quality of life issue as well.

Another high priority area for reproductive health is in area of preconception care.  This has its roots in the Barker Hypothesis which states that adult diseases have their origins prior to birth.  To this point, most experimentation has examined possible adverse birth outcomes (e.g., low birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, preeclampsia, pre-term birth, birth defects) and adult disease incidence as a result of perturbing the maternal-fetal environment.  However, it is now clear once again from animal models that these adverse outcomes can occur during the embryonic period and even prior to implantation or conception itself.  Thus, increased efforts are needed to define important developmental periods in which perturbations to normal physiological systems can result in poor pregnancy outcomes and to determine if these periods coincide with periods for important epigenetic modification of the genome.          

Finally, the need for the availability of contraceptive options acceptable to diverse populations remains globally unmet.  Among the 600 million women of reproductive age in today’s world, as many as 228 million women are at risk of unintended pregnancy (pregnancies which are mistimed or completely unwanted).  In turn, these unintended pregnancies result in approximately 50 million abortions worldwide each year.  In the U.S., more than three million unintended pregnancies, about 60 percent of all pregnancies, occur annually.  Indeed, by age 45, more than half of U.S. women have had one or more unintended pregnancies.  Approximately half of unintended pregnancies in the U.S. result in abortion or miscarriage as an outcome, and in many cases, a contraceptive method being used failed to prevent pregnancy.

The RSB recognizes that the interactive needs of basic and clinical research necessary to address the above and related problems may be so complex that they cannot be solved by individual investigators working alone.  Therefore, it is the intention of the RSB, contingent upon the availability of funds, to continue and maintain organized, multi-component reproduction and infertility research programs of high quality that focus on topics of high priority and significance that are critically important to the mission of the RSB, and that address important reproductive health concerns of the American public.

Objectives

A major objective of the SCCPIR is to support specialized translational reproductive research programs of high quality, and to facilitate and accelerate bidirectional transfer of knowledge between the laboratory and clinic.  This process of translating research between the laboratory and clinic is a continuum that encompasses all aspects of knowledge transfer from non-human animal models to humans.  For example, application of information from rodent species to non-human primates is considered part of the translational continuum.  However, the ultimate goal of supporting translational research through the SCCPIR is to improve human reproductive health. 

This FOA is specifically designed to stimulate the reproductive sciences research community to organize and maintain research-based centers of outstanding quality that, serving as national research resources, form a cooperative network with NICHD that fosters communication, innovation and high quality reproduction and infertility research.  Such networking as afforded by the cooperative nature of this Centers Program will ensure that the reproductive research community remains in the forefront of the development and utilization of new technologies that can be used to diagnose, treat and ameliorate reproductive diseases and disorders, as well as to identify novel leads for fertility regulation.

Research Scope

The SCCPIR is composed of research-based center grants designed to support interactive groups of research projects and supporting core service facilities.  The research activities included in these center grants must comprise, by definition, a multidisciplinary approach to biomedical problems addressing the specific research topic areas announced in this FOA (see below).  These centers may have more than one theme, focus or emphasis, but all of the subprojects involved must be responsive to one or more of the specific research areas of reproduction supported by the RSB.  Furthermore, the objectives of this Program require that one of the subprojects be entirely or predominantly clinical and that all basic science subprojects be linked to the clinical component(s) of the center.

Topics that are considered to be responsive to the research mission areas of the RSB include but are not limited to those bulleted below.  Additionally, these topics identify areas where research at the basic/clinical interface is deemed essential to the potential development of new leads or approaches to fertility regulation, as well as of diagnostic tools and procedures for the detection, treatment and effective management of reproductive disorders that impact on reproductive competence.

Because this list is not meant to be all inclusive, prospective applicants preparing either a new or competing continuation center grant application are encouraged to discuss program relevance issues with the program staff contact cited below.  However, applicants should note that the research scope of this FOA does not include studies in the area of reproductive oncology, reproductive toxicology or reproductive epidemiology, or studies dealing with post-implantation pregnancy and parturition.  These topic areas are outside the scope of research supported by the RSB and, therefore, will be deemed non-responsive to this FOA.  Further, applications proposing research activities focused exclusively on basic research, or applications or components thereof proposing epidemiological or large-scale clinical trial research, will not be considered responsive to this FOA.

See Section VIII, Other Information - Required Federal Citations, for policies related to this announcement.

Section II. Award Information
Funding Instrument

Cooperative Agreement: A support mechanism used when there will be substantial Federal scientific or programmatic involvement. Substantial involvement means that, after award, scientific or program staff will assist, guide, coordinate, or participate in project activities.

Application Types Allowed

New
Renewal
Resubmission: Allowed only from previous RFA.

The OER Glossary and the PHS398 Application Guide provide details on these application types.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards

The following NIH components intend to commit the following amounts in FY 2012:

The NICHD intends to commit approximately $5.4 million in total costs [Direct plus Facilities and Administrative (F & A) costs] in FY 2012 to fund up to three new and/or renewal applications in response to this FOA.

Award Budget

An applicant for a center may request a project period of up to five years and a budget for direct costs not to exceed $1.4 million for the first year with incremental increases for recurring costs (i.e., personnel, consultants, supplies, travel and other expenses) not to exceed three percent in each subsequent year.  Applications exceeding the budgetary limits specified above will be returned to the applicant without peer review.  Furthermore, increases in outyear budgets for recurring costs are subject to the availability of funds..

Award Project Period

In general, awards will be made for a five year period.  However, because the nature and scope of the proposed research will vary from application to application, it is anticipated that the size and duration of each award will also vary. Although the financial plans of the IC provide support for this program, awards pursuant to this funding opportunity are contingent upon the availability of funds and the receipt of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.    

NIH grants policies as described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement will apply to the applications submitted and awards made in response to this FOA.

Section III. Eligibility Information

1. Eligible Applicants
 
Eligible Organizations

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

For profit Organizations

Governments

Other

Non-domestic (non-U.S.) Entities (Foreign Organizations) are not eligible to apply. Foreign (non-U.S.) components of U.S. Organizations are not allowed.

Subcontracts from domestic entities to foreign sites are permitted for subprojects and cores.  

Required Registrations

Applicant organizations must complete the following registrations as described in the PHS398 Application Guide to be eligible to apply for or receive an award. Applicants must have a valid Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number in order to begin each of the following registrations.

All Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) must also work with their institutional officials to register with the eRA Commons or ensure their existing eRA Commons account is affiliated with the eRA Commons account of the applicant organization.

All registrations must be completed by the application due date. Applicant organizations are strongly encouraged to start the registration process at least four (4) weeks prior to the application due date.

Eligible Individuals (Project Director/Principal Investigator)

Any individual(s) with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed research as the Project Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) is invited to work with his/her organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support.

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 PHS398 Application Guide.

2. Cost Sharing

This FOA does not require cost sharing as defined in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

3. Additional Information on Eligibility

Number of Applications

Applicant organizations may submit more than one application, provided that each application is scientifically distinct.

NIH will not accept any application in response to this FOA that is essentially the same as one currently pending initial peer review unless the applicant withdraws the pending application. NIH will not accept any application that is essentially the same as one already reviewed. Resubmission applications may be submitted, according to the NIH Policy on Resubmission Applications from the PHS398 Application Guide.

Section IV. Application and Submission Information

1. Address to Request Application Package

Applicants are required to prepare applications according to the current PHS 398 application forms in accordance with the PHS 398 Application Guide.

2. Content and Form of Application Submission

It is critical that applicants follow the instructions in the PHS398 Application Guide, except where instructed in this funding opportunity announcement to do otherwise. Conformance to the requirements in the Application Guide is required and strictly enforced. Applications that are out of compliance with these instructions may be delayed or not accepted for review.

Letter of Intent

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:

Descriptive title of proposed research
Name, address, and telephone number of the PD(s)/PI(s)
Names of other key personnel
Participating institutions
Number and title of this funding opportunity

The letter of intent should be sent to:

Louis V. DePaolo, Ph.D.
Reproductive Sciences Branch
Center for Population Research
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 8B01A, MSC 7510
Bethesda, MD  20892-7510
Rockville, MD 20852 (for express/courier service; non-USPS service)
Telephone: 301-435-6970
Email: ld38p@ nih.gov

Application Submission

Applications must be prepared using the PHS 398 research grant application forms and instructions for preparing a research grant application. Submit a signed, typewritten original of the application, including the checklist, and three signed photocopies in one package to:

Center for Scientific Review
National Institutes of Health
6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 1040, MSC 7710
Bethesda, MD 20892-7710 (U.S. Postal Service Express or regular mail)
Bethesda, MD 20817 (for express/courier service; non-USPS service)

At the time of submission, two additional paper copies of the application and all copies of the appendix files must be sent to:

Sherry Dupere, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Scientific Review
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
6100 Executive Boulevard, Room 5B01, MSC 7510
Bethesda, MD  20892-7510
Rockville, MD  20852 (for express/courier service; non-USPS service)
Telephone: 301-451-3415
FAX: 301-402-4104
Email: duperes@mail.nih.gov

Page Limitations

All page limitations described in the PHS398 Application Guide and the Table of Page Limits must be followed with the following additional requirements:

Resource Sharing Plan

Individuals are required to comply with the instructions for the Resource Sharing Plans (Data Sharing Plan, Sharing Model Organisms, and Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) as provided in the PHS398 Application Guide.

Research Plan

All instructions in the PHS398 Application Guide must be followed, with the following additional instructions:

Budget

This FOA uses non-modular budget formats described in the PHS 398 application instructions (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html).

Appendix

Do not use the appendix to circumvent page limits. Follow all instructions for the Appendix (please note all format requirements) as described in the PHS398 Application Guide. All paper PHS 398 applications must provide appendix material on CDs only.  Include five identical CDs in the same package with the application.  

 Description of a Center

Applications for the U54 grant are to be prepared in a manner consistent with the information presented in the NICHD U54 Cooperative Specialized Research Center Grant Guidelines, available from the contacts listed below and at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/funding/mechanism/u54_guide.cfm .

The minimal requirements for a Center described in this FOA are as follows (see sections on Review Procedures and Award Criteria below):

Optional components of the Center organization include the mix of subprojects and cores to be included in the Center:

Closed Access Structure:  In this center structure administrative and all technical service cores will be utilized by budgeted center subprojects only.  Consistent with NICHD guidelines for establishment of core facilities, utilization by three subprojects is required to justify a core technical service facility.  Percent utilization by any one of the three subprojects justifying the core may not exceed 50 percent or be less than five percent.  The percent utilization of additional subprojects requiring core services may be less than five percent.  Costs necessary to use a particular core facility may be incorporated into the budget of the core unit, and not in the budgets of the research subprojects per se.  No internal charge-back system would be required.

Open Access Structure:  In this center structure, budgeted center subprojects, as well as research projects external to the Center (e.g., R01, R03, R21, P01 subproject), may have access to technical service cores.  However, special consideration must be given to justification of a technical service core facility and the formal establishment of an effective charge-back system for all technical service cores.  For each core service facility, at least one of the three projects used to justify a core must be a budgeted center subproject, while the remaining project(s) used in justifying the core must be externally funded NICHD projects administered by the RSB.  Percent utilization by any internally budgeted center subproject or externally funded RSB project used to justify a particular core facility may not exceed 50 percent or be less than five percent.  An additional seven federally funded, peer reviewed external research projects addressing program relevant research areas of the RSB may access the core up to 100 percent of its service capacity.  The 50/5 percent utilization requirement applies to this group of external projects.  Centers must establish an internal management policy for evaluating the acceptability of proposed RSB program relevant external projects to access the core facilities.  Approval of requests for core access privileges for external projects which would replace those described above must be made to RSB Program Staff who then will evaluate the extent to which the project is relevant to RSB mission research areas (see Research Scope), and render a decision accordingly.

If centers choose to operate in an open access format, costs necessary to utilize a particular core facility by budgeted center subprojects must be incorporated into the budget of the subproject and not the core budget in order to accommodate participation in the required charge-back system.  Core budgets will be justified and evaluated based on access by budgeted center subprojects and external, program relevant research projects as described above.  Above and beyond this arrangement, technology based core units may offer services to additional external projects addressing any area of research regardless of funding source only on a full payback (fee for service or in-kind) basis.  However, additional funds necessary to provide services to these external projects (e.g., technical support, supplies, etc.) must come from sources other than the center funding, such as the supply budgets of the external projects wishing to access the core facilities.  In choosing to configure a center in an open access center structure, the Principal Investigator must have in place, and adequately describe in the application, management policies that ensure that budgeted center subprojects are given highest priority in receiving services provided by the core.

Centers choosing to configure in an open access center format may propose one or more technical service cores that will be utilized exclusively by budgeted center subprojects.  These centers may, therefore, have a mix of open and restricted access technical service cores.  On the other hand, administrative cores in open center structures may be accessed only by budgeted center subprojects.

Once an award is made, centers configured as a closed access center structure may, at a later time, choose to convert to an open access center structure by requesting such conversion in writing to the NICHD.

3. Submission Dates and Times

Part I. Overview Information contains information about Key Dates. 

Information on the process of receipt and determining if your application is considered “on-time” is described in detail in the PHS398 Application Guide.

Applicants may track the status of the application in the eRA Commons, NIH’s electronic system for grants administration.

4. Intergovernmental Review (E.O. 12372)

This initiative is not subject to intergovernmental review.

5. Funding Restrictions

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.

6. Other Submission Requirements and Information

Applications must be postmarked on or before the due dates in Part I. Overview Information. If an application is received after that date, it will not be reviewed.

Upon receipt, applications will be evaluated for completeness by the Center for Scientific Review and responsiveness by the NICHD, NIH. Applications that are incomplete and/or nonresponsive will not be reviewed.

At a minimum, an application in response to this FOA should include:

All applicants must document their ability to meet or exceed the minimum requirements as set forth in this FOA.  This specifically includes understanding of and commitment to the cooperative nature of this Program, and willingness to meet the Terms and Conditions of Award as stated in Section VI.2.A.

Program Coordination and Management Structure

Overall coordination of the SCCPIR, consistent with the stated objectives set forth in this FOA (see Objectives), will be done by a Steering Committee consisting of all Center Principal Investigators and an NICHD Project Scientist from the RSB, CPR.  The Steering Committee will employ a consensus decision process to guide the SCCPIR in evaluating the progress of member Center programs, their proposed new research initiatives within the general scope of the approved program, the need to provide the entire SCCPIR network of centers with access to new technologies, the need for collaborations either within or outside the SCCPIR network, and the need to redirect certain efforts of member Centers due to either sufficient data acquisition to permit conclusion, the acquisition of data supporting an alternative study initiative or experience proving that the proposed research is no longer feasible, or , in the case of SCCPIR-wide resources, lack of utilization.

In addition to the Steering Committee, smaller cooperative groups will be formed that consist of research components of member centers having common research interests addressing a specific basic and/or clinical research problem.  These Research Focus Groups will perform coordinated research activities as recommended by the SCCPIR Steering Committee, subject to peer review.  In turn, progress of the Research Focus Groups will further guide the Steering Committee in decision making regarding changes in specific research directions, translational activities, collaborative research projects and support of new resources.  The Research Focus Group will consist of an NICHD Staff liaison from the RSB, CPR, and Key Investigators of the relevant subproject and/or Core Directors.

Further details of the guidance and management structures and processes may be found under Section VI.2.A “Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award”.

Travel to Meetings

Principal Investigators should request travel funds to support their participation in the annual Steering Committee Meeting as well as two research focus group meetings per year.  Key Investigators of budgeted center subprojects and Directors of technical service cores should request travel funds to support participation in two research focus group meetings per year.

Post Submission Materials

Applicants are required to follow the instructions for post-submission materials, as described in NOT-OD-10-115.

Section V. Application Review Information

1. Criteria

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.

Individual Research Projects    

Impact

Reviewers will provide an impact/priority score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the individual research project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Scored Review Criteria

Reviewers will consider each of the review criteria below in the determination of scientific merit, and give a separate score for each. An application does not need to be strong in all categories to be judged likely to have major scientific impact. For example, a project that by its nature is not innovative may be essential to advance a field.

Significance

Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? 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?   

Investigator(s)

Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, or 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?  

Innovation

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?   

Approach

Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? 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? 

If the project involves clinical research, are the plans for 1) protection of human subjects from research risks, and 2) inclusion of minorities and members of both sexes/genders, as well as the inclusion of children, justified in terms of the scientific goals and research strategy proposed?   

Environment

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?   

Core Units

NIH also considers the following in evaluating Center grant applications:

Additional Review Criteria

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will evaluate the following additional items while determining scientific and technical merit, and in providing an overall impact/priority score, but will not give separate scores for these items.

Center as an Integrated Effort – Overall Impact

Reviewers will provide an overall impact/priority score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the individual research project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).

Protections for Human Subjects

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 Human Subjects Protection and Inclusion Guidelines.

Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children 

When the proposed project involves clinical research, the committee will evaluate the proposed plans for inclusion of minorities and members of both genders, as well as the inclusion of children. For additional information on review of the Inclusion section, please refer to the Human Subjects Protection and Inclusion Guidelines.

Vertebrate Animals

The committee will evaluate the involvement of live vertebrate animals as part of the scientific assessment according to the following five points: 1) proposed use of the animals, and species, strains, ages, sex, and numbers to be used; 2) justifications for the use of animals and for the appropriateness of the species and numbers proposed; 3) adequacy of veterinary care; 4) procedures for limiting discomfort, distress, pain and injury to that which is unavoidable in the conduct of scientifically sound research including the use of analgesic, anesthetic, and tranquilizing drugs and/or comfortable restraining devices; and 5) methods of euthanasia and reason for selection if not consistent with the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia. For additional information on review of the Vertebrate Animals section, please refer to the Worksheet for Review of the Vertebrate Animal Section.

Biohazards

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.

Resubmissions

For Resubmissions, the committee will evaluate the application as now presented, taking into consideration the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group and changes made to the project.

Renewals

For Renewals, the committee will consider the following:

Revisions

Revisions may only be submitted with permission of NICHD program staff.  For revisions, the committee will consider the appropriateness of the proposed expansion of the scope of the project. If the Revision application relates to a specific line of investigation presented in the original application that was not approved by the committee, then the committee will consider whether the responses to comments from the previous scientific review group are adequate and whether substantial changes are clearly evident.

Additional Review Considerations - Overall

As applicable for the project proposed, reviewers will consider each of the following items, but will not give scores for these items, and should not consider them in providing an overall impact/priority score.

Applications from Foreign Organizations

Foreign Organizations are not eligible to apply.

Select Agent Research

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).

Resource Sharing Plans

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) Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS).

Budget and Period of Support

Reviewers will consider whether the budget and the requested period of support are fully justified and reasonable in relation to the proposed research.

2. Review and Selection Process

Applications will be evaluated for scientific and technical merit by (an) appropriate Scientific Review Group(s) convened by the Division of Scientific Review, NICHD  (assignments will be shown in the eRA Commons), in accordance with NIH peer review policy and procedures, using the stated review criteria.

As part of the scientific peer review, all applications will:

Applications will be assigned on the basis of established PHS referral guidelines to the appropriate NIH Institute or Center and will compete for available funds with all other recommended applications submitted in response to this FOA . Following initial peer review, recommended applications will receive a second level of review by the appropriate National Advisory Council or Board . The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

3. Anticipated Announcement and Award Dates

After the peer review of the application is completed, the PD/PI will be able to access his or her Summary Statement (written critique) via the eRA Commons

Information regarding the disposition of applications is available in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Section VI. Award Administration Information
1. Award Notices

If the application is under consideration for funding, NIH will request "just-in-time" information from the applicant as described 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 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 the DUNS, CCR Registration, and Transparency Act requirements as noted on the Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants website.

2. Administrative and National Policy Requirements

All NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards include the NIH Grants Policy Statement as part of the NoA. For these terms of award, see the NIH Grants Policy Statement Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart A: General  and Part II: Terms and Conditions of NIH Grant Awards, Subpart B: Terms and Conditions for Specific Types of Grants, Grantees, and Activities. . More information is provided at Award Conditions and Information for NIH Grants.

Cooperative Agreement Terms and Conditions of Award

The following special terms of award are in addition to, and not in lieu of, otherwise applicable U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) administrative guidelines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grant administration regulations at 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92 (Part 92 is applicable when State and local Governments are eligible to apply), and other HHS, PHS, and NIH grant administration policies.

The administrative and funding instrument used for this program will be the cooperative agreement, an "assistance" mechanism (rather than an "acquisition" mechanism), in which substantial NIH programmatic involvement with the awardees is anticipated during the performance of the activities. Under the cooperative agreement, the NIH purpose is to support and stimulate the recipients' activities by involvement in and otherwise working jointly with the award recipients in a partnership role; it is not to assume direction, prime responsibility, or a dominant role in the activities. Consistent with this concept, the dominant role and prime responsibility resides with the awardees for the project as a whole, although specific tasks and activities may be shared among the awardees and the NIH as defined below.

The PD(s)/PI(s) will have the primary responsibility for:

NIH staff have substantial programmatic involvement that is above and beyond the normal stewardship role in awards, as described below:

Areas of Joint Responsibility include:

Dispute Resolution:

Any disagreements that may arise in scientific or programmatic matters (within the scope of the award) between award recipients and the NIH may be brought to Dispute Resolution. A Dispute Resolution Panel composed of three members will be convened. It will have three members: a designee of the Steering Committee chosen without NIH staff voting, one NIH designee, and a third designee with expertise in the relevant area who is chosen by the other two; in the case of individual disagreement, the first member may be chosen by the individual awardee. This special dispute resolution procedure does not alter the awardee's right to appeal an adverse action that is otherwise appealable in accordance with PHS regulation 42 CFR Part 50, Subpart D and DHHS regulation 45 CFR Part 16.

3. Reporting

When multiple years are involved, awardees will be required to submit the Non-Competing Continuation Grant Progress Report (PHS 2590) annually and financial statements as required in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

A final progress report, invention statement, and Financial Status Report are required when an award is relinquished when a recipient changes institutions or when an award is terminated.

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.

 
Section VII. Agency Contacts

We encourage inquiries concerning this funding opportunity and welcome the opportunity to answer questions from potential applicants.

Application Submission Contacts

GrantsInfo (Questions regarding application instructions and process, finding NIH grant resources)
Telephone 301-435-0714
TTY 301-451-5936
Email: GrantsInfo@nih.gov

eRA Commons Help Desk(Questions regarding eRA Commons registration, tracking application status, post submission issues)
Phone: 301-402-7469 or 866-504-9552 (Toll Free)
TTY: 301-451-5939
Email: commons@od.nih.gov

Scientific/Research Contact(s)

Louis V. DePaolo, Ph.D..
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Telephone: 301-435-6970
Email: ld38p@nih.gov

Peer Review Contact(s)

Sherry Dupere, Ph.D.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Telephone: 301-451-3415
Email: duperes@mail.nih.gov

Financial/Grants Management Contact(s)

Mr. Ted Williams
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Telephone: 301-480-4782
Email: williate@mail.nih.gov

Section VIII. Other Information

Recently issued trans-NIH policy notices may affect your application submission. A full list of policy notices published by NIH is provided in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. All awards are subject to the terms and conditions, cost principles, and other considerations described in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

Authority and Regulations

Awards are made under the authorization of Sections 301 and 405 of the Public Health Service Act as amended (42 USC 241 and 284) and under Federal Regulations 42 CFR Part 52 and 45 CFR Parts 74 and 92.


Weekly TOC for this Announcement
NIH Funding Opportunities and Notices


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