SPARC Program Research Components

The SPARC program enables the development of the next generation of neuromodulation devices informed by the systematic development of high resolution neural circuit maps of the PNS. The program is comprised of four highly interactive components and is supported through a combination of Cooperative Agreement and Other Transaction (OT) mechanisms. These mechanisms afford the program the agility necessary to make rapid progress in this endeavor. In addition, these mechanisms enable the SPARC Program Manager (PM) and funded awardees to quickly and fluidly incorporate relevant breakthroughs and discoveries, engage non-funded pioneers, and establish SPARC awardee collaborations and partnerships. For more detail on the management of SPARC Other Transaction awards visit our SPARC Other Transactions (OTs) - General Information page.

The four components are: 1) Functional and Anatomical Mapping of Innervation of Major Internal Organs, 2) Next Generation Tools and Technologies, 3) Use of Existing Market-Approved Technology for New Market Indications, and 4) Data Coordination, Mapping, and Modeling Center.


SPARC1: Anatomical and Functional Mapping of the Innervation of Major Internal Organs

SPARC1 supports the creation of new anatomical and physiological data sets in able to generate and address hypotheses areas such as the scientific knowledge areas listed below. These studies proceed in relevant animal models and in humans, including cadaveric tissue when necessary. 

  • Coursing and branching of nerves and the distribution of axon terminals;
  • The structure of nerve-organ synapses;
  • The cross-sectional organization of nerves;
  • The specific and diverse neural signals that are carried by nerve fibers serving different end organs;
  • The organ functional effects mediated by firing patterns;
  • The variability that exists in expression/anatomical representation of the neural cell-types at each potential point of implantation (of neuromodulation interfaces);
  • Differences that exist between animal models and humans with regard to neuroanatomy and control of organ activity by the nervous system; translating animal data to human applications;
  • The extent of variance in these functional mechanisms from subject to subject as they pertain to effects and side effects (e.g., inter-individual variability in anatomy and response).

SPARC1 comprises two phases. The first phase focuses on anatomical and functional mapping using current state-of-the-art technologies. The second phase includes application of next-generation, technologies to enhance and refine the functional mapping, and design and pilot new therapies.

SPARC1 is integrated with other SPARC components described below in order to maximize progress and provide data and expertise for development of maps in SPARC4.

Currently and previously funded researchThese mapping projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-15-018) Six projects funded through 3-year, OT2 awards.
  • (RFA-RM-15-020) Ten projects funded through 2-year, OT2 awards. 
  • (RFA-RM-17-003) Four projects funded through 3-year, U01 Research Project Cooperative Agreements. 

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time.


SPARC2: Next Generation Tools and Technologies

SPARC2 supports the development of tools and technologies to facilitate the progress of other components, particularly SPARC1. The scope encompasses a wide range of capabilities, spanning the fields of photonics, systems engineering, virology and genomics, device design and manufacture, surface chemistry, tissue engineering, neural interfacing, biomarker sensing, and more. In addition, SPARC2 supports early stage and later stage technology development in response to the continuing needs of mapping studies, supported through SPARC1. SPARC2 teams facilitate these activities by making freely available – and SPARC1 teams adopt into their research plans – promising next-generation mapping technologies. Moreover, documentation, data, and training, pertaining to these technologies, will be available through the efforts of SPARC4. Ultimately, the knowledge produced by the SPARC program – the comprehensive maps and new insights into translation from animal models to human patients – is expected to inform the next generation of neuromodulation therapies.

Currently and previously funded researchThese technologies are available for use by the SPARC consortium while the projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-15-002) Twelve projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements. 
  • (RFA-RM-16-003) Six projects funded through 2-year, OT2 awards
  • (RFA-RM-17-010) Four projects funded through 3-year, OT2 awards

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time.


SPARC3: Translational Partnerships for Human Functional Mapping and New Indications

SPARC3 supports translational partnerships between industry and SPARC investigators to produce proofs of concept for new nerve stimulation indications and to study functional neuromodulation in the context of human clinical studies. SPARC3 facilitates the development of partnerships between device developers and academic investigators through template agreements and leveraging NIH Common Fund support. Moreover, data from the use of these devices may be helpful for the mapping efforts. Future iterations of this component will make extensive use of these translational partnerships, and information generated by SPARC1 and SPARC2 to study functional neuromodualtion.

Currently and previously funded researchThese new market projects are available for partnering and collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-16-009) Three projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements.
  • (RFA-RM-16-027) Two projects funded through 2-year, U18 Research Demonstration Cooperative Agreements. 

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time.


SPARC4: Data and Resource Center

The SPARC Data and Resource Center (DRC) supports the creation of a multifunctional online hub facilitating coordination, synthesis, and prediction via three Core functionalities: Data Coordination, Map Synthesis, and Modeling & Simulation. Funded investigators closely coordinate with the DRC in order to achieve the following core functions:

  • Data Coordination Core (DAT-CORE) - Store, organize, manage, and track access to data and resources generated by SPARC;
  • Map Synthesis Core (MAP-CORE) - Build interactive, modular, continually updated visualizations of nerve-organ anatomy and function;
  • Modeling and Simulation Core (SIM-CORE) - Develop an online framework capable of hosting and connecting simulations to create predictive, multiscale, multiphysics models spanning from modulation sources acting at feasible access points through to organ functional responses.

Other activities include but are not limited to: development of informatics tools, development of ontology and provenance tools, development of standards, curation of data, development or adaptation of common data elements, maintenance of documentation and protocols regarding tools and technologies developed by or brought into the SPARC program, promoting and facilitating data upload and release, and providing a mechanism to protect patient rights and data.

Currently and previously funded researchThese DRC projects are available for collaborating activities within and outside the SPARC consortium.

  • (RFA-RM-16-008) Three projects funded through 5-year, OT3 Awards.

Active Funding Opportunities:

  • No active opportunities at this time. 


This page last reviewed on November 4, 2019