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Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies (IMAT) Program

IMAT: Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies

Technical innovation is critical to improving and transforming our ability to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat human disease. The IMAT program catalyzes the development of novel technologies for cancer research by supporting early-stage projects to develop highly innovative tools that will allow us to grapple with the complexity of cancer biology and create new possibilities for the fight against cancer. The program places an emphasis on innovation and the potential impact of the technology on its intended field within cancer research and clinical care. Learn more about the program by reading the funding opportunities or browsing the funded projects from over the years.

Types of IMAT Awards

Early-stage development of technologies: R61
IMAT uses the R61 grant mechanism to support early-stage, proof-of-concept studies. This mechanism has no requirement for preliminary data (though it is allowed if available) and is suitable for projects for which the technical feasibility of the proposed technology or method has not been established. These projects were supported using the R21 mechanism until 2023, when the IMAT R61 was introduced. For more details about the R61 grant mechanism, you may watch a recording of a webinar describing the R61 and answering questions about the scientific scope and application details of these funding opportunities.

Advanced development of technologies: R33
IMAT uses the R33 grant mechanism to support advanced development and validation of emerging technologies. This mechanism is suitable for technologies that have preliminary data to demonstrate that major feasibility gaps have been overcome, but still require further development and rigorous validation for broad adoption by the research community.

Adoption of emerging technologies by research community: Competitive Revisions
Through the competitive revision mechanism, currently funded NCI grantees with an R01, U01, or P50 award can apply for additional funds to expand upon the original research question(s) or otherwise accelerate progress for the parent study by incorporating a new technical approach developed through support from the IMAT program. Investigators participating in research programs supported by currently funded NCI P30 cancer center support grant may propose a pilot project to leverage an emerging technology supported by the IMAT program. These projects are meant to provide independent validation of the emerging technologies and spur collaborations between tool developers and end users.

More details are available on the IMAT Funding Opportunities page

Notices of Special Interest

NCI posts Notices of Special Interest (NOSIs) to stimulate grant-supported research in high-priority and high-opportunity areas of science. The following NOSIs direct applicants to one or more of the IMAT funding opportunities. For funding consideration, applicants should submit their applications to the appropriate IMAT funding opportunity and include the NOSI number in the Agency Routing Identifier field (box 4B) of the SF424 R&R form.

Technology Development for Cancer Control and Population Science Research (NOT-CA-23-037)
Expiration Date: December 31, 2024

RNA Modifications in Cancer Biology (NOT-CA-23-060)
Expiration Date: January 8, 2026

Technologies and Informatics Tools for Cancer Metabolomics (NOT-CA-22-083)
Expiration Date: December 31, 2024
For more information, watch the Pre-Application Webinar that was held on July 25, 2022.

History of the IMAT Program

Technical innovation can improve and transform our ability to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. NCI established the IMAT program in 1998 to focus support on the development of innovative technologies that meet the specific needs of cancer researchers and clinicians and offer the potential to accelerate progress in the fight against cancer. The program promotes interdisciplinary research that brings diverse expertise to tackle persistent challenges in cancer research that are most in need of technical innovation.

By taking risks on early-stage technology development projects that have the potential to transform cancer research, IMAT has contributed to the development of many of the most widely used technologies across the cancer research and clinical communities. MuDPIT, Rolling Circle Amplification, ROMA, Illumina bead platforms, and ICAT technologies were all supported by IMAT grants in the late 1990s. In the 2000s, IMAT supported development of activity-based protein profiling, PROTACS and numerous liquid biopsy, imaging mass spectrometry, single-cell analysis, and spatial -omic methods that are leading their fields today.

The advancement of molecular and cellular analysis technologies demands improvements to methods for maintaining or assessing the quality of biospecimen samples used in cancer research. In 2004 the IMAT program released additional funding opportunities calling for the development of innovative sample preparation methods to address this need. These funding opportunities have evolved to include new tools for acquiring, preserving, or handling cancer-relevant biospecimens.

To encourage the adoption of emerging technologies by the research community, the IMAT program began soliciting proposals for competitive revisions to ongoing NCI research projects in 2018. This component of the program incentivizes independent validation of IMAT-supported technologies by early adopters of new technologies.

As new challenges emerge for cancer researchers and clinicians, the need for a technology development pipeline encompassing inception and initiation through dissemination and commercialization endures. The IMAT program serves a unique role at NCI in the early stages of this pipeline. The program is regularly evaluated by panels of external experts and subsequently evolves to meet the needs of the research community. A summary of the findings from these evaluations can be found in CSSI’s Program Evaluation Reports page.

Every year since 1999, all researchers with an active IMAT project have gathered for the annual IMAT PI meeting to share progress on their developing technologies and form collaborations. Information about these PI meetings going back to the inaugural meeting in 1999 can be found on CSSI’s Past Events page.

IMAT Management Team

Director of IMAT Program

Dr. Kelly Crotty (

Program Team

Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives
Dr. Tony Dickherber (

Division of Cancer Biology
Dr. Anowarul Amin (
Dr. Steven Becker (
Dr. Hannah Dueck (

Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis
Pathology Investigation and Resources
Dr. Rodrigo Chuaqui (

Diagnostic Biomarkers and Technology
Dr. Tawnya McKee (
Dr. Miguel Ossandon (
Dr. Brian Sorg (
Dr. Asif Rizwan (
Dr. Jung Byun (

Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research
Dr. Ping Guan (
Dr. Lokesh Agrawal (

Cancer Imaging Program
Dr. Yisong Wang (

Division of Cancer Prevention
Dr. Guillermo Marquez (
Dr. Nick Hodges (

Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
Dr. Stefanie Nelson (

NCI Technology Research Advocacy Partnership (NTRAP) Team
NTRAP explores opportunities for incorporating the patient’s perspective into management of the IMAT program and identifies opportunities offering the best chance for improving outcomes for these investments. Visit the NTRAP webpage to learn more about the team and their contributions to programs at NCI.

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