On March 9, the Neuromod Prize hosted a panel of experts to discuss mitigation of off-target effects, target performance considerations, and submission requirements. The speakers included:

  • Tyler Best, Neuromod Prize Lead, NIH
  • Andrew Weitz, NIH SPARC Team 
  • Felicia Qashu, NIH SPARC Team Lead
  • Alex Leader, Luminary Labs

Following the panel, the team answered questions from attendees. Watch the recording and read on for highlights from the virtual panel. 

The promise of neuromodulation

Tyler Best discussed how many disease treatments use pharmaceutical or chemical approaches that inundate the body in a compound over a prolonged period of time.  Neuromodulation has more temporal and spatial precision that can offer alternatives to available treatments with greater efficacy and reduced adverse effects.

“There’s been a lot of promise and a lot of failure in regards to neuromodulation, but I think the promise potentially has the potential to outweigh the failures. There’s information supporting the notion that neuromodulation has the potential to facilitate and enhance those effects that pharmaceuticals are not currently addressing.”

Tyler Best, Neuromod Prize Lead, NIH

Expectations for mitigating off-target effects

Andrew Weitz also mentioned the critical part of competition submission expectations, including independently regulating two or more desired autonomic functions without unintended effects on non-target organs. 

“I would say a lot of the therapeutics out there already, the neuromodulation therapies for the autonomic nervous system, are targeting a single function, but oftentimes ignoring what else is going on in other parts of the body. That’s really what we’re after here: to try and get a larger grasp on how we can control a specific, targeted function, while at the same time monitoring other functions and being able to make sure we’re not getting those unintended off-target effects.”

Andrew Weitz, NIH SPARC Team 

The challenges of multiple targets

Felicia Qashu answered numerous questions from attendees and also highlighted considerations for teams interested in targeting more than two autonomic functions.

“The greater the number of targets that you are studying, the greater the number of off-target effects you may have. It may challenge and complicate your specificity and selectivity of your approach. But again, if you can justify that, provide some rationale, that would be considered during submissions.”

Felicia Qashu, NIH SPARC Team Lead

Submit a concept by April 28

To participate in Phase 1, submit a concept paper describing your proposed therapeutic approach, plans for conducting proof-of-concept studies, rationale for therapeutic use, and expectations for clinical impact. Submissions are due by April 28.

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