Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mental Health Seeks Tools

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) SBIR program seeks to develop technologies in basic neuroscience research relevant to mental disorders, do translational and clinical research on mental disorders, clinical diagnosis, and to treat and disseminate evidence-based mental healthcare. On February 15, 2011 NIMH issued their SBIR Funding Opportunity Announcement to develop complex technologies and therapeutics for mental health research and practice.

NIMH finds that the complexity of conducting and managing mental health research is significant due to the diverse array of technologies currently being used, difficulty in recruiting subjects for clinical trials, and dealing with the broad categorical diagnoses of disorders.

For example, technologies are needed to design clinical trials, develop innovative computer-based observation techniques, develop computer software and hardware to use for screening purposes, to monitor patients during clinical trials, develop portable clinical trial management systems, develop monitoring software, advance methods to visualize complex clinical and biological data, and develop real-time assessment clinical tools.

NIMH needs tools to efficiently and effectively disseminate evidence-based treatment into services and clinical practice. The tools may be used to incorporate applied behavioral science and technology along with software, hardware, and associated technologies. Tools are needed to help detect and monitor mental illness progression, to implement proven interventions, or to predict treatment response to the side effects of psychotropic medications.

In addition, NIMH is interested in developing geographic-based systems that would be able to identify disparities in mental health treatments and demonstrate the impact of proven mental health treatments across and within geographic areas.

NIMH is also interested in data translation and communication packages for collecting, archiving, and make mental health and HIV/AIDS data sets available to the scientific community for secondary or meta-analyses.

NIMH is researching the potential to harness neuroplasticity to enhance the ability of the nervous system to reshape and form new connections which may help develop therapeutic approaches to PTSD, and cognitive impairment. Therefore it is important to understand neural development and plasticity at all levels.

The Institute is interested in developing digital approaches to be used for brain and behavioral research. Appropriate applications range from computational models for drug discoveries, to treat mental health disorders for HIV-associated CNS disorders, to applications that combine genetic, biological, behavioral, and environmental factors to assess pediatric vulnerability to mental disorders.

With advances in molecular biology, robotics, nanotechnology, microarray fabrication, imaging, and other advances occurring over the last decade, combined with discoveries in neurobiology, an opportunity is available to bring these technologies and biomedical research together to develop innovative high throughput tools relevant to brain and/or behavior disorders.

Other NIMH research of interest to the SBIR community includes studies on biomarkers and biosignatures of mental illnesses, drug discoveries to help in mental illnesses, therapeutics development for HIV/AIDS-Associated neuropsychological disorders, and development of PET and SPECT ligands for brain imaging.

Go to for more information on NIMH-SBIR FOA (PA-11-133).