Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 4/18/2022

A Specialized Platform for Innovative Research Exploration (ASPIRE)

The scientific field of chemistry has changed little over the past century. Most chemical production, or synthesis, is an artisanal, non-mechanized process. Research on automating chemistry is typically focused on manufacturing existing drugs and other chemicals, not on new discoveries. The process of new bioactive chemical discovery is still based on artisanal intuition and experimentation, making it slow and inefficient.

NCATS proposes to transform chemistry from an individualized craft to a modern, information-based science through A Specialized Platform for Innovative Research Exploration* (ASPIRE). By addressing long-standing challenges in the field of chemistry, including lack of standardization, low reproducibility and an inability to predict how new chemicals will behave, ASPIRE is designed to bring novel, safe and effective treatments to more patients more quickly at lower cost.

The ultimate goal of the NCATS ASPIRE Program under the HEAL Initiative is the development of a platform that a wide spectrum of scientists can use to advance their translational science relevant to development and pre-clinical testing of new and safer treatments of pain, OUD, and overdose. Further, it is essential that the approach developed in this phase is applicable to any translational problem.

Deadline: Feb. 28, 2021

Areas of Interest

The goal of this Challenge is to combine the best solutions and develop a working platform that integrates four component areas: Integrated Database, Electronic Synthetic Chemistry Portal, Predictive Algorithms and Biological Assays. The first stage of this Challenge requires submission of a plan for the reduction-to-practice of a platform that integrates the four component areas into a comprehensive solution. The second stage of this Challenge requires the construction and development of a working prototype of this integrated platform. The third stage of this Challenge involves independent testing of the working prototype. In this Challenge, the functionality and degree of integration of the components in the integrated platform/solution will be evaluated. It is anticipated that successful teams for this Challenge will consist of large, multi-disciplinary groups with expertise in all four component areas.

Component Area 1 relates to the development of an open source, controlled access database that incorporates all currently available chemical, biological and clinical data of known opioid and non-opioid based analgesics, drugs of abuse, and drugs used to treat drug abuse.

Component Area 2 relates to the development of a next-generation open source electronic lab notebook (eLN) that collects, organizes and analyzes data relevant to the chemical synthesis and analyses of known opioid and non-opioid-based analgesics, drugs of abuse and molecules used to treat drug abuse into an electronic laboratory knowledge portal for synthetic chemistry (electronic synthetic chemistry portal; eSCP). 

Component Area 3 relates to the development of open source, advanced machine learning algorithms that would facilitate the discovery of novel, efficacious and non-addictive analgesics and/or treatments for drug abuse by utilizing the data collected in open source databases (Component Area 1), eSCPs (Component Area 2), and biological assays (Component Area 4).

Component Area 4 relates to the development of novel, physiologically relevant biological assays that accurately replicate the safety profile and effectiveness of existing drugs to treat addiction and/or overdose, and that can be reliably used in predictive risk assessments of new analgesics or drugs to treat addiction and/or overdose; and/or be able to anticipate the degree of addictiveness of an analgesic prior to clinical testing.

It is anticipated that this Challenge would require large, multi-expert teams. These teams may be assembled from the innovators from the 2018 Design Challenge areas and others who did not participate in the 2018 Design Challenges. All winners of the 2018 ASPIRE Design Challenges are highly encouraged to participate in this ASPIRE Reduction-to-Practice Challenge. Winners of the 2018 ASPIRE Design Challenges may choose to work with other winners from other Challenge areas or to find additional, new collaborators. All submissions, including those from the winners of Challenge 5 from the ASPIRE Design Challenges must propose plans for a solution that integrates all four challenge areas into a comprehensive platform.