U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Digestive Diseases and Nutrition Topics

The Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition supports research on the function, diseases, and disorders of the digestive tract; the esophagus, stomach, intestine, colon, anorectum, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and biliary tract; basic, clinical, and behavioral research on nutrition and obesity, as well as information transfer in the field of digestive diseases and prevention of obesity.  Innovative investigator-initiated projects that are not mentioned below are encouraged. Areas that may be of interest to small businesses include, but are not limited to:

I. Digestive and Liver Diseases (Clinical)

  1. Development of assays to detect biomarkers for genetic predisposition to gastrointestinal (GI)-relevant diseases, e.g., inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 
  2. Development of new genetic screening methods for detection of inherited digestive and nutritional disorders, e.g., hemochromatosis, Wilson's disease, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, and Alagille syndrome. 
  3. Development of improved means for detecting Barrett’s esophagus. 
  4. Development of a noninvasive means of localizing GI bleeding beyond the duodenum that is more sensitive than the Tc-RBC test. 
  5. Development of methods for GI endoscopy without the need for sedation. 
  6. Development, using rational drug design techniques, of agents that interact with L-type calcium channels or with delayed rectifying potassium channels to treat motility disorders (pseudo-obstructive disorder, chronic constipation, and slow bowel transit). 
  7. Development of pharmaceutics from herbal preparations of promise for therapy of digestive diseases, including liver diseases, involving isolation of active components, preparation of pharmacologically pure preparations, and testing for pharmacokinetics and activity in humans. 
  8. Development of novel anti-fibrotic therapies for progressive liver failure. 
  9. Development of agents that would protect the gut epithelium from the damage caused by chemotherapeutic agents. 
  10. Development of tests of hepatic “reserve” which would be of use, for example, in assessing the risk of surgery in patients with liver disease. 
  11. Development of agents to promote the repair of gut epithelium barrier function, e.g., as needed following chemotherapy. 
  12. Development of drugs for dissolving gallstones in vivo. 
  13. Development of humanized monoclonal antibodies against the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) to be used for prevention of recurrent disease in liver transplant patients. 
  14. Development of surrogate markers for liver fibrosis and progression. 
  15. Development of a rapid, noninvasive diagnostic test for biliary atresia. 
  16. Development of noninvasive imaging methods to quantitatively assess fatty liver in patients. 
  17. Development of noninvasive imaging methods to quantitatively assess liver fibrosis in patients.
  18. Development of noninvasive methods to quantitatively assess liver iron content in patients. 
  19. Develop and validate therapeutic interventions for treatment and/or progression of pancreatitis and its complications. 
  20. Develop novel and more effective pharmacologic and/or endoscopic approaches to prevent ERCP-induced pancreatitis.
  21. Develop more accurate and useful approaches to the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis by functional, radiologic, endoscopic, or pathologic/cytological means.

​II. Digestive and Liver Diseases (Basic)

  1. Development of detection methods for nonculturable forms of gut enteric bacteria. 
  2. Development of molecular probes for the diagnosis of mucosal dysplasia in IBD. 
  3. Development of gut immune-modulators, or nonantigenic gliadin in celiac disease. 
  4. Development of new techniques, including noninvasive imaging, to measure motility/intestinal transit at various sites within the GI tract. 
  5. Development of techniques for the preservation and transplantation of small intestine and pancreas. 
  6. Development of noninvasive measures of pancreatic exocrine function. 
  7. Development of a test to determine the hepatotoxic potential of drugs, agents, or additives that is more sensitive than testing in mice and reflects the human response to the test compound. 
  8. Development of animal models to study hepatotoxic agents. 
  9. Improvements to existing imaging systems, or development of new ones, to allow noninvasive detection of fibrotic, necrotic, inflamed, and fatty livers prior to transplantation. 
  10. Development of noninvasive techniques to detect liver disease. 
  11. Development of noninvasive devices/techniques to measure portal pressure for evaluating portal hypertension in patients with cirrhosis. 
  12. Development of an extracorporeal liver assist device to provide temporary therapeutic assistance in cases such as fulminant hepatic failure or drug overdose.
  13. Development of nonoccluding stents for use in the biliary tract and in transjugular intra-hepatic porto-systemic shunts (TIPS). 
  14. Development of cryopreservation techniques for human hepatocytes that would maximize viability and cell culture growth potential of thawed cells. 
  15. Creation of artificial organs or development of effective xenographic techniques for liver transplantation. 
  16. Development of molecular standards for hepatitis B virus quantitation and typing. 
  17. Development of an economical, accurate, and fast test for glutens and glidins in foods. 
  18. Development of humanized mouse models of multi-allelic diseases. 
  19. Development of measurements to quantitate phenotypic or metabolic markers of disease progression in animal models, thus reducing the numbers of animals needed. 
  20. Identification of surrogate markers looking at the plasma/sera proteome or metabolome at different stages of digestive or liver disease. 
  21. Development of novel proteomic or metabolomic technologies designed to study digestive and liver diseases, and their complications. 
  22. Development of biomarkers or imaging methods that quantitatively measure hepatic regeneration. 
  23. Development of biomarkers that quantitatively assess the degree to cold and warm ischemia in donor liver organs.

III. Nutrition 

  1. Development of a better method for measuring food intake patterns of individuals that could replace recall. 
  2. Development of better methods for assessing overall nutritional status. 
  3. Development of a noninvasive breath or blood test to accurately measure dietary fat intake. 
  4. Development of biological measures, such as serum or urine tests, for long-term dietary consumption of specific nutrients. 
  5. Development of better means of assessing energy intake and/or energy expenditure (i.e., physical activity), e.g., a device to estimate movement and relate this to calories expended with the goal of impacting behavior and preventing obesity. 
  6. Development of better means to detect food borne pathogens with the goals of (1) preventing their inclusion in foodstuffs and (2) better treatment of acute infections.

IV. Obesity and Eating Disorders 

  1. Development of safe drugs or herbal products that inhibit appetite or increase energy expenditure. 
  2. Development of computerized interventions for weight-loss/maintenance, prevention of weight gain, and/or increasing physical activity, such as hand-held computers and web-based programs. 
  3. Development of devices/equipment/interventions to encourage “activity” while engaged in sedentary activities (e.g., watching television or sitting at a desk). 
  4. New technologies for quantitative assessment of intra-abdominal fat; emphasis on technologies that are noninvasive, minimize the use of ionizing radiation, and have the capability of being adapted for use in the usual health care settings.