EGRP News Flash - September 23, 2009

NCI Solicits Contract Proposals for Methodologic Research Related to Molecular Characterization of Cancer

The Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program's (EGRP) Methods and Technologies Branch fosters methodologic research to address epidemiologic data collection, study design and analysis, and to modify technological approaches developed in the context of other research endeavors for use as biomarkers and methods to understand cancer susceptibility. As part of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Fiscal Year 2010 solicitation for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), the Methods and Technologies Branch developed a contract topic to foster methodologic research related to the molecular characterization of cancer.

The primary goal of this topic is to encourage small businesses to develop novel high-throughput technologies that will enable researchers to directly capture nucleic acid sequence information without the need for amplification. Such technologies are expected to aid researchers in identifying specific and predominant variants involved in the development of disease phenotype(s). In particular, sequence information of DNA, messenger RNA (mRNA) and/or microRNA (miRNA), which is obtained from human cancer biospecimens, is expected to provide new insights into cancer onset and progression. Future benefits of these technologies (which are beyond the scope of the current topic) may include new approaches for risk assessment in cancer epidemiology, and potentially new cancer prevention and/or therapeutic strategies.

Phase I activities and expected deliverables:

  • Develop a novel technique to directly capture nucleic acid sequence information without the need for amplification (i.e., develop an approach to obtain sequence information at the single molecule level).
  • Show proof-of-concept by applying the technology to obtain sequence information for one or more of the following: DNA, mRNA and/or miRNA.
  • Demonstrate the ability to successfully detect both unaltered (i.e., non-damaged) nucleotides, as well as cancer-relevant, chemically altered (i.e., adducted) nucleotides.

Phase II activities and expected deliverables:

  • Apply the technique(s) to biospecimens, such as cancer cell lines.
  • Adapt the techniques for the high-resolution, high-throughput screening of cancer biospecimens.
  • Characterize and demonstrate the accuracy and specificity of the technique/assay.
  • Develop a commercially viable assay that is capable of directly obtaining sequence information for one or more of the following in a cancer biospecimen: DNA, mRNA, and/or miRNA.

Two awards are anticipated. Phase I budgets may not exceed $150,000 and project periods may last a maximum of 9 months. If Phase I proves successful, the awardees may apply for a two-year Phase II award of up to $1,000,000.

The deadline for receipt of all contract proposals submitted in response to this solicitation is November 9, 2009.

For general questions about cancer epidemiology, contact EGRP's Rao L. Divi, Ph.D., Program Director, Methods and Technologies Branch.

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