New FOA for Ocular and Pulmonary Toxicity Research

Funding News Edition: July 21, 2021
See more articles in this edition

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified almost 200 chemicals as high consequence public health threats. Approximately one-third of these chemicals of interest targets the respiratory system, eyes, or both.

To date, NIH has supported research and development of medical countermeasures (MCMs) on only a few of these chemicals. There is an urgent unmet need to further understand the physiological mechanisms involved in the initiation and downstream events of injury after acute exposure to many of the remaining chemicals of interest.

In order to address this need, the Chemical Countermeasures Research Program (CCRP) at NIAID, in partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Eye Institute, has released the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) CCRP Initiative: Chemical Threat Agent-Induced Pulmonary and Ocular Pathophysiological Mechanisms (R01, Clinical Trial Not Allowed).

The FOA seeks innovative research from the pulmonary/respiratory and ocular research communities to 1) understand fundamental mechanisms of acute and delayed chemical toxicity/pathology to the lungs and eyes and 2) identify potential molecular, cellular, physiological, and genetic targets and pathways that may be targeted to prevent chemically-induced morbidities and mortality.

Note that the FOA encourages studies using diverse animal models, advanced biotechnologies, such as organoid tissues, ex vivo studies using human or animal tissues, in vitro cell culture systems, and/or in silico models that may, for example, ultimately support big data high-throughput biological screening initiatives. Applicants are also encouraged to address the health impact of acute chemical exposure on diverse comorbidity factors such as age, sex, pregnancy, or pre-existing disease conditions.

To learn more about the CCRP and NIAID’s leadership role in supporting the basic research in chemical toxicology, read “Supporting Fundamental Chemical Toxicology Research To Inform Medical Countermeasure Developments: The National Institutes of Health Chemical Countermeasures Research Program,” published in Chemical Research Toxicology by ACS Publications.

Research Topics of Interest

The FOA seeks applications in the following two broad areas.

Pulmonary toxicant research

Examples include:

  • Studies proposing to use in vitro models. Be sure to include at minimum one cell culture model with at least two different cell types relevant to the target organ, and two or more toxicants and multiple time points post exposure.
  • Studies investigating the role of susceptibility in the manifestation of toxic effects. Applicants should use neonate, adult, old/aged animals of both sexes and assays performed at multiple time points post exposure and a minimum of two toxicants.
  • Studies proposing to use high-throughput screening approaches such as using organoid tissue systems. Applicants should use more than two toxicants and multiple time points post exposure that will facilitate cross comparison analysis for identifying common molecular targets.

Ocular toxicant research

Given that the eyes are usually the first and most frequent route of toxic exposure, making them especially vulnerable to chemically-induced injuries, dissecting and counteracting the eye’s vulnerability to chemical injury requires traction in at least four domains: 1) responses to corneal toxicity—acute and chronic, 2) models of corneal toxic injury, 3) mechanisms of corneal pathologies and wound healing, and 4) therapies for corneal pathology.

Therefore, if you are interested in this research area, we encourage you to consider several aspects, including:

  • The pathology of chemical injury to the eye, e.g., photophobia, keratitis, edema, tear disruption. Projects proposing to investigate more than one angle of this response/pathology are particularly responsive to this FOA.
  • Early/acute effects tend to resolve following vesicant injury but then rebound as late/chronic effects. Shedding light on this delayed response is a particularly valuable objective of this FOA.
  • Proposed therapies against ocular chemical injury include anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic, anti-neovascular, and antioxidant agents but frequently result in incomplete or transient efficacy. Therefore, discovery of biologically active tools or probes to address the natural history of chemical ocular injuries is advocated under this FOA.

For further details on these and other possible topics for pulmonary toxicant and ocular toxicant research, see the FOA.

Required Biosafety Certification

Since many of the chemical threat agents of interest are extremely hazardous, all applications must include a letter from appropriate institutional biosafety officials indicating that studies are deemed safe for research personnel and the environment. Find additional information at Letters of Support in Section IV. Application and Submission Information of the FOA.

Additionally, special biosafety certifications may be required to conduct research with some chemicals of interest (e.g., chemical warfare agents). Therefore, we encourage applicants to collaborate with laboratories and contract research facilities that are already certified to work with these restricted chemical agents, when applicable.

If your research proposal uses restricted chemical agent(s), we strongly encourage you to contact the appropriate scientific/research contacts listed in the FOA for further information.

Award Information

NIH intends to support 6 to 10 awards, corresponding to a total of $4 million to $5 million in fiscal year 2022. Future year amounts will depend on annual appropriations.

Application budgets are limited to $300,000 in direct costs per year and need to reflect the actual needs of the proposed project. The budget allocation for in vitro and/or in silico research cannot exceed $200,000 in direct costs per year.

The scope of the proposed project should determine the project period, the maximum being three years.

Application Due Date, Contact

The first of three application due dates is October 13, 2021. Direct questions to Dr. Dave Yeung, NIAID’s scientific/research contact. 

On a Related Note

For another CCRP-related funding opportunity, see our July 7, 2021 article “Apply for Funds To Promote Understanding of Skin Injuries Caused by Chemical Threats.”

Contact Us

Email us at for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

Content last reviewed on