Request for Information (RFI): Input on Gaps in Knowledge Relevant to the National Eye Institute Audacious Goal Initiative

Notice Number: NOT-EY-14-003

Key Dates
Release Date: August 20, 2014
Response Date: October 1, 2014

Related Announcements
None

Issued by
National Eye Institute (NEI)

Purpose

The National Eye Institute Audacious Goal Initiative (NEI AGI) focuses on regenerating neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system (see below for background).  This Request for Information (RFI) seeks input from the scientific community to help identify the major gaps in knowledge and obstacles preventing advancement in achieving this Audacious Goal.  Individuals with relevant expertise are invited to submit comments.

Background

The NEI AGI was launched in 2012 with an open competition for bold, audacious ideas to stimulate innovation in establishing a national vision research agenda.  A single audacious goal emerged from the meeting, namely, regenerating neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system, with photoreceptor cells and retinal ganglion cells identified as the most compelling targets for regeneration through this initiative because the loss of either cell type by disease or injury leads to severe visual disability and blindness. Vision science is uniquely poised to achieve the goal of replacing damaged cells with functioning cells and new connections within 10-15 years.  More information on the NEI AGI, and related funding opportunities, can be found at http://www.nei.nih.gov/audacious/

Information Requested

Researchers have demonstrated that stem cells can be programmed to develop into new photoreceptors that can generate outer segments and integrate with existing cells when implanted in the retina. It has also been shown that glia or progenitor cells can be induced to form photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells. Moreover, recent advances have demonstrated the feasibility of regenerating connections between the retina and its central targets in nerve injury models.  Advancing these successes to vision restoration in humans will require overcoming many obstacles. This RFI requests input regarding the following areas of concern:

1)  The current barriers to identifying and isolating appropriate stem cells for retinal transplants that will produce a sufficient number of functioning photoreceptors and/or retinal ganglion cells to restore visual function.

2) The current challenges to activating endogenous progenitor cells that will mature into a sufficient number of functioning photoreceptors or retinal ganglion cells to restore visual function.

3)  The barriers to overcome in guiding photoreceptors or retinal ganglion cells to make proper functional connections within the retina.

4)  The current obstacles to triggering damaged or regenerated retinal ganglion cells to form new axonal projections with appropriate connections to central targets.

5)  The barriers to reliable long-distance axon regeneration and advancing to cut-nerve and primate model systems.

6) Measures of restored visual function appropriate to evaluate success.

7)  New technologies needed to address these challenges and/or evaluate success.

Submitting a Response

All responses must be submitted via email to NEIAudaciousGoal@nih.gov by October 1, 2014. Please indicate by number which concern(s) is (are) being addressed in your response. Your response is not limited to the concerns listed above.

The NEI will use the information submitted in response to this RFI at its discretion and will not provide comments to any responder’s submission. However, responses to the RFI may be reflected in future planning activities and funding opportunity announcements. The information provided will be analyzed and may appear in reports. Respondents are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted.  No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use any non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s).

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Donald Everett
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Email:  everettd@mail.nih.gov
Telephone:  301-451-2020

Thomas Greenwell
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Email: greenwellt@mail.nih.gov
Telephone:  301-451-2020

Michael Steinmetz
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Email:  steinmem@mail.nih.gov
Telephone:  301-451-2020

Cheri Wiggs
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Email: wiggsc@mail.nih.gov
Telephone:  301-451-2020

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