Joe Wang, Ph.D., DMHE
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are a spectrum of lifelong, debilitating health deficits, affecting roughly 2-5% of all school-aged children in the US. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), the most serious form of FASD, is a developmental disorder characterized by craniofacial abnormalities, growth retardation, and nervous system dysfunction that may include mental retardation. Other FASD categories include partial FAS, with facial and neurodevelopmental deficits of FAS but no apparent growth deficits; alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), with a neurobehavior deficit but no facial and physical features of FAS; and lastly alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), where physical attributes of FAS are seen in the absence of the full syndrome. In addition, children with FASD may exhibit multiple cognitive, behavioral, and emotional deficits that impair daily functioning in many domains. Newer diagnostic schemes, including Neurobehavioral Disorder Associated with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure (ND-PAE), are being developed with an emphasis on the mental health symptoms associated with PAE.
Established in 2003, the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, or CIFASD, is a consortium designed to inform and develop effective diagnosis/screening, interventions and treatment approaches for FASD, through a highly integrated multidisciplinary research approach involving a team of basic and clinical investigators and unique CIFASD cohorts in the Ukraine, South Africa and multiple sites across the US.
CIFASD currently consists of an administrative and a dysmorphology core (U24), nine domestic and international research projects (U01), and two developmental projects (UH2, now expired after a two-year support).
The purpose of this FOA, a reissue of RFA-AA-17-012, is to solicit exploratory/developmental projects focused on developing effective diagnosis/screening, interventions and treatment approaches for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). This solicitation is open to all, with an expressed emphasis on new and innovative concepts, approaches, and technologies. The awarded projects, with a duration of two years, are encouraged to establish a collaborative relationship with the NIAAA-supported CIFASD consortium.
Applications in response to this FOA should address areas of FASD research including but not limited to: improved diagnosis; earlier case identification; biomarker development; intervention and prevention strategies; and genetic and mechanistic studies associated with prenatal alcohol exposure. The proposed projects will have two years duration.
Justification for the Re-issue/Outcome
The initial UH2 developmental projects in the CIFASD, now completed, were funded for two years in 2017 under RFA-AA-17-012, through which NIAAA was responsible for the solicitation, review, and funding decision. These projects were intended for a shorter term, were not renewable, and, upon completion, were intended to be replaced by new projects. As was done for the applications funded in 2017, this round of UH2 solicitations would be open to all (not requiring a letter of support from CIFASD).
The developmental/pilot projects in CIFASD consortium in funding cycle prior to 2017 were successful in bringing in in new ideas and investigators. Of seven developmental projects, five have evolved to become U01 or components of U01 projects in the current cycle, while three have developed into independent R21 and R01 awards.
The exploratory/developmental projects solicited by this FOA should be high-risk/high-reward in nature and involve novel or underexplored areas of FASD research. To maximize research impact, awardees are encouraged to establish a collaborative relationship with the other U01 research projects, and utilize the resources provided by the U24 resource components of the CIFASD consortium.
NIAAA seeks cooperative agreement applications (UH2). This mechanism requires the appointment of an NIH Project Scientist, who will have substantial involvement above and beyond the normal program stewardship of the award. The NIH Project Scientist is a partner within the research team representing the government's interest in the substantive work of the research team with specific responsibilities.