NIH – Imaging – Science Track Award for Research Transition (I/START) (R03 Clinical Trial Optional)

September 21, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The goal of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to facilitate the entry of investigators to the area of brain imaging research, including both new investigators and established investigators seeking to add brain imaging to their research programs. Accordingly, this FOA invites applications for the Imaging – Science Track Award for Research Transition (I/START) program, a continuing program developed by NIDA to foster the entry of investigators into the areas of brain imaging and drug abuse research. The application of brain imaging technology that can be used in humans is becoming more widespread; however, it is often difficult for new investigators or even established investigators wishing to incorporate such brain imaging methods in their research program to obtain independent funding to generate preliminary data in this area or for more established investigators to identify a source of funding that would allow them to explore the potential application of imaging to their research. In many research domains, investigators are often able to identify sources of support sufficient to conduct preliminary studies. In contrast, the cost of obtaining preliminary data using brain imaging methods that can be used in humans (e.g., PET and MRI scans) often serves as a significant barrier to research, particularly for more translational efforts.

This FOA will allow for study design and collection of “proof of concept” brain imaging data that can then be used as pilot data for the transition to more extensive research applications.

For NIDA, proposed studies should have the potential to add significantly to knowledge of the possible effects of drugs of abuse on the CNS, CNS dysfunction that promotes drug use initiation and continuation; promotes or impedes recovery and abstinence; or adds to the imaging tools that can be used in the pursuit of that goal.  The brain imaging studies proposed in applications from established investigators should have the potential to substantively contribute to the significance of the applicant’s research program. All areas of research dealing with the clinical neurobiology of drug abuse and addiction and encompassing a wide array of research studies that incorporate brain imaging are sought under this announcement. Areas of interest that would allow preliminary data to be obtained within the I/START time and budget requirements include, but are not limited to: (a) the neurobiology of addiction and the assessment of structural, functional or chemical alterations due to drug abuse and the addiction process; (b) neurobiological effects on development/maturation due to prenatal, child or adolescent drug exposure; (c) neural mechanisms underlying cognitive processes that are altered by drugs of abuse; (d) neurobiological mechanisms underlying brain reward, motivated behaviors, and related processes; (e) neural mechanisms that promote or impede recovery and abstinence; (f) neurobiological basis of individual differences in response to drug of abuse including differences in transition from drug use to addiction (g) neural mechanisms of cognitive or behavioral processes that may contribute to the initiation, progression/maintenance, or relapse to drug abuse/addiction; (h) neural mechanism that promote drug use initiation or continuation, or relapse; (i) assessment of neurobiological changes resulting from pharmacological and/or behavioral treatment for drug abuse/addiction; (j) neurobiological and neurobehavioral factors underlying comorbid mental and addictive disorders; (k) characterization of interactions between drug abuse/addiction and HIV infection in the brain; and (l) neurobiological processes involved in human pain and analgesia.

It is important to note that research proposed under the I/START program need not be conducted in drug-abusing populations or involve drug administration; however, the potential relevance to understanding drug abuse must be clearly delineated.

Special Considerations

National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse Recommended Guidelines for the Administration of Drugs to Human Subjects:  The National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (NACDA) recognizes the importance of research involving the administration of drugs with abuse potential, and dependence or addiction liability, to human subjects.   Potential applicants are encouraged to obtain and review these recommendations of Council before submitting an application that will administer compounds to human subjects.  The guidelines are available on NIDA’s Web site at

Points to Consider Regarding Tobacco Industry Funding of NIDA Applicants: The National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (NACDA) encourages NIDA and its grantees to consider the points it has set forth with regard to existing or prospective sponsored research agreements with tobacco companies or their related entities and the impact of acceptance of tobacco industry funding on NIDA’s credibility and reputation within the scientific community.  Please see for details.

Data Harmonization for Substance Abuse and Addiction via the PhenX Toolkit:  NIDA strongly encourages investigators involved in human subjects studies to employ a common set of tools and resources that will promote the collection of comparable data across studies and to do so by incorporating the measures from the Core and Specialty collections, which are available in the Substance Abuse and Addiction Collection of the PhenX Toolkit (  Please see NOT-DA-12-008 ( for further details.

Deadlines:  standard dates and standard AIDS dates apply


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities