NIAAA supports research on the causes, prevention, control, and treatment of the major health problems associated with alcohol use. Through its extramural research programs, NIAAA funds a wide range of basic and applied research to develop new and/or improved technologies and approaches for increasing the effectiveness of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. NIAAA also is concerned with strengthening research dissemination, scientific communications, public education, and data collection activities in the areas of its research programs.

NIAAA Research Topics 

The topics listed below reflect several examples of NIAAA’s program priorities at the time of the NIH Omnibus solicitation and should not be considered all-inclusive. NIAAA will consider ALL applications relevant to NIAAA’s mission. The topics below include areas of interest for both pre-clinical and clinical research. 

Basic Science 

Through basic scientific research, great strides have been made in understanding the mechanisms by which alcohol exerts its effects on human health and behavior. New tools, techniques, paradigms, and technology are needed to enable researchers to further understand the underlying biological and behavioral mechanisms through which conditions associated with AUD develop.

Research Tools/Technologies/Devices

  1. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), including disease specific cell lines and gene-edited models (e.g., alcohol-related organ damage and disease with human iPS cell-derived organoids) and from adult-derived human iPSCs cells representing genetic variations in alcohol metabolism (e.g., alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), cytochrome P450 isozyme CYP2E1, and glutathione S-transferase (GST)). 
  2. Novel technologies to measure and interpret non-coding RNA (ncRNA) gene expression, following alcohol exposure, in the brain at the cellular or in primary neuronal cultures.
  3. Rapid and cost-effective RNA sequencing methods/technologies in human blood cells 
  4. Tools to detect dynamic and concurrent changes of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain of behaving animals
  5. Tools to detect the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system (CNS) structure and activity
  6. Novel animal models, including transgenic animals
  7. Hepatocyte cell line capable of maintaining viability and metabolic functions in culture systems for an indefinite period 
  8. Experimental systems that mimic organ function
  9. New methods of ethanol administration to animals that produce precise dose control or that closely mimic types of alcohol exposure occurring in humans 
  10. New ligands that will enhance the potential usefulness of PET and SPECT neuroimaging technologies for the study of the etiology of AUD and related brain pathology. 
  11. Humanized animal models to study AUD in different organ systems.
  12. Epigenetic changes as disease drivers due to metabolic reprogramming by alcohol
  13. Prevalence of alcohol associated organ diseases: alcoholic cardiomyopathy, sarcopenia, pancreatitis, pulmonary, immune and bone diseases.
  14. Optoelectronics used to manipulate nerve cell activity in awake animals to better study nerve cell function in the body’s periphery.

Prevention / Treatment / Recovery 

Prevention strategies/programs and educational services, behavioral treatment programs, medications, and digital health technologies are crucial in ameliorating the negative health effects and consequences associated with AUD and alcohol misuse and recovery.

Medications Development 

  1. Preclinical and/or clinical development of therapeutics for AUD and alcohol-related complications (e.g., craving, sleep problems, withdrawal symptoms, and negative affect)
  2. Early therapeutic discovery activities (e.g., target ID, lead compound target validation) 
  3. Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling studies
  4. Extended formulations or reformulations of existing medications that improve efficacy or compliance
  5. Therapeutics for individuals with co-occurring health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV, alcoholic hepatitis, liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy, or other alcohol-induced tissue damage
  6. Precision therapeutics for different age groups

Programs or Therapies to Prevent or Treat AUD and/or the Consequences of Alcohol Misuse, Hazardous Drinking, and AUD Across the Lifespan

  1. Novel behavioral health or educational programs aimed at preventing or treating AUD or associated consequences of AUD, alcohol misuse, or hazardous drinking across the life span
  2. Prevention or treatment programs tailored specifically to the needs of the following groups: children of individuals with AUD, women, racial and ethnic underrepresented populations, sexual and gender minority populations, persons with disabilities, adolescents/young adults, the elderly, individuals in rural settings, individuals with psychiatric comorbidities (e.g., PTSD, major depressive disorder, etc.)
  3. Computerized versions of empirically supported prevention or treatment programs, including but not limited to in languages other than English 
  4. Prevention curricula, videos, multi-media programs, and training materials for use with adolescents and college-aged individuals
  5. Therapeutic, skill-building, and educational program products that enhance behavioral, neurocognitive, social, adaptive, and motor function to improve the overall well-being of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and their families 
  6. Therapies to mitigate alcohol-associated adverse impact on the development of liver and/or lung diseases 
  7. Strategies and methods to increase awareness and salience among high-risk groups of the tragic consequences of driving after drinking
  8. Therapies or programs specifically focused on sustaining mid- and long-term recovery from AUD

Digital Health Tools (mHealth, health IT, wearable devices, telehealth, telemedicine, and personalized medicine)

  1. Wearable Alcohol Biosensor - minimally invasive, near real-time detection, remote monitoring
  2. Validation of promising technologies, biosensors, and research tools
  3. Tools to improve the prevention or treatment of AUD and alcohol-related problems
  4. Applications that facilitate long-term recovery support and improve continued engagement in recovery support services
  5. Tools to improve the identification and diagnosis of FASD and prenatal alcohol exposure
  6. Applications or tools to improve medication safety (e.g. multiple medications, interactions with alcohol)
  7. Mobile device applications or other health technologies to improve the effectiveness, accessibility, and use of behavioral interventions for AUD and co-occurring disorders, including HIV
  8. Solutions for minority health and health disparities with capabilities of reaching persons in rural, remote, and under-resourced/under-served communities

Diagnostics 

Improving the current battery or developing new approaches to measurement, diagnosis, and assessment of the severity of AUD, alcohol misuse and health consequences, FASD, and alcohol-related organ damage.

Imaging Examination Technologies for Early and Precise Diagnosis of Alcohol-Related Organ Damage

Biomarkers for AUD and alcohol-related health effects

  1. Detection (e.g., biochemical, unbiased assay) of alcohol intake for extended period (e.g., 2 weeks, 2 months) after drinking episode
  2. Signatures of alcohol-induced organ damage and familial risk
  3. Reduction of time to results for current assays (e.g., phosphatidylethanol (Peth), ethyl glucuronide (EtG))
  4. Point of care devices, for use in rural or remote primary care and hospital settings
  5. Validation of biomarkers that can be used to verify prenatal alcohol exposure or predict neurobehavioral deficits later in life for early detection of FASD 
  6. Tools or kits to measure aristolochic acid (AA)-adducts and advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in serum, cerebral spinal fluid, and brain and other organs impacted by AUD in animal models and pre-clinical settings including their relationship to the biomarkers of neuro-inflammation 
  7. Tools to detect alcohol-induced damage in those patients with HIV infection or co-infection
  8. Measurement and integration of ‘omics data for AUD and alcohol-related organ damage

Data Science

Data applications and tools can be used for discovery of new biomarkers and targets, precision medicine, and other applications to increase the efficiency and efficacy of treating AUD and alcohol-related health effects.

Data Science Tools

  1. Algorithms for integrative analysis incorporating multiple current NIAAA and public ‘big data’ sets, including machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence, data mining and other model based and model-free approaches 
  2. Software applications for data interfaces for aggregation, imputation, harmonization, or visualization of data from multiple sources, including current and future NIH data systems 
  3. Algorithms and/or software tools for improving data collection, i.e. smart phone apps, extraction of specific alcohol research parameters from existing large databases and established public health studies, biological sensors or wearable devices 
  4. Computational and/or systems biology models of alcohol exposure
  5. Computational, statistical or bioinformatics tools to organize and manage high throughput data obtained by genomic, functional genomic, or other ‘omic strategies 
  6. Application of machine learning and artificial intelligence in alcohol research
  7. Translation of ‘omics’ data into clinically relevant predictions and outcomes for AUD and alcohol-related organ damage

Contact Information 

Direct your general questions about the SBIR/STTR program or scientific/research issues to:

Megan Ryan, M.B.A. NIAAA SBIR/STTR Program Coordinator:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  
6700B Rockledge Dr. 
Rockville, MD 20852-1705
Phone: 301-443-4225
Email: mryan1@nih.gov

For administrative and business management questions, contact:

Jeff Thurston 
SBIR/STTR Grants Management Lead 
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 
Phone: 301-443-9801
Email: jeffrey.thurston@nih.gov