The National Institutes of Health has launched the first phase of the Neuromod Prize(link is external), a $9.8 million competition to accelerate the development of neuromodulation therapies — targeted treatments that adjust nerve activity to improve organ function. The competition seeks scientists, engineers, and clinicians to submit novel concepts and clinical development plans to demonstrate solutions for precisely stimulating the peripheral nervous system to treat disease and improve human health.
The first phase of the competition will award up to $800,000. NIH plans to launch a second phase awarding up to $4 million, and a third phase awarding up to $5 million, subject to the availability of funds. Details of the requirements and registration for phases 2 and 3 are expected to be announced at a future time. NIH is launching only phase 1 at this time.
The Neuromod Prize is part of the Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC)(link is external) program from the NIH Common Fund. SPARC has made significant progress elevating neuromodulation as a therapeutic approach, closing fundamental knowledge gaps, and offering tools that enable open science(link is external) and innovation. With this competition, NIH hopes to bridge the gap between early-stage research and clinical use for solutions capable of independently targeting multiple functions involving the internal organs of the body.
The nervous system plays a role in all bodily functions, so neuromodulation therapies have the potential to treat a variety of health conditions, ranging from gastrointestinal disorders to heart failure, through targeted regulation of the nerves that connect with all parts of the body. Recent innovations in device technology and improved understanding of the interactions between the nervous system and target tissues and organs have led to a breakthrough moment in the field. As decades of research are applied in new ways, innovators are identifying novel neuromodulation approaches that are capable of selectively targeting multiple organs and functions.
“Through the Neuromod Prize, we’re asking potential solvers to use the foundational knowledge and technologies that have come out of our SPARC program and take it to the next level with their innovative concepts and ideas,” said James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, which oversees the NIH Common Fund. “This competition is an exciting opportunity to come up with tangible plans for harnessing the power of the body’s electrical system to help transform treatments for millions of people living with chronic or acute illnesses.”
Phase 1 participants will submit concept papers describing their proposed therapeutic approaches and their plans for conducting proof-of-concept studies, rationales for therapeutic use, and expectations for clinical impact. To learn more, potential participants can join a virtual information session(link is external) on February 7, 2022. Submissions through an online portal are due by 4:59 p.m. EDT on April 28, 2022.
A judging panel will select up to eight quarterfinalists to receive a share of the up to $800,000 first-phase prize pool. NIH subsequently plans to launch a second and a third phase, which will be announced at a later date. Phase 1 quarterfinalists will be exclusively invited to participate in the second phase, anticipated to take place starting in 2022, which will translate the winning ideas into preclinical studies. Semifinalist winners from the second phase will be eligible to compete in the final phase, expected to launch in 2023, moving their preclinical work into advanced translational and clinical studies as a critical step towards the regulatory approvals needed to bring new neuromodulation therapies to market.