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NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES (NIEHS)

Description:

Human health and human disease result from three interactive elements: the environment, genetics, and age. The mission of the NIEHS is to reduce the burden of human disease and dysfunction from environmental causes by understanding each of these components and how they interrelate. NIEHS achieves its mission through a multidisciplinary biomedical research program, prevention and intervention efforts, and a communication strategy that encompasses training, education, and technology transfer and community outreach. NIEHS supports research and training focused on the identification, assessment and mechanism of action of agents in the environment and how they contribute to disease and dysfunction. The ultimate goal of these NIEHS activities is to then transfer this knowledge for the public benefit. The SBIR program uses a combination of research, technology transfer and communication strategies to aid the mission of NIEHS. For additional information about the areas of interest to NIEHS, visit our home page at http://www.niehs.nih.gov. Tools for Improved Exposure Assessment Fundamental to the NIEHS mission is the ability to quantify an individual’s exposure, as well as the unique characteristics that account for individualized responses to the exposures. The goal for improved exposure assessment is to develop new technology and assays to generate precise measurements of human exposure to chemical and biological agents that may lead to disease or dysfunction. The desired application of these technologies and assays is in population-based (epidemiological) or clinical research and practice. An emphasis is placed on tools that provide individual exposure metrics either at the point of contact or through measuring internal dose of environmental agents. It is anticipated that the new technologies and assays, such as those based on micro- and nanotechnology and molecular imaging, may provide sensitive, high-throughput, and potentially portable systems capable of measuring exposure to environmental agents and the impact of the exposures on human biology. 1. WEARABLE TECHNOLOGIES FOR PERSONAL EXPOSURE ASSESSMENT AT THE POINT OF CONTACT The NIEHS is interested in developing and validating new products/devices, tools, assays to improve our ability to precisely measure an individual’s exposure to environmental agents, with high temporal and spatial resolution. Ideally, the technologies, tools and assays will be of appropriate scale to be field deployable and/or wearable. These point-of-contact devices should be capable of measuring simultaneously and in near real time, multiple agents within a single exposure class (e.g., multiple types of metals, multiple size fractions of particulate matter, multiple components of diesel exhaust) and/or multiple agents across more than one exposure class. Exposures of interest include ozone, particulate matter, diesel exhaust, metals (e.g., arsenic, cadmium, or mercury), volatile organic compounds, polybrominated diphenyls (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mold/microbial toxins, allergens and pesticides/herbicides. Examples include but are not limited to: A. Novel technologies and assays to generate precise, quantitative measures of human exposure to environmental compounds at the point of contact or in easily obtained biological samples (e.g., skin, breath, saliva, or nasal mucosa). An emphasis is placed on the ability to measure multiple analytes simultaneously. B. Remote sensing technologies for detecting, quantifying, and monitoring household exposures to toxicants and/or bioaerosols. 2. TECHNOLOGIES FOR GENERATING PRECISE MEASUREMENTS OF INTERNAL DOSE OF ENVIRONMENTAL AGENTS The NIEHS is interested in developing technologies and devices to generate precise measurements of internal dose of individual environmental agents and or their metabolites in real time and over time. It would be especially valuable to analyze internal dose over time of multiple agents within a single class or multiple agents across more than one class. The development of a modular design allowing measurement of specific classes of chemical exposures for application in epidemiological studies (e.g., pesticides, endocrine-active chemicals, or components of indoor air pollution) is preferred. Likewise, an emphasis is placed on measuring environmental factors with mixed routes of exposure (i.e., inhalation, ingestion, and dermal exposure) for which biomonitoring is the only comprehensive exposure metric. Examples include but are not limited to: A. Development of sensors for measuring the levels of toxicants in biospecimens easily attained for an individual such as finger prick, buccal cells, exhaled breath or urine. B. The development of integrated devices linking exposure at the point of contact, internal dose, and biological response. Hazardous Substances Detection and Remediation Program The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) is interested in applying biotechnology and bioengineering approaches to develop novel strategies to characterize, monitor, and remediate hazardous substances at contaminated sites. SRP encourages applicants to develop green / sustainable detection technologies and remediation approaches that improve energy efficiency and reduce waste generation. Examples include but are not limited to: A. Development of advanced technologies that allow for real-time, on-site monitoring such as nanotechnology–based sensors and probes, biosensors, self-contained miniaturized toxicity-screening kits and miniaturized analytical probes and data analysis tools. B. Development of methods or devices to detect and measure vapor intrusion or to detect non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) and dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) in the subsurface. C. Development of assays or devices to determine the extent to which a contaminant is bioavailable. D. Development of instruments to identify subsurface geological structures and hydro-geological configurations and to sample for the presence of contaminants in these structures. E. Development of novel technologies for in situ remediation of contaminated sediments, soils, and groundwater. F. Development of cost-effective devices to detect or remediate chemical mixtures in environmental media. G. Development of nano-enabled structures, electrochemical methods, photocatalytic processes, thermal treatments, or filtration-based methods of remediation. H. Development of bioremediation and phytoremediation technologies including the use of genetic engineering approaches. SRP recognizes the important public health impact of detection or remediation technologies that are applicable to non point-source air pollution and drinking water; however, a higher priority will be placed on remediation and detection technologies with a clear connection to sites impacted by hazardous substances. Improved Test Systems for Prioritization and Safety Evaluation The NIEHS is interested in: (1) developing, standardizing, and validating sensitive and specific innovative tests and integrated testing strategies that can reduce, refine, or replace animal use and that will provide improved predictivity, and potential cost and time savings compared to current standard laboratory animal tests ( i.e., assays for carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity, reproductive or developmental toxicity, dermal toxicity, and neuro or other organ system toxicity including acute local and systemic toxicity); and (2) developing mid- and high-throughput screens and tests using phylogenetically lower animal species (e.g., fish, worms) to evaluate mechanisms of toxicity to identify mechanisms of chemically-induced biological activity, prioritize chemicals for more extensive toxicological evaluation, and develop more predictive models of in vivo biological response. The proposed tests and strategies should use computational and/or biochemical models, cell/ tissue cultures, and/or animal models that are relevant to existing safety assessment databases and human experience, and that can be extrapolated to estimate risks to humans. The endpoints for these tests or assays should take advantage of the new technologies such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics and of novel endpoints (biomarkers) including those that are non-invasive. Examples include but are not limited to: A. Biokinetic models that include the integration of toxicodynamic and biokinetic modeling to predict acute and chronic systemic toxicity. B. In vitro test methods and integrated strategies (e.g., undifferentiated/ differentiated human/mammalian cell model systems, organotypic model systems, biochemical activity (e.g., peptide binding; and computational models) that can be used to prioritize compounds for more extensive testing and/or to predict acute and chronic toxicity by taking into account, for example, metabolism, the ability of chemicals to pass through barriers (i.e., blood brain, kidney, lung, gastrointestinal), and organ specific effects, or which allow the development of endpoints that can be extrapolated to in vivo biomarkers of toxicity. An emphasis is placed on the development of engineered 3D tissue systems that include multiple cell types and that replicate the anatomy and function of intact tissue. Of particular interest are systems that replicate key functions of major organs (e.g., skin, kidney, lung and the gastro-intestinal track) and the ability to incorporate immunological function in these models. C. Alternative assays and integrated strategies to assess dermal irritation, dermal absorption, dermal hypersensitivity phototoxicity, and ocular toxicity. D. Non-mammalian or invertebrate models for specific toxicities that utilize endpoint that are conserved across species so the results can be extrapolated to human risk. E. Identification and validation of predictive biomarkers that can be used to obtain improved mechanistic information and/or serve as the basis for earlier endpoints in toxicological studies. Other Topics Within the Mission of the Institute For additional information on research topics, contact: Dr. Daniel T. Shaughnessy National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Division of Extramural Research and Training POB 12233 (K3-12) Research Triangle Park, NC 27709 (919) 541-2506, Fax: (919) 541-4606 Email: shaughn1@niehs.nih.gov For administrative and business management questions, contact: Ms. Pam Clark National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Division of Extramural Research and Training Grants Management Branch POB 121233 (K3-11) Research Triangle Park, NC, 27709 (919) 541-7629, Fax: (919) 541-2860 Email: evans3@niehs.nih.gov For express mail: 530 Davis Drive (K3-12) Morrisville NC 27560
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