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Technology for the Detection and Characterization of Low Abundance Proteins, Peptides, or micro RNAs



This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), issued by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), invites Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant applications from small business concerns (SBCs) proposing the development of new technologies or improvements to existing technologies for the isolation and characterization of proteins, peptides, or micro RNAs that normally exist in complex biologically relevant mixtures at concentrations beyond the lower limits of current technologies (e.g., low abundance proteins present in <5000 copies per cell).


There have been significant improvements in technologies that enable the isolation, quantification, and characterization of the cancer-relevant biomolecules in complex mixtures. These technologies show potential as both basic research and diagnostic tools and are relevant to a number of cancer types, including, for example, those of the breast, lung, and brain. Existing technologies tend to be robust in case of the separation and characterization of the major components of biological mixtures. However, the low abundance components are often lost in the process and/or are not analyzed. Numerous findings indicate that the low abundance components of complex mixtures can provide important information about the status of a cell. Small concentration changes and/or altered modification patterns of disease-relevant low abundance components have the potential to serve as indicators of the onset, stage, and response to therapy of cancer, provided appropriate robust technologies are developed. Thus, detailed information on the levels of low abundance biomolecules and their modification patterns (as well as on the variability of these parameters) in normal and abnormal (neoplastic) cells is needed for better understanding of cancer cell biology.

In addition to cancer-relevant projects, technologies that will improve detection and characterization of low abundance proteins, peptides, and/or microRNAs from, or in, brain tissue are of interest to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which also participates in this FOA.

Specific Objectives

Applications submitted in response to this FOA are encouraged to propose development of novel technologies that can be used by the general research community to capture, detect, isolate, or characterize proteins, peptides, and/or miRNAs of low abundance in complex mixtures (e.g., proteins present in <5000 copies per cell). The technologies to be proposed are expected to ultimately facilitate research on the roles of specific low abundance biomolecules in cancer development/progression and/or the responses to treatments. For example, technologies to monitor concentration changes and/or modification patterns of such biomolecules are sought to aid our understanding of the biological roles of such molecules.

For the purpose of this FOA, the term technology encompasses methods and tools that enable research, including but not limited to, instrumentation, techniques, and devices. Within the scope of this FOA are also novel adaptations or combinations of existing technologies. Examples of specific technologies include (but are not limited to) the following areas:

  • Array technologies;
  • Chromatography hardware and/or methodologies;
  • Cell sorting/enrichment techniques;
  • Mass spectrometry hardware and/or methodologies;
  • Imaging technologies (imaging agents, detection hardware, detection software);
  • NMR; and
  • Chemical modifications

This FOA is not intended to support the development of technologies for data mining, drug discovery, drug packaging and delivery, whole body imaging, and correlative investigations or discovery research that are not explicitly applicable to the determinations of cancer-relevant ( NCI applications) and/or brain-relevant (NIMH applications) low abundance proteins, peptides, and/or miRNAs in complex mixtures.

Consideration should be given to the commercial potential of the technology products chosen for development in applications submitted under this FOA.

Small business applicants interested in the development of innovative technologies for assaying carcinogenesis-relevant molecules are encouraged to consider a concurrent initiative entitled Technology Development for the Detection and Evaluation of Chemical and Biological Carcinogens (SBIR) [R43/R44] (PA-09-187).

Small business applicants interested in the development of technologies and software to support integrative cancer biology are encouraged to consider another related initiative entitled Technologies and Software to Support Integrative Cancer Biology Research (SBIR) [R43/R44] (PA-09-188)

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