New Initiative To Support Studies of the Bat Immune System

Funding News Edition: April 07, 2021
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NIAID is supporting research to characterize cellular and molecular constituents of the bat immune system to better understand protective innate and adaptive immune mechanisms in bats through the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) Research on Bat Immunology (R21, Clinical Trial Not Allowed).

Approximately two-thirds of emerging pathogens are of zoonotic origin, with bats serving as natural reservoir hosts for several RNA viruses that are highly pathogenic to humans, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronaviruses (SARS-CoVs), Hendra, Marburg, Nipah, and rabies viruses. The bat immune system appears to be uniquely adapted for the control of viral infection without the manifestation of disease or pathology.

Understanding the mechanisms of how bats regulate immune responses to clear infections and prevent excessive inflammation may lead to a deeper understanding of the regulatory circuitry of the human immune system and host-pathogen interactions, and the development of novel therapeutics that downregulate inflammation and treat infectious diseases.

Research Objectives and Scope

This program will support projects to characterize the bat immune system, including defining protective innate or adaptive immune molecules and mechanisms. NIAID’s high-priority areas of interest are:

  • Characterizing the cellular constituents of the bat immune system
  • Dissecting the molecules and pathways involved in regulating the bat’s innate or adaptive immune system
  • Mechanistic studies of bat immunity and resolution of inflammation
  • Studies of the quality, magnitude, and kinetics of bat immune responses during infection
  • Exploring metabolism’s role in bat immune regulation
  • Structural studies of bat immune proteins

Historically, limited reagents have hindered cellular studies with bat primary cells and cell lines. Developing reagents to support bat immunological studies is an allowable research component for applications to this funding opportunity. 

Applications must include a Biohazard Protection and Safety Plan that contains a biohazard risk assessment, and a brief discussion of exposure control and response procedures to protect against possible bat-to-human and human-to-bat transmission events.

NIAID-funded data need to be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) to enhance the rigor and reproducibility of research results and secondary use, per the NIAID Data Management and Sharing Guidelines.

We expect all investigators funded under this FOA to share their data publicly through NIH-approved public portals (e.g., ImmPort).

Nonresponsive Research Areas 

NIAID considers the following research nonresponsive to this initiative and will not review applications that propose studies in the following areas:

  • Research that is not focused on bat immunology
  • Projects that focus only on comparative genomics without functional validation through molecular or cellular immunology studies
  • Projects that focus only on the development of reagents or cell lines and do not include a research component
  • Studies focused on understanding infectious pathogens or bat-to-human transmission, though the use of infectious pathogens is allowed as a means to understand bat immune mechanisms
  • Projects that use endangered bat species

Award and Contact Information

The combined budget for direct costs for the two-year project period may not exceed $275,000. Applicants may request no more than $200,000 in direct costs in any single year. Foreign institutions and foreign components are eligible to apply.

The FOA has two receipt dates: July 15, 2021, and March 15, 2022.

For inquiries, contact Dr. Kentner Singleton, NIAID’s scientific/research contact.

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