All organs in the body are stimulated by nerves, which send signals that affect the organ’s function. Modulation of nerve signals to control end-organ function has recently been recognized as a potentially powerful way to treat many diseases and conditions, such as hypertension, heart failure, gastrointestinal disorders, type II diabetes, inflammatory disorders, and more. However, the mechanisms of action for therapies in which nerves are stimulated to control organ function are poorly understood. The Common Fund’s Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) program aims to provide the scientific foundation to catalyze development of new or more efficacious therapies based on neuromodulation of end-organ system function.
During the 2013-2014 Common Fund strategic planning process, the NIH community identified the need to understand the mechanisms of action for neuromodulation therapies. Although some neuromodulation therapies are in use, the underlying technologies are not optimal, and so a great opportunity exists to develop improved therapies for a number of diseases and conditions. Improving and developing new neuromodulation therapies requires a better understanding of the neural circuits in end-organ systems, as well as the development of novel electrode designs, surgical procedures, and stimulation protocols. In response to these needs and opportunities, the Common Fund plans to launch the SPARC program in fiscal year 2015.
NEW! Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC) Issues Three Requests for Information!
The Common Fund SPARC program aims to provide the scientific foundation required to catalyze the development of new and/or more efficacious therapies utilizing closed-loop neuromodulation to modulate end-organ system function. To this end, three Requests for Information seeking input from the biomedical research community, potential biotechnology and pharmaceutical company partners, and other members of the public on this new program have been issued.
NIH-Industry Partnership towards Clinical Utility of Market-approved Devices to Support New Market Indications within SPARC: Partner with industry and FDA to explore utility of existing, approved devices to address new, small-market indications (see NOT RM-14-015 for details)
Research on Neural Control and Neuromodulation of Organ Function to Enable SPARC: Deliver detailed, integrated functional/anatomical neural circuit maps in multiple organs or organ systems for understanding the underlying mechanisms of control; develop/pilot novel electrode designs, surgical procedures, and stimulation protocols leveraging insights from the functional maps (see NOT RM-14-016 for details)
Neuromodulation Technology Needs and Challenges to Enable SPARC: Develop next-generation technology for stimulating and recording of visceral nerves and tissues, e.g., optogenetics, stimulating/recording electrodes, cell-type specific tracing (see NOT-RM-017 for details)