The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is an important National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding mechanism used to develop innovative solutions that address public health challenges. A major objective of the SBIR Program is to facilitate the commercialization of technologies developed by small business concerns (SBCs). Yet, the development of biomedical technology products is often impeded by a significant funding gap between the end of the SBIR Phase II award and the commercialization stage. This gap is increased by the barriers associated with technologies under development for small commercial markets, such as those focused on rare diseases or young pediatric populations. This Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) invites small businesses to submit SBIR grant applications to support later stage research and development (referred to as Phase IIB) for promising projects that were previously funded by SBIR or STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) Phase II awards that address rare diseases or young pediatric populations (aged 0-12 years and defined in Section IV, part 7), and will require eventual Federal regulatory approval/clearance. The goal of this FOA and the resulting Phase IIB awards is to assist applicants in pursuing the next appropriate milestone(s) necessary to advance a product/technology along a promising commercialization pathway by promoting partnerships between small business awardees and third-party investors and/or strategic partners, including patient advocacy organizations.
- This FOA will give competitive preference and funding priority to applications deemed likely to result in a commercial product as indicated by the applicant’s ability to secure independent third-party investor funds that equal or exceed one-third of the requested NHLBI funds (total costs).
- This FOA is specifically intended to benefit clinical practice by accelerating the commercialization of novel products and technologies that address a rare disease or young pediatric populations (aged 0-12 years and defined in Section IV, part 7). The primary indication of the product under development would:
- Address a rare disease as defined in the Orphan Drug Act Amendment of 1984 as any disease or condition that affects less than 200,000 persons in the United States
- OR qualify as a Humanitarian Use Device, defined as a medical device intended to benefit patients in the treatment or diagnosis of a disease or condition that affects or is manifested in fewer than 4,000 persons in the United States per year
- OR be targeted at a young pediatric population, defined as including neonates (0-28 days), infants (<2 years), and/or children (2-12 years of age), as indicated in the FDA Premarket Assessment of Pediatric Medical Devices.
- Proposed projects must be relevant to the NHLBI mission (see B. Scientific/Technical Scope) and require ultimate approval/clearance by a Federal regulatory agency. NCATS intends to co-fund applications that meet the NCATS mission to develop innovations that reduce, remove or bypass costly and time-consuming bottlenecks in the translational science process, to speed the development and delivery of new drugs, diagnostics, medical devices and behavioral interventions to patients. For a description of the NCATS SBIR/STTR research priorities, please refer to http://ncats.nih.gov/smallbusiness/priorities.
Since its inception in 1982, the NIH SBIR program has provided the small business community with seed funding to support the development of a broad array of commercial products to detect, diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. It provides an important funding mechanism for bringing new interventions to patients and clinicians. The SBIR program is structured in three phases. The objective in Phase I is to establish the technical merit and feasibility of a proposed research and development (R&D) effort, while the objective in Phase II is to continue the R&D effort for successful Phase I projects. The expectation is that in Phase III, an SBC will be able to complete commercialization with non-SBIR funds. However, many projects initiated with SBIR funding require considerable financing beyond the SBIR Phase II award to complete the necessary validation studies required to arrive at Phase III. In particular, the development of therapeutics, medical devices, and combined technologies often requires a number of years and substantial capital investments because of the costs associated with conducting clinical trials and/or other steps mandated by the federal regulatory approval process. Companies developing products that have small potential revenue streams or target small patient populations face additional barriers to market entry that make them less attractive at pre-clinical or early clinical stages of development to investors and strategic partners. In addition, many of these technologies require complex clinical trial designs because of small and geographically diverse patient populations. Thus, despite the extensive R&D efforts during Phase II projects in these areas, the results are often insufficient to attract the private investments needed for the eventual commercialization of a product and many small businesses become cash-starved before reaching the next critical milestone along the path toward commercialization. Hence, this FOA is designed to address this funding gap between the end of the SBIR or STTR Phase II award and the point at which non-SBIR financing can be secured for the subsequent stages of product development for technologies primarily focused on rare diseases or young pediatric populations.
A number of public and private organizations have begun to recognize the challenges associated with this funding gap and are taking steps to provide additional resources to advance a greater number of promising early-stage technologies toward commercialization. Importantly, many of these organizations are not only providing financial support but are also establishing programs to provide commercialization guidance. For example, in the area of drug development, a number of major pharmaceutical firms have developed corporate venture funds focused on supporting projects in the pre-clinical stages of development, and some of these firms have established technology incubators to provide development support, including regulatory guidance. In addition, a growing number of universities are creating venture funds to support innovative technologies developed by their resident investigators, and numerous state-sponsored technology funds have also been created across the U.S. to support start-up companies. In the rare disease area, patient advocacy groups and foundations have organized to accelerate progress in the development of treatments for their disease. Such programs can provide additional financing and commercialization support for SBIR awardees that have received initial seed funding and a rigorous technical evaluation through the NIH peer review process. As such, a major goal of this FOA is to provide a platform to incentivize partnerships between NIH-funded SBIR awardees and a broad range of potential third-party investors. It is anticipated that funding by third-party investors will be predicated on significant due diligence, thus encouraging awardees to formulate credible business plans for product commercialization. In addition, it is expected that third-party investors will maintain an active role in supporting the awardee during the product development phase and during pursuit of follow-on funding for commercialization.
The NHLBI has published a separate FOA, the Phase IIB Bridge Award (RFA-HL-16-009), to address a similar critical gap for projects that do not meet the responsiveness criteria of the Small Market Award.
A. Independent Third-Party Investor Funds
This FOA specifically encourages business relationships between applicant SBCs and third-party investors/strategic partners who can provide substantial financing to help accelerate the commercialization of promising new products and technologies that were initiated with SBIR or STTR funding. In particular, applicants are expected to leverage their previous SBIR/STTR support, as well as the opportunity to compete for additional NHLBI funding under this FOA, to attract and negotiate third-party financing needed to advance a product or technology toward commercialization. The applicant’s ability to secure independent third-party investor funds that equal or exceed one-third of the total amount of the NHLBI funds being requested over the entire Phase IIB Small Market Award project period will help to validate the commercial potential that is essential for the SBIR projects solicited under this FOA. This potential will be strongly considered in review (refer to Section V. Application Review Information) and making funding decisions.
If a Phase IIB Small Market Award application is selected for funding, the applicant’s plan for securing independent third-party investor funds (i.e., the Finance Plan submitted as part of the application) will become a term of award as described in Section VI.1 Award Notices.
It is anticipated that many of the partnerships between applicant SBCs and third-party investors will involve a considerable level of project due diligence by the private sector, thereby increasing the likelihood of commercial success for the funded projects. In light of these goals, the NHLBI strongly encourages applicants to establish business relationships with investors and/or strategic partners that have appropriate prior experience in commercializing emerging biomedical technologies addressing rare diseases or young pediatric populations, as well as engaging with the patient advocacy groups and foundations that focus on the indication of the developing technology. Applicants are encouraged to explore existing resources and groups to engage with the relevant communities, such as the NCATS Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD), the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), FasterCures, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
B. Scientific/Technical Scope
The technical and commercial objectives described in the SBIR Phase IIB Small Market Award application must represent an extension of the development efforts that were pursued in a previously funded SBIR or STTR Phase II award. It is essential that significant progress was accomplished during the current/preceding SBIR Phase II project and also that the proposed product/technology has significant commercial potential. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate that the proposed product/technology has or would have a clear advantage over existing and/or competing products/technologies and should clearly define an appropriate path toward ultimate product commercialization.
This FOA is specifically designed to provide additional support for products/technologies that require ultimate approval/clearance by a Federal regulatory agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Although projects previously funded by another NIH Institute/Center or another Federal agency are eligible to apply under this FOA, proposed projects must be relevant to the NHLBI and/or NCATS mission. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NHLBI Scientific/Research Contact (listed in Section VII) to discuss whether their proposed project meets this criterion.
The NHLBI supports development of technologies to detect, prevent, or treat cardiovascular, lung, and blood diseases and sleep disorders. It also supports research on the clinical use of blood and all aspects of the management and safety of blood resources. The NHLBI SBIR/STTR programs foster basic, applied, and clinical research on all product and service development related to the mission of the NHLBI. This FOA invites applications for all topics within the NHLBI mission, not limited to those listed. NCATS intends to co-fund applications that meet the NCATS mission to develop innovations that reduce, remove or bypass costly and time-consuming bottlenecks in the translational science process, to speed the development and delivery of new drugs, diagnostics, medical devices and behavioral interventions to patients. For a description of the NCATS SBIR/STTR research priorities, please refer to http://ncats.nih.gov/smallbusiness/priorities.
The NHLBI program priority areas for technology development research include:
Blood Diseases and Resources areas:
In vitro diagnostic devices and therapeutic biologics, devices, and drugs for rare diseases, and diseases affecting young children and neonates, including, but not limited to: coagulation and other laboratory based assays; transfusion/infusion and non-transfusion/non-infusion treatments for bleeding complications in acquired and inherited bleeding disorders; point of care diagnostics for Sickle Cell Disease and other hemoglobinopathies to facilitate testing in low resource settings to provide earlier diagnosis and access to medical interventions; devices that facilitate transfusion of small volumes of blood components; and long-term, indwelling catheters for transfusion, blood sample collection or medication administration that provide very low thrombosis/infection risk. Other blood disease and resource areas may be proposed, as areas of interest are not limited to those listed.
Cardiovascular Diseases areas:
Diagnostics, therapeutics (including cell and gene therapies), or instruments for treating congenital or acquired heart disease in young pediatric populations, including heart pumps and valves, atrial septal defect closure devices, surgical tools, and devices for cardiac catheterization; diagnostics and therapies for rare arrhythmias (such as LQTS-1, -2, and -3, Brugada's, and Timothy's syndromes) and lipid disorders (such as lecithin-cholesterol acyltransferase or lipoprotein deficiencies or genetic diseases such as Pompe disease); technologies, instruments, and therapeutics for heart (and lung) transplantation, including devices for perfusion of donor organs and technologies for less invasive tissue biopsies and detection of organ rejection. Other cardiovascular disease areas may be proposed, as areas of interest are not limited to those listed.
Lung Diseases areas:
Diagnostics and therapeutics for rare lung diseases and those affecting young pediatric populations, including, but not limited to: respiratory distress syndrome, cystic fibrosis, adult and pediatric pulmonary arterial hypertension, adult and childhood interstitial lung diseases, lymphangioleiomyomatosis, and sarcoidosis. Examples include, but are not limited to, non-invasive monitoring of cardiopulmonary function for neonates and young children, portable imaging systems compatible with Intensive Care Unit environments, therapies to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia, improved aerosol delivery devices for young children, portable home diagnostic and treatment devices for sleep disordered breathing in young pediatric populations. Other lung disease areas may be proposed, as areas of interest are not limited to those listed.
The following guidelines provide examples of appropriate development activities to be proposed under this FOA. Responsive applications are not limited to the following areas:
For projects pertaining to the development of therapeutics or imaging agents, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of an Investigational New Drug (IND) or exploratory Investigational New Drug (eIND) application, or clinical studies to support the filing of a New Drug Application (NDA) and/or Biological License Application (BLA).
For projects pertaining to imaging technologies, interventional devices, and in vivo diagnostics, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of a Pre-Market Notification, 510(k) application, Premarket Approval (PMA) application, Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) application, a Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) application, or an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application.
For projects pertaining to ex vivo or in vitro diagnostics, prognostics, and screening tests, applicants are expected to propose activities that will lead to the successful filing of a 510(k) application, Premarket Approval (PMA) application, Humanitarian Use Device (HUD) application, a Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE) application, an Investigational New Drug (IND) or exploratory Investigational New Drug (eIND) application, and/or Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) application, as needed for the specific technology/system/assay.
Activities to be pursued under this FOA should address any relevant requirements for clinical validation and regulatory approval, as necessary and required for commercialization of the technology. Specific activities to be proposed will vary among applications.
C. Plan for Full Commercialization (all applications)
The goal of the SBIR Phase IIB Small Market Award is to advance SBIR/STTR Phase II projects toward ultimate commercialization. All applicants are expected to develop a realistic plan (extending beyond the SBIR Phase IIB Small Market Award project period) that outlines how and when full commercialization can be accomplished, beyond the period of SBIR funding.
Applicants are encouraged to leverage other available Federal resources where appropriate, including existing FDA incentives to increase and accelerate small market product development, such as Orphan Drug designation, Humanitarian Device Exemption, the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision, and the Orphan Products Grants program to assist with expenses related to clinical trials. Additional information about relevant FDA programs and resources may be found on the Developing Products for Rare Diseases & Conditions industry page.
Applicants are also encouraged to explore eligibility to participate in other NIH resources for translation, including:
- Science Moving towArds Research Translation and Therapy (SMARTT)
- Gene Therapy Resource Program (GTRP)
- Production Assistance for Cellular Therapies (PACT)
- Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND)
- Bridging Interventional Development Gaps (BrIDGs)
- Collaboration with NIH Intramural Investigators at the Clinical Center
To participate in these programs, the applicant needs to apply through a separate peer-reviewed open solicitation. Projects selected for these programs will be provided in-kind resources such as manufacturing, pharmacology & toxicology services, or regulatory affairs assistance to support drug development projects.
Applicants developing products that may benefit from access to clinical specimens are encouraged to explore the NHLBI Biologic Specimen and Data Repository Information Coordinating Center (BioLINCC).
See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.