New FOA “Centers” on HIV Structural Biology

Funding News Edition: May 19, 2021
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This past February, you may have seen NIAID’s notice of intent to publish a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for Centers for HIV Structural Biology (U54, Clinical Trial Not Allowed). If you were waiting for the FOA to be posted, you’ll be glad to know that it was; see the April 20, 2021 Guide announcement. Whether you anticipated the FOA or are just hearing about it, read on to learn more.

The FOA seeks dynamic, multidisciplinary consortia of structural biologists, virologists, and computational scientists to resolve complex biological structures relevant to HIV prevention, treatment, and cure. It expects consortia to leverage common resources, facilitate new collaborations, and engage and support the next generation of HIV structural biology researchers.

Awarded teams of scientists will receive support to develop and use cutting-edge technologies and methodologies to address the most challenging scientific questions involving structures and functions of HIV-related macromolecular complexes. The FOA’s purpose is not to develop specific interventions, but rather to establish new technologies and methodologies to facilitate the discovery of new therapeutic targets, elucidate the mechanisms of action of interventions, or determine the structural basis for interventional failures.

Areas of emphasis and interest include the following structural biology topics:

  • Known components of the virus and/or host for which a sufficiently complete molecular structure has yet to be determined
  • Restriction factors and viral proteins that counteract their function, as well as newly recognized factors that contribute to establishing or maintaining viral latency, which may represent potential therapeutic targets to effect a cure
  • Poorly characterized categories of complexes that are critical to the virus life cycle, including RNA, RNA/protein, DNA/protein, and protein/membrane interactions

The proposed research is expected to push the boundaries of what is feasible; therefore, NIAID recognizes that aspects of the Research Plan will need to be high-risk.

Research Scope

Each Center should be built around three or four diverse scientific projects in which innovative technological approaches will be applied to solve distinct scientific questions that address knowledge gaps of significance to one or more NIAID research priorities related to HIV prevention, treatment, or cure.

Research plans will need to be dynamic and adaptable to evolve as new data become available. Importantly, the scientific areas of specialization need not be directly related to one another; rather, they should leverage the best talents and technologies of the team to address the most challenging, compelling, and pertinent scientific problems in HIV research.

Be sure to read the Research Objectives and Scope section of the FOA for a list of required and recommended Center characteristics as well as nonresponsive areas of research.

Structure of Centers

To support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional consortia of HIV/AIDS researchers in conducting their research projects, Centers must include:

  • An Administrative Core to manage overall Center activities
  • A Developmental Core to foster early-career investigators both inside and outside the Center membership
  • Scientific Cores to support the research goals of the Center
  • Three or four research projects

Pre-Application Meeting

Before submitting an application, NIAID encourages investigators to discuss their proposed research and arrange a pre-application meeting with the scientific/research contact: Dr. David McDonald.

Award Information and More

NIAID intends to commit $30 million in fiscal year 2022 to fund five or six awards.

Application budgets are limited to $3.5 million in direct costs (excluding consortium Facilities and Administrative costs) and should reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. The project period must be five years.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. local time of the applicant organization on October 13, 2021. Note that only one application is allowed for each institution.

More Information

Go to the Centers for HIV Structural Biology webpage for additional information, including details on the virtual annual meeting in June. If you have questions about the Centers or the FOA, direct them to Dr. McDonald. Address inquiries about peer review to Dr. Robert Unfer.

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