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Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN): Small Molecule Drug Discovery and Development for Disorders of the Nervous System (U44 Clinical Trial Optional)


Recent advances in neuroscience offer unprecedented opportunities to discover new treatments for nervous system disorders. However, before a new chemical entity can be tested in a clinical setting, it must undergo a process of chemical optimization to improve potency, selectivity, and drug-like properties, followed by pre-clinical safety testing to meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical testing. All of the necessary expertise and resources are not commonly available to small companies as these activities are largely the domain of large pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and contract research organizations (CROs). To facilitate drug discovery and development by the neuroscience community, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research ( established the Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network (BPN), which offers neuroscience researchers funding for drug discovery and development activities that can be conducted in their own laboratories. Researchers have the opportunity to collaborate with NIH-funded consultants and CROs that specialize in medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, toxicology, formulations development, chemical synthesis under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), and Phase I clinical testing. A current list of BPN contractors and consultants is available at This Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) invites applications for new BPN projects. The Principal Investigator (PI) will be responsible for conducting all studies that involve disease- or target-specific assays, models, and other research tools. A PI with- for example medicinal chemistry expertise and resources may additionally request funding to conduct structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies in their own lab but collaborate with BPN contractors on in vitro ADMET, in vivo PK, drug manufacturing and IND-enabling toxicology studies. By contrast, a PI with limited experience in drug discovery and development may opt to collaborate with all available BPN contractors. Applicants may propose to conduct all drug discovery and development activities themselves or collaborate with BPN contractors on activities of their choice. For each project funded under this NOFO, the NIH will assemble a customized Lead Development Team (LDT). The LDT will be co-chaired by the PI and a BPN consultant and will include members of the PI's team, additional BPN consultants, and NIH staff. The LDT will establish an overall strategy for the project, including milestones proposals, outline estudies to be conducted by BPN contractors, and coordinate activities across different research sites. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the BPN website ( and contact NIH Scientific/Research staff and participating NIH Institutes/Centers (IC) prior to preparing an application to discuss how they may best utilize BPN resources and whether their application fits the mission of a particular NIH IC. For this NOFO, Phase I clinical testing, studies or trials refer to the common phases of a clinical trial. U44 Phase I and II refer to the project phases of the SBIR program. B. Scope The BPN is dedicated to the discovery and development of small molecule compounds, of a size and structure that can be readily synthesized and chemically modified (if optimization is required). This program is not designed to support development of biologics or biotechnology products, including oligonucleotides and proteins, or devices - see BPN-Biologics NOFO PAR-21-233 ( and Blueprint MedTech NOFO PAR-21-282 ( Applicants should contact NIH Scientific/Research staff regarding small peptides (typically less than 6 amino acids) and other complex chemical structures, as well as combination therapies, to determine suitability for optimization and development within the BPN. To be eligible for this NOFO, a project must focus on a nervous system condition that falls within the mission of one of the participating Institutes or Centers. Please see Section C below for more information on the interests and restrictions of the participating Institutes and Centers and alternative programs to consider. Projects can enter either at the Discovery (Exploratory, Hit to Lead or Lead Optimization Stage (BPN milestone orientation)) or the Development stage (preclinical candidate chosen no medicinal chemistry optimization required, or the IND enabling Stage). In the Discovery phase the goal is to characterize and optimize promising hit compounds using medicinal chemistry to establish structure activity relationships (SAR) and structure property relationships (SPR) including in vitro and in vivo properties such as metabolism, selectivity, toxicity, etc. As projects enter or advance to the Development stage the goal is to advance a single development candidate through Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling toxicology studies and phase I clinical testing. Projects can enter the program at the Development stage and progress in a shorter period to IND enabling toxicology studies and phase I clinical testing. Typical Project Research Objectives by Stage (see also the BPN milestone orientation that shows typical project structure and resources available through BPN contractors to supplement your resources): Exploratory Stage Goals: Demonstrating primary and counterscreen assays are robust, reproducible and can support proposed SAR studies Screening funnel is finalized with plans for all in vitro and in vivo assays in place for timely execution to move project to the clinical phase within the grant period Target Product Profile refined and approved Identification of at least one chemical series for future optimization where preliminary SAR and SPR is generated and demonstrates sufficient results to formulate a data driven strategy for multi-parameter optimization, improving physicochemical and ADMET properties in addition to potency Hit to Lead Stage Goals: SAR should meet perspective criteria for advancement with sufficient results; data should be compelling to formulate data-driven strategy to combine compound attributes into a single stereo- and enantiomerically-pure compound meeting clinical candidate selection in the Lead Optimization stage Pharmacokinetics (PK) should support proposed pharmacodynamic (PD) studies achieving reasonable exposures and duration to achieve efficacy at a dose supportive of advancement to Lead Optimization stage Lead Optimization Stage Goals: Identify a preclinical candidate to advance to the development phase of the program that demonstrates a reasonable therapeutic index (comparing dose range finding data to PK/PD experiments) Complete dose range finding study Patent position established Production of lead compound in sufficient quantity to enable large animal dose range studies Predevelopment Stage Goals: Complete Candidate characterization including dose range finding (DRF) toxicology studies not yet completed in prior stage (large animal DRF typically), compound characterization salt screen/polymorph, tractable and economical synthesis to enable Phase I, in vitro ADMET characterization to support IND (for example FDA's Guidance In Vitro Drug Interaction Studies Cytochrome P450 Enzyme- and Transporter-Mediated Drug Interactions ) Complete any efficacy studies under rigorous requirements to support clinical dose selections Engage clinician support for TPP and clinical plans IND Enabling Stage Goals: Hold any pre-IND meetings as required Produce materials to enable GLP toxicology studies Complete all required studies for IND and produce reports suitable for IND filings. This includes GLP repeat dose toxicology studies in two species, safety pharmacology, genotoxicity evaluation, hERG as well as other studies that may be required for a particular target or route of administration Manufacture GMP drug and demonstrate suitable drug product formulation for use in Phase I trial Experience with BPN suggests that many otherwise excellent awarded projects often require additional proof of concept data or the generation of tools in order to meet the program's requirements for initiating medicinal chemistry or IND-enabling studies. For this reason, all BPN SBIR projects will begin with the U44 Phase I to conduct feasibility studies required to launch full scale medicinal chemistry (if entering at the Discovery stage) or IND-enabling studies (if entering at the Development stage). During the U44 Phase I award, the NIH will form the LDT, which will identify and oversee the studies necessary to meet the BPN requirements for initiating medicinal chemistry or IND-enabling studies. The LDT will also design plans and go/no-go milestones for all subsequent Discovery and/or Development work. Progression from U44 Phase I to Phase II will be based on administrative review (see Section D., Milestones). A project that completes all U44 Phase I and Phase II Discovery activities and advances into Development will conduct all Development work (including Development feasibility studies) under the U44 Phase II award. After successful completion of the U44 Phase I, a project may proceed either to the U44 Phase II in either hit-to-lead/lead optimization (SAR) (the discovery stage) or to IND-enabling studies (the development stage). A schematic of this project structure is available on the BPN website at: The following sections describe the Discovery and Development stages in more detail, including the program entry criteria, the program requirements for initiating medicinal chemistry and IND-enabling studies, and examples of activities that can be conducted during the U44 Phase I award. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact NIH Scientific/Research staff prior to preparing an application to clarify which entry stage is most appropriate for their project and what to include in their plans for the U44 Phase I award. Discovery Projects that require medicinal chemistry to improve the potency and/or drug-like properties of promising bioactive compounds will enter the BPN at the Discovery stage. The process of understanding the structure-activity relationship (SAR) for desired drug properties typically requires dozens of rounds of compound synthesis and testing. Initially, medicinal chemistry will focus heavily on optimizing activity and potency of compounds in primary and secondary in vitro assays. Therefore, it is required to demonstrate robust SAR driving assays and tractable synthetic routes during the UG3 phase including blinded test-retest reliability and sufficient throughput with the primary and secondary screening assays (other standard reliability metrics are listed in the first year BPN milestones). Subsequently, SAR will increase emphasis on ADMET (absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity) properties of the compounds, with continued monitoring and optimization of bioactivity. The ultimate goal of the SAR effort is the selection of a single development candidate with sufficient bioactivity, therapeutic index, and drug-like properties to proceed to IND-directed pre-clinical safety assessment with reasonable projected human doses. Entry Criteria for Discovery Stage Projects must meet the following requirements prior to entering Discovery: Rigorous data supporting the hypothesis that modulating the putative drug target/affected pathway will produce a desirable outcome for the intended disease indication (it is not necessary to know the precise drug target or mechanism of action). These data may be supporting literature; evidence of the translational relevance from human studies is also encouraged. It is not required nor is it expected that a project entering at the exploratory stage of discovery (BPN milestones) will have in vivo data with the proposed hit compounds. The preparatory phase (U44 Phase I) should be used to characterize the hits in order to develop appropriate tool compounds for in vivo testing in the Hit to Lead stage where in vivo efficacy may be a milestone if in vivo testing is proposed. A bioactive compound, in hand, that will serve as a starting point for optimization with: Proof of identity and purity (typically >95%, as determined by, e.g., NMR, melting point, or LC/MS, with no single impurity > 0.5%) In vitro biological activity (typically < 1 M in biochemical assays and <10 M in cell-based assays relevant to the drug target), confirmed by repeat dose-response testing, with more than one batch of compound Information on selectivity for the intended target over closely related targets, if desired (and when the target is known) Primary and secondary in vitro bioactivity assays that can be used for driving SAR studies (may require further optimization for throughput during Preparatory stage) Selectivity and counter-screening assays to address potential activity at related targets and other undesirable activities or artifacts (may require further optimization for throughput during Preparatory stage) In vivo efficacy is not required at the entry to discovery stage. Availability of preclinical animal model(s) that can be used to assess in vivo efficacy and/or target engagement (measurement of target binding or proximal downstream effects) in the hit to lead or lead optimization stages should be available for the Hit to Lead stage where in vivo efficacy testing is included as a required milestone if animal model testing is proposed. No obvious legal (e.g., intellectual property) constraints to pursuing the proposed chemical scaffold(s) and using the proposed assays and models for research purposes and/or commercial development Preparatory Activities for Discovery Stage Projects (U44 Phase I) All Discovery projects will begin with a U44 Phase I award of up to two years. The first 6-12 months should be used to prepare for SAR studies. The following are general expectations for a BPN project to initiate SAR studies: Completion of an in vitro ADME and physicochemical profile for the starting compound that includes measures of aqueous solubility, microsome stability, CYP inhibition, and permeability (e.g., MDCK or Caco-2) Demonstration that the primary assay meets the following validation criteria to reliably rank compounds with similar activities: A statistical demonstration of reliability, e.g., a Z-factor (Z') =0.5 and a coefficient of variation (CV) =20% Concentration response testing over at least 10 concentrations generates reproducible EC50 values within a 3-fold range for at least 4 compounds Blinded test-retest reliability with R?2 of at least 0.75 on at least 8 compounds exhibiting EC50 values across a 100-fold range of potency Throughput of at least 10 compounds per week, run with sufficient replicates to produce robust and reproducible 10-point dose-response curves Demonstration that the proposed secondary bioactivity assays and counter-screening and selectivity assays have sufficient reliability and throughput for their proposed use in the project Demonstration of a clear correlation between activity in the primary assay and activity in confirmatory assays and models, sufficient to justify advancement criteria in a testing funnel Examples of activities that can be supported during the Discovery (U44 Phase I) preparatory phase include: Establishment of a project milestone plan, including milestones that must be met to initiate SAR studies and desired compound profiles (including prospective criteria) at completion of lead optimization Refinement of a compound testing funnel, including studies to correlate activity across different bioactivity assays to justify advancement criteria In vivo pharmacology and, if applicable, studies using established biomarkers to demonstrate target engagement Studies to develop or validate target engagement markers that will be used in critical-path experiments Optimization and validation of bioactivity, selectivity, and counter-screening assays Critical-path pharmacology studies to clarify the compound mechanism of action (e.g., agonist vs. positive allosteric modulator) ADMET profiling of starting compound(s) to identify liabilities to address through medicinal chemistry Limited exploratory medicinal chemistry (approximately 1-2 medicinal chemists for 8-10 months) to enable demonstration/confirmation of synthetic route, establishment of initial structure property relationships (SPR) for metabolism, selectivity and toxicity and bioactivity of proposed hit compounds Procurement of commercially available analogs ("SAR by catalog") The PI(s) will be responsible for conducting all studies that involve disease- or target-specific assays, models, and other research tools. Applicants may propose to use BPN contractors for chemical synthesis and ADMET profiling or request funds to conduct this work themselves. U44 Phase II Activities for Discovery Phase Projects The BPN typically supports a maximum of 3 years medicinal chemistry effort including 1 year exploratory, 1 year Hit to Lead and 1 year Lead Optimization. Therefore, projects can request a maximum of years support of medicinal chemistry in Phase II however it is expected that projects completing Hit to Lead in Phase I should request up to one additional year of medicinal chemistry in Phase II to complete the SAR studies to identify a development candidate that meets the entry criteria for Development (below). By the end of the Hit to Lead year, the PI is expected to demonstrate in vivo activity for a representative compound from the lead series, delivered by any route of administration if in vivo testing is proposed. The Discovery U44 Phase II award typically supports the following activities: Design and synthesis of analogs for SAR studies Compound scale up for in vivo testing, dose ranging finding toxicity (DRF) evaluation Testing of analogs in bioactivity assays and animal models Testing of analogs in selectivity and counter-screening assays Testing of analogs in ADMET assays (e.g., microsome stability, CYP induction and inhibition, solubility, permeability in MDCK or Caco-2 cells, plasma protein binding, brain/plasma ratio, pharmacokinetics [PK] in multiple species) The PI will be responsible for conducting primary in vitro biological assessment of compounds on a one-to-two week schedule to inform the design of subsequent iterations of compound synthesis. In addition to a regular testing schedule in the primary assay, the PI will provide confirmation of the activity of select compounds in secondary and counter-screening assays and animal models relevant to the drug target and therapeutic indication. BPN contractors can produce compound analogs for SAR testing, scale up compounds as needed for in vivo testing, and provide standard screening services to assess in vitro and in vivo ADMET characteristics of the compounds. Typically, BPN will assign up to four medicinal chemist FTEs to a project, generating approximately 4-8 compounds per week, plus additional staff to support computational chemistry modeling and ADMET studies as appropriate. Compounds that meet the BPN's criteria for a development candidate can continue seamlessly on into Development. Development The Development stage includes IND-directed preclinical safety studies, GMP synthesis of clinical trial material, formulation development, and phase I clinical testing. Projects that have completed medicinal chemistry optimization and identified a development candidate may initiate Development activities within BPN. The BPN does not support SAR studies during Development. Entry Criteria for Development Stage Application for entry into the Development stage must have identified the candidate compound and cannot request additional medicinal chemistry resources. It may be acceptable to have 2 candidates that will be narrowed to a single candidate as part of the U44 Phase I activities (time and budget permitting). Projects must meet the following requirements prior to entering the Development Stage: A strong package of data linking the putative drug target/affected pathway to the proposed disease indication and supporting the hypothesis that altering the target activity as proposed will produce desirable outcomes for the disease. Proposed compound must have in vitro and in vivo biological activity and ADMET properties appropriate for the intended clinical use (i.e., the disease indication, patient population, delivery mode, treatment duration, and treatment regimen) and outcomes. Applicants should show that their proposed compounds are efficacious when delivered by the clinically intended route of administration, at exposure levels that can likely be achieved clinically with the proposed human dosing regimen. Proposed compounds should give defensible results in tests for Ames mutagenicity, hERG activity, microsome stability, CYP inhibition, plasma protein binding, and aqueous solubility. In cases where the molecular target of compound action is known, the applicant should demonstrate the degree of selectivity for the intended target over closely related targets. Counter-screening to determine selectivity across a broad panel of unrelated pharmacological targets (e.g., G protein-coupled receptors, kinases, etc.) is also required. Demonstration that the ability of the PI's institution to develop and commercialize the proposed compound for the proposed indication is unlikely to be blocked or impeded by legal (e.g., intellectual property) constraints and that there is support from the institution to file and maintain the patents estate and necessary regulatory documents along with associated cost. Preparatory Activities for Development Stage Projects (U44 Phase I) All applications proposing to enter at the Development stage will begin with a U44 Phase I award of up to two years, to prepare for IND-enabling studies, which will be supported under the U44 Phase II award. Projects that entered at the Discovery stage will conduct these activities during their U44 Phase II award. The following are general expectations for a project to initiate IND-enabling studies within BPN: Dose-range finding (DRF) toxicology studies (rodent and non-rodent) show an acceptable safety margin (e.g., 5x if toxicity can be monitored, reversible, and has premonitory signs; 10x if toxicity is more severe but controllable/reversible; 30x if toxicity is unlikely to be easily monitored, controllable, reversible, or have premonitory signs). Formulation to enable exposure margins suitable for these toxicology studies may need to be explored. Viable synthetic route for manufacturing (acceptable cost, number of steps and purification techniques needed) to enable GLP toxicology studies and Phase I testing Viable API (active pharmaceutical ingredient; salt and polymorph selection complete, acceptable stability to support initial clinical trial) Examples of activities that can be supported during the Development preparatory activities include: Establishment of a preclinical development plan, including milestones for advancement into IND-enabling studies and the desired profile for a development candidate Design and planning for the Phase I clinical trials (if applicable) Validation of ADMET data Replication/confirmation of key in vivo pharmacology data Scale-up synthesis for toxicology studies and formulation (including required material amounts for DRF studies if not available at time of award) Salt and polymorph screening Compound stability studies Pre-formulation/formulation work to enable toxicology studies Multiple-dose rodent PK testing, with pharmacodynamic (PD) correlations if applicable Dose-range finding toxicology studies Metabolite identification The PD(s)/PI(s) is responsible for conducting all studies that involve disease- or target-specific assays, models, and other research tools. BPN contractors can perform all other work. U44 Phase II Activities for Development Stage Projects The Development U44 Phase II award may include the following: Manufacturing of material for toxicology studies (DRF & GLP) and/or GMP manufacturing of material for phase I clinical testing IND-enabling toxicology studies IND document preparation Phase I clinical trial (a single and/or multiple ascending dose study to characterize safety, PK, and PD) The PI's Institution will be responsible for assembly and submission of the IND application and scheduling meetings with the FDA and therefore should include support for this activity in their plan. NIH staff and consultants on the LDT must be included in all meetings with the FDA. The development of the protocol and management of the phase I clinical trial will be performed by a Clinical Development Team (CDT), which will evolve from the LDT and include the PI, clinical consultants identified by the PI and NIH, and NIH staff. The protocol, selected supporting trial documents, and regulatory documents will be submitted to NIH for administrative review (including internal and external experts) prior to commencement of the clinical trial (defined as signing of first informed consent). BPN contractors can conduct the preclinical safety studies, GMP synthesis, formulation and other activities required to prepare for human testing. BPN contractors will provide data and reports in a format suitable for inclusion in an IND application and will assist in the development of the application. The phase I clinical trial can also be conducted through BPN contractors. Applications Not Responsive to this NOFO: Non-responsive applications will not be reviewed. The following activities are considered non-responsive to this NOFO: Screening to identify hit compounds Basic research and studies of disease mechanism Animal model development Development of risk, detection, diagnostic, prognostic, predictive, and prevention biomarkers as well as PET ligands Development of diagnostics and diagnostic devices Development of biologics and biotechnology products Studies directed beyond Phase I clinical testing C. NIH Institute and Center Interests and Guidance National Institute on Aging (NIA) NIA is interested in studies that will provide drug development expertise and infrastructure support to researchers interested in developing novel small molecules aimed at modifying the behavioral symptoms in Alzheimer's disease (AD), delaying the onset or slowing the progression of AD, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), other dementias of aging and age-related cognitive decline. Ideally, this initiative is aimed at researchers who have promising small molecule compounds but lack the necessary outside expertise and infrastructure to advance these compounds to the clinic. Researchers who may have the necessary drug development expertise and access to infrastructure to advance small molecules to the clinic should consider submitting an application to the Alzheimer's Drug Development Program (PAR 22-047) or its reissue. This program is also available to researchers who are interested in the preclinical development of small molecules and biologics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Alcohol interacts directly and indirectly with a wide spectrum of molecular targets in the brain, and alcohol-seeking behaviors and alcohol use disorders (AUD) involve multiple neurotransmitter systems, neuromodulators, hormones, signal transduction pathways, etc. These include signaling systems and signal transduction pathways of opioids, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA), endocannabinoids, neuropeptides (e.g. corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), neuropeptide Y, substance P), and protein kinases A and C. Numerous therapeutic agents targeting these and other molecular systems have been studied preclinically and in clinical trials. NIAAA is interested in research aimed to develop new pharmaceuticals to provide effective therapy for AUD. Studies involving novel targets previously un-recognized or understudied for the treatment of AUD are particularly encouraged. Specific genetic variants that may contribute to the risk for alcoholism and/or render alcohol dependent individuals responsive to specific therapeutic agent have been discovered. NIAAA is interested in supporting research to develop pharmaceuticals targeting individuals with identified genotypic and phenotypic characteristics to improve efficacy and safety. National Eye Institute (NEI) The National Eye Institute (NEI) interest in Blueprint Neurotherapeutics is to develop novel therapies to treat diseases and disorders of the visual system, especially blinding eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, ocular pain and other conditions. The NEI is also interested in other visual system disorders such as strabismus and amblyopia that could be treated with pharmacological interventions. Each project should have a well-defined endpoint, achievable within a five-year time frame, for developing a treatment for a specific disease or disorder of the visual system. The steps towards this goal should be clearly delineated in a series of milestones that support the development of a novel therapeutic that can then be tested in a clinical trial. If successful, a project funded under this program may lead to filing an IND-directed pharmacological and toxicological study, and Phase I clinical testing. Investigators are encouraged to contact NEI program staff to discuss potential research projects prior to application submission to determine alignment of the planned studies with priorities of the Institute. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) NIDCR is interested in neurotherapeutics development for painful disorders of the orofacial region including but not limited to temporomandibular joint disorder, trigeminal neuropathies, burning mouth syndrome, oral cancer pain and other conditions. Recent advances in genomics and phenotyping of subjects with orofacial pain conditions have expanded the scope of potential targets to treat these conditions. Receptor systems, ion channels, and pro- and anti-inflammatory molecules have been implicated in chronic pain. NIDCR is interested in supporting research that will lead to highly efficacious and specific pharmacological treatments for individuals with orofacial pain disorders. Investigators are encouraged to contact NIDCR program staff to discuss potential research projects prior to application submission to determine alignment of the planned studies with priorities of the Institute mission and strategic plan. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) The NICHD is interested in supporting neurotherapeutic research aimed to discover small molecules and compounds, and develop novel and improved pharmacotherapies for developmental disorders, diseases and conditions in pediatric population, including but not limited to: Genomic neurodegenerative diseases that manifest in infancy or childhood; Intellectual and developmental disabilities; Traumatic injuries, including spinal cord injury, brain injury, and stroke, and the treatment of the chronic consequences of these conditions in pediatric populations; Management of acute pain in critically ill pediatric patients. Investigators are strongly encouraged to contact NICHD program staff to discuss their potential research projects prior to application submission to determine alignment of their planned studies with the NICHD's priorities and strategic plan. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) NIMH supports neuroscience research to discover the causes of mental illness and to develop more effective and safer treatments. The NIMH is interested in applications proposing development of therapies aimed at novel molecular and clinical targets for the treatment of mental disorders, especially treatment-resistant depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, and autism spectrum disorder. Studies aimed at the development of new ligands for targets where a probe or therapeutic already exists are generally of lower priority. NIMH will only support projects entering the BPN at the Discovery (optimization of validated small molecule hits and promising lead compounds through medicinal chemistry) stage. NIMH will not support projects entering the BPN at the Development (IND enabling/GMP synthesis or Phase I trials) stage. Projects at the Development stage should consider applying to the NIMH SBIR/STTR Programs. Projects at the early clinical trials phase should consider the NIMH SBIR/STTR Programs, or look at the NIMH Support for Clinical Trials web page. Investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss their research plans with NIMH Scientific/Research contact prior to submission to determine alignment of the planned studies with NIMH priorities and to assess whether this or other NIMH funding opportunities are most appropriate. Investigators are also encouraged to review the following NIMH drug discovery NOFOs: Drug Discovery for Nervous System Disorders PAR-22-031 (R01) and PAR-22-032 (R21), Assay Development and Screening for Discovery of Validated Chemical Hits for Brain Disorders PAR-23-168 (R01), Discovery of in vivo Chemical Probes for Novel Brain Targets PAR-21-029 (R01), Discovery of Cell-based Chemical Probes for Novel Brain Targets PAR-21-028 (R21), National Cooperative Drug Discovery/Development Groups (NCDDG) for the Treatment of Mental Disorders or Alcohol Addiction (U01) PAR-22-143 and PAR-22-144 (U19). Consistent with NIMH's Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative, research projects directed towards ameliorating pathophysiology that is potentially more proximal to specific functional deficits (domains) than DSM diagnostic entities are encouraged. Additional information about the RDoC approach can be found at the RDoC website. The testing of functional domains not included specifically in RDoC may also be considered, if well justified. In vivo preclinical screening assays in animals should be carefully selected based on proposed brain targets and mechanisms of therapeutic action (see NOT-MH-19-053). High-quality and reproducible studies that are reported to the scientific community in a transparent manner are an essential cornerstone of the research enterprise. Attention to principles of study design and transparency are essential to enable reviewers, the scientific community, and NIH to assess the quality of scientific findings. In support of this important goal, investigators must follow instructions to address Rigor and Reproducibility ( Further information on NIMH research priorities can be found in the NIMH Strategic Plan and NIMH National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) web page. Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss applications with NIMH staff listed in Section VII - Agency Contact(s) Scientific/Research Contacts. National Institute of Neurological Disorder sand Stroke (NINDS) A list of diseases that is relevant to the research mission of the NINDS can be found at ; applicants are encouraged to contact the NINDS to discuss disease areas of interest. This NOFO serves as the primary support mechanism at NINDS for the discovery and development of small molecule drugs. This includes all medicinal chemistry optimization efforts requiring analog synthesis. Researchers focused on the development of biologics and biotechnology products should consider the BPN-Bio program ( ). Applicants seeking support only to conduct early stage clinical trials should consider applying for an NINDS Exploratory Clinical Trials R01, through PAR-21-233, which provides additional flexibility in budget and time, as well as the option of including a phase II trial. There is growing recognition that the quality and reproducibility of both preclinical and clinical research depend on the rigor with which researchers conduct studies, control for potential bias, and report essential methodological details. Examples of critical elements of a well-designed study are summarized on the NINDS website NINDS urges applicants to this program to consider these elements when describing supporting data and proposed studies. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) NCCIH supports neurotherapeutic research to discover and develop small molecules that fall within the definition of a secondary metabolite (i.e., natural products) inclusive of the array of chemical space derived from botanicals, microorganisms (e.g., commensal microbes), marine invertebrates, and venomous species. The NCCIH is interested in applications proposing development of interventions to modulate CNS-based symptoms with priority given to myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), pain and pain related symptoms including sleep, stress, and mood disorders. Investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss their research plans with the NCCIH Scientific/Research contact prior to submitting their applications. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Through participating in this NOFO, NIDA aims to provide drug development expertise and access to resources to support the drug addiction researchers interested in developing new molecular entities for the treatment of substance use disorders (SUD). NIDA will only support the projects entering the BPN at the Discovery stage. Specifically, NIDA is interested in using the BPN mechanism to support projects in the "hit to lead optimization" stages with a well-justified proposal for the development stage as well. NIDA applicants are strongly encouraged to take full advantage of the opportunities the BPN affords, including collaboration with BPN consultants and NIH-supported contract research organizations (CROs) that specialize in medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, toxicology, formulations development, chemical synthesis under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Researchers, who already possess the drug development expertise and access to the necessary R&D infrastructure in their home institutions, should consider submitting their applications to the specialized NIDA programs administered by the NIDA Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences (DTMC). Investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss their research plans with NIDA program staff prior to submission to determine alignment of the planned studies with NIDA's interest and priorities. NIDA staff will also provide help in assessing whether this or other NIDA funding opportunities would be the most appropriate. D. Milestones Because drug discovery and development are inherently high risk, it is expected that there will be significant attrition as projects progress. Go/No-Go milestones (typically every six months but at least annually) will be established by the LDT at the start of each project and updated as needed. An administrative review will be conducted by NIH program staff, with technical input from an External Oversight Committee (composed of senior non-federal scientists who are not directly involved in BPN projects), to decide which projects will advance from the U44 Phase I to the Phase II award and progress after each subsequent milestone based on: Successful achievement of milestones The overall feasibility of project advancement, considering data that may not have been captured in milestones Competitive landscape for the disease indication and drug target Program priorities Availability of funds Approval for commencement of a clinical trial (defined as signing of informed consent by first prospective subject) will include the following: Successful achievement of the defined preclinical development milestones; Submission of an IND with documentation for one of the following: 1) acceptance of clinical protocol by FDA; 2) elapse of the 30-day post filing waiting period without comment from the FDA; 3) completion of protocol changes or amendments requested by FDA. Submission of the clinical protocol and supporting documents to NIH for administrative review and notification of NIH approval; Agreement on updated timeline and milestones for the clinical trial. Please Note: If a funded project does not make sufficient progress toward the agreed upon milestones at any stage, funding for the project and access to BPN contract resources may be discontinued (see section VI.2.). E. Quality and Compliance Requirements Since the goal of this program is to generate therapeutics which will be eligible for FDA approval, adherence to compliance and quality criteria is required. It is expected that all IND enabling nonclinical studies will be performed in a manner consistent with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) and current FDA guidance. All clinical trials must be performed following Good Clinical Practices (GCP) and in accord with NIH Policy for Data and Safety Monitoring ( Investigational products for use in clinical trials must be produced under current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) practices. F. Intellectual Property (IP) Since the ultimate goal of this program is to bring new drugs to the market, the creation and protection of intellectual property (IP) that will make drug candidates attractive to potential licensing and commercialization partners are a significant consideration in designing research strategies and prioritizing projects for funding. This program is structured so that the small business concern retains their assignment of IP rights and gains assignment of IP rights from the BPN contractors (and thereby control the patent prosecution and licensing negotiations) for drug candidates developed through this program. It is expected that the small business concern will take responsibility for patent filings, maintenance and licensing efforts toward eventual commercialization. The PI is expected to work closely with technology transfer/business development officials at their institution to ensure that royalty agreements, patent filings, and all other necessary IP arrangements are completed in a timely manner and that commercialization plans are developed and updated over the course of the project. Award recipients will be encouraged to identify and foster relationships with potential licensing and commercialization partners early in the drug development process, consistent with the goals of the BPN. G. Diversity In addition to scientific diversity, applicants should strive to incorporate diversity in their team development plan. Research shows that diverse teams working together and capitalizing on innovative ideas and distinct perspectives outperform homogenous teams. Scientists and trainees from diverse backgrounds and life experiences bring different perspectives, creativity, and individual enterprise to address complex scientific problems. There are many benefits that flow from a diverse NIH-supported scientific workforce, including: fostering scientific innovation, enhancing global competitiveness, contributing to robust learning environments, improving the quality of the research, advancing the likelihood that underserved or health disparity populations participate in, and benefit from health research, and enhancing public trust. In spite of tremendous advancements in scientific research, information, educational and research opportunities are not equally available to all. NIH encourages institutions to diversify their student and faculty populations to enhance the participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences. Please refer to Notice of NIH's Interest in Diversity NOT-OD-20-031 for more details.
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