BRAIN issues funding opportunities for engineering and optimization of molecular technologies for functional dissection of neural circuits

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Colorful pathways in a human brain.

This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will support the creation of Molecular Payloads Centers with a first application due date of June 28, 2023, and the earliest start date of April 2024. 

The newly released BRAIN Initiative: Engineering and optimization of molecular technologies for functional dissection of neural circuits (UM1 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) [RFA-MH-22-245] solicits applications to develop Molecular Payloads Centers for technology optimization of existing tools for brain cell monitoring or manipulation in experimental animals that are beyond proof-of-concept stage.  

Genetically encoded reporters and actuators of neuronal or non-neuronal cell activity have already revolutionized our understanding of how the nervous system works, but they still hold enormous potential for revealing the mysteries of the brain. The last two decades have seen an explosion in tools available to monitor activity in entire neurons, compartments of neurons, communication between neurons, and the function of non-neuronal cells. In tandem, genetic tools that can manipulate cell types in the nervous system – actuators – have also flourished and become critical for testing hypotheses about how the nervous system works.  

As outlined in a Notice of Intent to Publish issued earlier in the year, Molecular Payload Centers are expected to integrate large-scale molecular engineering, in vivo validation of improvements in intact brains of animals, benchmarking against best-in-class tools, and adaptation of tools into easily produced and applied formats for neuroscience users.  

This FOA is part of the BRAIN Initiative Armamentarium for Precision Brain Cell Access to generate and implement methods to specifically access, manipulate, and monitor brain cell types across multiple species. The first receipt date for this FOA is June 28, 2023, with subsequent receipt dates of February 15, 2024, and October 17, 2024.  

More details including the objectives and scope of the FOA can be found here.  

Other FOAs in this large-scale project include RFA-MH-20-556 and RFA-MH-21-180