National Institute on Aging
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Grand Opportunities (RC2) grants

NIA Participation in Research and Research Infrastructure “Grand Opportunities” (RC2)
A Recovery Act Limited Competition for NIH Grants

The purpose of the Research and Research Infrastructure Grand Opportunities program (RFA-OD-09-004) is to support high impact ideas that lend themselves to short-term, non-renewable funding, and may lay the foundation for new fields of investigation. The program will support large-scale research projects that accelerate critical breakthroughs, early and applied research on cutting-edge technologies, and new approaches to improve the synergy and interactions among multi and interdisciplinary research teams.

This initiative is one of several being offered by NIA to help fulfill the goals of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to help stimulate the economy through support of biomedical and behavioral research. Additional information on Recovery Act and related NIH opportunities is available through the Office of Extramural Research.

Areas of Scientific Priority

For this initiative, areas of scientific interest to NIA include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Genome-wide association or linkage studies, and/or gene sequencing studies, in participants in epidemiologic studies on older persons, or long-term human longitudinal studies, for which extensive phenotypic data and DNA are available, to identify relationships of genetic factors to important age-related phenotypes and rates of change with age.
  • Establishment and/or analyses of surveys or databases on older persons with multiple coexisting conditions, to evaluate health effects of interactions of specific combinations of conditions, and adverse and beneficial interactions of therapies for treating specific combinations of conditions.
  • Interdisciplinary studies on older persons to identify novel physiologic factors and other mechanisms contributing to impairments in physical function and capabilities, applying innovative imaging technologies and other noninvasive measures, and hi-throughput methods to characterize and analyze multiple phenotypes and potential contributory pathways.
  • Development of tools to facilitate research on the basic biology of aging. Tools could include, but are not limited to, new vertebrate models, imaging tools, inducible KO/transgenic mouse models, induced Pluripotent Stem Cells in rodent models, informatics and others.

Such tools fit the guidelines in that these tools can, in all cases, be developed in 2 years, and made available to the community. Further research would come later in the form of competitive applications that use the tools generated. As such, while having a high short term impact by themselves, projects for tool development will have a higher long-term than short-term impact.

  • Characterization of healthy aging. The health state of aging organisms can be assessed by a variety of means, including their epigenome, biome, metabolome, transcriptome (including microRNAs), response to stress, etc. This is a much needed area of research in aging, where focus in the past has been on lifespan, rather than health.

Developing databases on areas such as epigenetics, metabolomics, etc. will enable a rapid investment that will produce an impact within the 2 years of funding, and will serve as a basis for further analysis and hypothesis-driven research in the future. Such descriptive work is crucial as a first step in the process, so that the relevance of the projects would extend well beyond the funding period.

  • Integrated physiology and the role of aging in age-associated disease risk. Aging is the major risk factor for a variety of diseases. However, the role of changes in physiology that accompany aging and how they contribute to the risk for disease is seldom addressed. Development of unique models to address a novel area of research into this issue is encouraged.

An investment into the rapid development of animal models in which to study the role of aging physiology in diseases will produce immediate impact, as well as serve as a springboard for future research in this important area.

  • Data Development to Enhance Behavioral and Social Research. Development of data to expand research opportunities in behavioral and social research on aging including: 1) expansion of important subpopulations, such as minorities, in existing U.S. national longitudinal aging studies; 2) development of data to analyze the impact of large-scale interventions on health and well-being; and 3) development of data on the comparative demography of aging and life histories.
  • Linking laboratory and survey research approaches in social and behavioral science. Projects are encouraged that demonstrate the generalizability of laboratory assessments of social and/or economic behavior in innovative fields (e.g., social neuroscience, sociogenomics, behavior genetics, behavioral economics, biodemography, and neuroeconomics of aging) to real-world social and economic behaviors relevant to aging. Projects leading to innovations in measurement of neurobiological markers of social and economic behaviors in population-based studies are also encouraged.
  • Enhancing existing behavioral and social science datasets to understand the life course and the role of cumulative exposures in aging-related outcomes. Examples include 1) extending the life course observation period of older cohorts by adding a sample at earlier ages; 2) gathering retrospective data (recall or administrative data) for older cohorts in ongoing studies; 3) collecting additional data or adding subjects to increase the usefulness of existing data sets for the study of social networks, family relationships, and neighborhood effects on health; 4) adding biological, genetic and physical performance data; 5) harmonizing behavioral and social phenotypes and endophenotypes across multiple longitudinal studies with genetically-informative data, including twin studies; and 6) pursuing genetic and genomic approaches to understand outcomes in mid- and late-life.
  • Multiple Imaging and/or Fluid Biomarker Modalities for Early Diagnosis and Assessment of Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) carries a huge public health burden, and the ability to diagnose early and to follow the disease course from the very earliest pre-symptomatic stages would greatly help in the development and testing of new treatments. Various neuroimaging modalities and fluid biomarkers have been proposed as being useful for early diagnosis and following the course of AD. However, most studies have not compared multiple imaging and/or fluid biomarkers (e.g. MRI and FDG-PET or amyloid PET imaging; blood, urine, or cerebrospinal measures of disease-associated molecules) in the same study with the same study participants to evaluate their effectiveness, individually or in combination, at being able to provide for early diagnosis or to follow the progression of disease. Also, comparisons between and among these measures will help to provide critical information about which measures or combinations of measures may be the most useful in assessing the potentially disease modifying effects of drugs in AD clinical trials. Two-year grants could be used to analyze data and samples from available studies which include multiple imaging and fluid biomarker measures or to implement new studies which would incorporate multiple imaging and/or fluid biomarker modalities. These studies would provide support for the full range of analyses needed to compare these various types of measures and determine the best ones for assessment of early diagnosis and/or disease progression.
  • Comparative Effectiveness Trials of Treatment Modalities of Sleep Disorders: Accumulating data indicate that sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, in older people may accelerate adverse outcomes for many conditions associated with aging. In addition, there are several therapeutic approaches to treating these sleep problems. However, it is necessary to conduct comparative effectiveness trials of these various treatment modalities of sleep disorders of older people on outcomes such as falls, fatigue, neurodegenerative diseases, metabolic disorders, cognition, depression, substance abuse, quality of life, in order to establish guidelines for the optimal long-term treatment of disordered sleep in older adults.
  • Enhancement of Community-based sample of Brain Health Assessment : Identifying the important factors for gain or maintenance of health and well-being throughout the lifespan is a central goal for the mission of the NIH in regard to the public health and prevention of disease. Through the Blueprint for Neuroscience research, the NIH has invested in development of a brief, easily administered psychometric tool for assessment of neurological and behavioral function. The product is intended primarily for use in large longitudinal or epidemiological studies, or clinical trials, to increase the yield of information per subject in these very expensive and time-intensive research projects and to introduce the opportunity for investigators across the US to have a standard set of common metrics embedded in these studies. Within the year, a national random community-based sample of 5800 individuals ranging in age from 3 – 85 years will be recruited for the validation and norming of the NIH Toolbox for Assessment of Neurological and Behavioral Function. The opportunity for 2 year funding is the collection, genotyping and archiving of biological samples in this sample. Additionally, the inclusion of a 12 month longitudinal reassessment of the national sample during the 2 year time frame would add longitudinal phenotypic data to the archive, enhancing the value of genotypic data and the archive. Establishing such an archive would provide an enormously valuable resource for future studies to link the genotypic with the phenotypic data and has the potential for significant impact on shaping health care policy for maintenance of brain health and function.

Funding Priorities

Overall NIA expects to devote up to $35 million to the Grand Opportunity Program, across the two years of the program.

Key Dates

Opening Date: April 27, 2009
(Earliest date an application
may be submitted to
Letters of Intent Receipt Date(s): April 27, 2009
Application Due Date(s): May 27, 2009
AIDS Application Due Date(s): Not applicable
Peer Review Date(s): June/July 2009
Council Review Date(s): August 2009
Earliest Anticipated Start Date(s): September 30, 2009

Contact Information

Program Contacts:

For applications in the biology of aging

Dr. Ronald A. Kohanski
Division of Aging Biology
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Suite 2C231
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD 20892-9205

Tel.: 301-496-6402
Fax: 301-402-0010

For applications in geriatrics and clinical gerontology

Ms. Alicia Lawson
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Suite 3C07
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD 20892-9205

Tel: 301-496-6913
Fax: 301-402-1784

For applications in behavioral and social research on aging

Dr. John Haaga
Division of Behavioral and Social Research
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Bldg. Suite 533
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, MSC 9205
Bethesda Maryland 20892-9205

Tel.: 301-496-3131
Fax: 301-402-0051

For applications in the neuroscience of aging

Dr. Steve Snyder
Division of Neuroscience
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Bldg. Suite 350
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, MSC 9205
Bethesda Maryland 20892-9205

Tel.: 301-496-9350
Fax: 301-496-1494

Review contact

Dr. Ramesh Vemuri
Scientific Review Branch
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Suite 2C212
Bethesda, MD 20892-2292
Telephone: (301) 496-9666
Fax: (301) 402-0066

Grants management contact

Ms. Linda Whipp
Grants Management Officer
National Institute on Aging
Gateway Building, Suite 2N212
Bethesda, MD 20892-2292
Telephone: (301) 496-1472
Fax: (301) 402-3672

Page last updated Mar 26, 2009