The zebrafish is used extensively by NIH funded investigators to examine many aspects of the basic biology of vertebrates and, in the past several years, has become an important model organism for a variety of human diseases. During fiscal year 2013, twenty of the NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices funded approximately 700 grants related to zebrafish research, with an investment totaling approximately $255 million. In addition to research grants, the NIH funds the Zebrafish International Resource Center (ZIRC), which archives and distributes mutant zebrafish lines and other reagents, and the Zebrafish Model Organism Database (ZFIN), which provides a wide range of information to researchers. The NIH also funds a large intramural research effort, including one of the world’s largest facilities for husbandry of zebrafish. Based on this strong foundation, the zebrafish is an essential resource of biomedical utility for translational studies.
To help understand the current needs and challenges of using zebrafish as a biomedical model, the NIH’s Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP), Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, within the Office of the NIH Director, convened the workshop entitled, “From Tank to Bedside: Zebrafish and Translational Research” on October 29 - 30, 2013 on the NIH Campus (see http://dpcpsi.nih.gov/sites/default/files/orip/document/zebrafish_workshop_final_report_orip_website.pdf for a summary report). The objectives of the Workshop were: 1) to provide input to the NIH on the current status of projects and technologies that directly inform studies related to human health using the zebrafish as an animal model; and 2) to provide advice to the NIH on initiatives that can enhance the use of zebrafish in translational research.
To help address the needs and challenges identified in the workshop, ORIP encourages applications from SBCs for SBIR projects that propose development of technology to support research studies related to human health using the zebrafish as an animal model. These projects are of particular interest since they may impact the ability to i) produce and preserve wild-type, transgenic, knockout, and mutant stocks; ii) speed up phenotypic and genotypic characterization of models for the study of human diseases and iii) facilitate pharmacological/translational studies.
This funding opportunity announcement encourages SBIR applications aimed at improving all aspects of zebrafish model creation, preservation and characterization, including, but not limited to the development or enhancement of the following:
- High throughput systems to speed up phenotypic and toxicological analysis using zebrafish embryos, particularly technologies to automate dispensing and orienting of embryos in multi-well plates
- Software for automated standardization of embryo position, fluorescence imaging capture and data analysis
- Genetic methods to speed up the production of knockout fish with reduced off-target effects
- Methods and devices to facilitate recording and analysis of behavior, for example, as caused by mutations or drugs
- Preservation of genetic stocks
- Production of biological reagents, particularly antibodies
- Detection of biological markers
- Non-fluorescence methods to measure gene expression
- Methods to monitor food intake, exercise and other physiological parameters
- Development of humanized models
- Creation of fluorescent fish lines
- Software for identification, tagging or marking individual fish
- Pathogen detection (biosafety)
- Sex determination of embryos, larvae, juveniles and adults