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NIH Announces Funding Opportunities for Novel Genomic Technology Development

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced four new funding opportunities to support the development of innovative genomic technologies across a broad range of research areas including single-cell genomics, sample preparation, transcriptomics and epigenomics, and genome-wide functional analysis.

The money will be made available under the NIH's standard research and exploratory/developmental research mechanisms, as well as in the form of Small Business Innovation Research grants. 

The agency noted that DNA and direct RNA sequencing technologies are excluded from the latest funding opportunities and are instead eligible for a separate grant program announced in August.

"The ability to assay a variety of genomic features comprehensively from a large and ever growing set of genomic modifications and contextual information, coupled with the free dissemination of genomic data, have dramatically changed the nature of biological and biomedical research," the NIH said. "Nevertheless, the cost to assay completely important features of genomes of individual cells or people remains high and the assays are complex, and we remain far from achieving the low costs and high quality needed to use comprehensive genomic information in many research applications or in individual healthcare."

To help overcome these limitations, the agency said it aims to fund efforts to develop novel genomic technologies with the potential to have a large impact on the field in five to seven years and "move genomics beyond the likely next steps in technological advances."

Examples of appropriate areas of research include the analysis of DNA, RNA, epigenome, and transcriptome data from the same biological sample; technologies for high-throughput genome modification; and measurement of proximal transcription dynamics, as well as transcription dynamics over time and from cells to organs.

The NIH said that the total amount available under the funding opportunities will depend on appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious awards. However, it did provide guidance on the size of individual awards.

Grants awarded under the R01 mechanism may have direct costs up to $700,000 a year, with project periods up to four years. Under the R21 mechanism, projects may run for up to three years with direct costs of no more than $200,000 a year with funding for the entire budget period capped at $400,000. 

Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants, including Direct to Phase II, are limited to $150,000 and $1 million in total funding, respectively. However, the NIH said that it has permission to exceed these caps for certain projects with appropriate justification.

"It is expected that awardees will develop scientific and practical definitions of optimal cost, quality, scale, and other important features enabling the significant genomics technology development proposed," the NIH said. "Priority will be given to applications that propose improvements of at least an order of magnitude [and] … such improvements may be achieved by focusing on one critical factor or a combination of important ones." 

Additional details about the funding opportunities can be found here, here, here, and here