NIAID Releases RFA for International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research

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NIAID invites applications proposing research on malaria pathogenesis, epidemiology, and transmission that will inform improved malaria control interventions to apply to the next round of long-standing International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (ICEMR) Program through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research (U19, Clinical Trial Not Allowed).

Despite remarkable progress in malaria control, the rate of decline in malaria morbidity and mortality has slowed in recent years. Malaria control efforts still face evolving threats which require additional research to understand, predict, and control to eliminate the threat. NIAID’s ICEMR Program, established in 2010, provides a multidisciplinary framework to assess the dynamic epidemiology and global landscape of malaria.

Research Objectives and Scope

The research objectives of NIAID’s ICEMR Program are to 1) improve understanding of malaria pathogenesis, epidemiology, and transmission, and 2) evaluate, optimize, and inform development of interventions to understand, control, eliminate, and eventually eradicate malaria. The Centers in the Program will achieve these objectives through the design and conduct of multidisciplinary studies in malaria-endemic settings in close coordination with local ministries of other malaria control counterparts. The Program will also strengthen malaria research in endemic-country institutions and provide research opportunities for early-stage investigators.

The ICEMR Program is not intended to support research that can be conducted primarily in the United States or other countries where malaria is not endemic; however, laboratory and in silico studies conducted in non-endemic settings are allowed. Additionally, each Center must develop and maintain affiliations with local or regional government agencies and established institutions at the endemic sites to ensure necessary coordination of research activities with ongoing malaria control/intervention programs and facilitate access to relevant study populations and treatment centers.

Proposed research should address a central theme characteristic of the proposed endemic sites, rather than research limited to malaria surveillance, surveys, or measurement of impact of control programs. The ICEMR Program should have access to dedicated statistical expertise that informs the research study design and provides the ability to conduct statistical data analysis.

ICEMR Program Components and Responsive Research Areas

Each application must include one Administrative Core, one Data Management Core, and two or more research projects that address the following:

  • One question in Area A – Epidemiology
  • One or more aims in Area B – Transmission and/or Area C – Pathogenesis and Diagnosis

Note that Area A – Epidemiology must be a multi-site project involving at least three field sites proposed by the Center. There are no minimum numbers of field sites for Areas B and C. In addition, applications must include at least one basic science aim or translational science aim, with the potential to inform product development within at least one Research Project.

Below are some examples of responsive research activities. For a detailed description of each program component, refer to the FOA linked above:

Area A—Epidemiology

  • Causes for the intransigence of malaria burden to routine control measures implemented.
  • Causes for the persistence of low levels of malaria.
  • Research and impact analysis (e.g., cost-effective analysis) to assess the optimal combination of standard public health interventions in an integrated manner to reduce the burden of disease due to malaria (e.g., use of rapid diagnostics, larvicides, bed-net use, indoor residual spraying, and treatment or prevention of malaria which are in routine public health use in accordance with the country’s Ministry of Health guidelines).
  • Multidisciplinary research approaches to discover, identify, validate, evaluate, and optimize interventional tools and strategies.

Area B—Transmission

  • Research on vector biology and ecology.
  • Study of residual transmission and outdoor biting behavior of anopheline mosquitoes.
  • Evaluation of impact of emerging resistance to current drugs and insecticides on transmission.
  • Assessment of impact of emerging resistance to current drugs and insecticides on transmission.
  • Evaluation of novel transmission reduction strategies (e.g., combination of existing vector control methods).
  • Study of asymptomatic carriers and their contribution to disease transmission.
  • Study of factors affecting gametocytogenesis in symptomatic and asymptomatic disease and the contributions to transmission.
  • Assess and evaluate monitoring tools and surveillance methods when malaria transmission is at low levels or to detect onset of epidemics.

Area C—Pathogenesis and Diagnosis

  • Identify and characterize:
    • Host susceptibility and parasite virulence factors contributing to changes in the spectrum of disease severity, changes in pathological manifestation(s), evasion of protective host responses, or increased transmissibility.
    • Host factors associated with carriage of hypnozoites.
    • Serological markers and diagnostic tools for identification of carriers of hypnozoites.
    • Factors associated with persistence or clearance of gametocytes.
  • Identify, develop, and test human and mosquito infection diagnostics, and drug and insecticide resistance.
  • Discover and validate novel antigens or biomarkers to develop new, rapid diagnostics to detect malaria at point-of-care settings.
  • Develop and evaluate field deployable genomic surveillance tools for parasites and vectors.
  • Develop or adapt robust genomic tools to analyze field derived host, parasite, and vector specimens.

Refer to the FOA for an extensive list of nonresponsive research topics which, if proposed, will cause NIAID to not review your application. Below are a few examples:

  • Applications that do not address one question in Area A – Epidemiology, and one or more aims in Area B – Transmission and/or Area C – Pathogenesis and Diagnostics.
  • Research on malaria parasites that do not infect humans.
  • Applications where research is conducted entirely in the United States or in other countries where malaria is not endemic.
  • Stand-alone basic research projects that do not require access to malaria endemic field sites.
  • Applications that do not include at least one basic science aim or translational science aim using human or vector samples.
  • Applications that do not propose one Administrative Core, one Data Management Core, and two or more Research Projects.
  • Applications that do not include timelines and milestones in the Overall component.

Budget Details

Application budgets should not exceed $800,000 per year in direct costs. At least 65 percent of direct costs must be committed to field work and research activities at endemic sites. The scope of the proposed project should determine the project period which should be no more than 5 years.

Due Date, Contact Information

Applications are due by May 4, 2023, at 5 p.m. local time of applicant organization.

Direct any inquiries to NIAID’s scientific/research contact Dr. Malla Rao at or 240-627-3352.

Direct any peer review questions to Dr. Marci Scidmore at or 240-627-3255.

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