A New $45M PROGRAM

The First 1000 Days

PROMOTING HEALTHY BRAIN NETWORKS

A New $45M PROGRAM

The First 1000 Days

PROMOTING HEALTHY BRAIN NETWORKS

A New $45M PROGRAM
The First
1000 Days
PROMOTING HEALTHY
BRAIN NETWORKS

We all know what a difference a day makes. The first 1000 days can make all the difference to a child’s start in life, perhaps more so than we ever understood before.

In this early period, we develop critical cognitive abilities, such as executive function (EF) and self-regulation. By the end of the first 1000 days, a child’s individual EF performance changes their odds of dealing successfully with opportunities and obstacles they face in life. Well-developed EF improves a child’s chances for lifelong physical, neural, and mental health; reduces the pace of aging; and underpins greater productivity and prosperity. Indeed, if EF is underdeveloped it has significant consequences. We know that children with underdeveloped EF at age 3 represent about 20 percent of the population, but make up nearly 80 percent of adults who are likely to require some form of societal or economic assistance. So how do we assess and promote healthy development in the first 1000 days?

We routinely measure height and weight to

assess a child’s physical health.

We routinely measure height and weight to assess a child’s physical health.

We routinely measure height and weight to assess a child’s physical health.

We also need objective, scalable ways to

assess a child’s cognitive health.

We also need objective, scalable ways to assess a child’s cognitive health.

We also need objective, scalable ways to assess a child’s cognitive health.

During the first 1000 days, the brain undergoes extensive network construction and remodeling in response to interactions with the environment, that in turn endows the capacity to successfully live in that environment. For example: a child’s postnatal nutrition influences the health of circuit formation; their physical exploration is key to development of sensorimotor skills; and their social interactions with caregivers are central to language and emotional development. But we lack tools and models that are predictive of the influence and dependency of these factors on individual network development. Without them, we cannot optimise the key ingredients necessary for promoting healthy brain development, nor identify those at risk of being underdeveloped. Timing is critical – because developmental windows are narrow. For example, previously neglected children admitted into foster care before 24 months old versus those admitted after 26 months show significant differences in their ability to regain aspects of cognitive function by adolescence. And the results can be dramatic – if we could accurately predict and improve EF outcomes by 20% in 80% of children before age 3, we could reduce the risk of childhood obesity by nearly 20%, reduce the risk of accelerated ageing by about 12% and potentially reduce the risk of encounters of crime by over 20%.

If we could develop accurate, scalable, early screening methods to predict EF outcomes, risk-stratify children, and predict responses to interventions in the first 1000 days, we could help ensure a healthy and productive life for millions globally. Importantly, this goal may now be within our reach.

Program goals.

1. Develop a fully integrated model and quantitative measurement tools of network development in the first 1000 days, sufficient to predict EF formation before a child’s first birthday, with 80% predictive validity for EF outcomes at age 3.

1a. The model and measures should capture critical windows of network development from sensorimotor to language and prefrontal networks and the connections established between them.

1b. The integrated model should predict contributions of nutrition, the microbiome, and the genome on circuit formation, as well as, sensorimotor and social interactions on network pruning processes, both in relation to EF outcomes at age 3.

1c. Predictive validity should be verified against assessments of network differences and environmental influences in retrospective studies of a statistically relevant number of children.

2. Create scalable methods for optimising promotion, prevention, screening and therapeutic interventions to improve EF by at least 20% in 80% of children before age 3. Of interest are improvements from underdeveloped EF to normative or from normative to well-developed EF across the population to deliver the broadest impact. Techniques that improve EF by 80% or more in 20% of at-risk children are important, but they are not the sole focus of this program.

Advances across models and measures should inform each other to improve and validate predictive markers, environmental influences and optimise the key ingredients necessary for promoting healthy network development. It is not necessary to form a large consortium or team to do this. Synergies and integrated system demonstrations will be facilitated by Wellcome Leap on an annual basis as we make progress together towards the program goals.

Call for abstracts and proposals.

We are soliciting abstracts and proposals for work over 3 years (with a potential additional one-year option) in one or more of the following thrust areas, which are described in detail in the full program announcement. Proposers should clearly relate work in these thrust areas to one or more of the program goals.
 

Program Director.

Holly Baines, PhD has expertise in developing disruptive strategies and initiatives in the health and life sciences funding sector while at the Wellcome Trust. She has led the development and delivery of multi million pound programs and managed multi-disciplinary teams across a range of areas from mental health to data science. She earned her PhD in Neuroscience and Ageing from Newcastle University, United Kingdom.

Send inquiries to 1kD@wellcomeleap.org

Process and timeline

Program announcement.

30 DAYS FOR PREPARATION AND SUBMISSION OF ABSTRACT

15-Day Abstract review round.

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Day 1

Submission deadline: 8 April 2021

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Day 1

Submission deadline: 8 April 2021

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Day 1

Submission deadline:

8 April 2021

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Day 15

Abstract feedback sent: 23 April 2021

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Day 15

Abstract feedback sent: 23 April 2021

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Day 15

Abstract feedback sent:

23 April 2021

All submissions will receive technical and/or programmatic feedback as well as a recommendation to submit or not submit a full proposal.

30 DAYS FOR PREPARATION OF FULL PROPOSALS AFTER ABSTRACT FEEDBACK

30-Day Full proposal review round.

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Day 45

Submission deadline: 24 May 2021

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Day 45

Submission deadline: 24 May 2021

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Day 45

Submission deadline:

24 May 2021

25-page full proposals including technical approach, milestones, costs, and key personnel submitted. Proposals should specifically address abstract feedback.

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Day 75

Proposal decision sent: 23 June 2021

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Day 75

Proposal decision sent: 23 June 2021

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Day 75

Proposal decision sent:

23 June 2021

All submissions will receive a ‘selected for funding’ or ‘not selected for funding’ decision. Those selected will proceed to contract signature as the final gate with work expected to commence within approximately 30 days.

Mechanics of applying

Who is eligible?

Performers from universities and research institutions: small, medium and large companies (including venture-backed); and government or non-profit research organizations are invited to propose.

It is not necessary to have submitted an abstract in order to submit a full proposal.

Leap agrees not to use any confidential information disclosed to it in a submitted proposal for any purpose other than the review of a proposal. Leap will not use the information contained in a proposal for Leap’s direct or indirect personal or financial benefit and will not make such information available for the direct or indirect personal or financial benefit of any other organization or individual.

Leap shall not disclose or permit disclosure of any confidential information with anyone who has not been officially designated by Leap to participate in a review and completed a confidentiality agreement. Leap agrees that it shall take all reasonable measures to protect the secrecy of and avoid disclosure or use of confidential information in order to prevent it from falling into the public domain or the possession of unauthorized persons. Such measures shall include, but not be limited to, the same degree of care that Leap utilizes to protect its own confidential information, which shall be no less than reasonable care. Leap further agrees to promptly notify in writing of any actual or suspected misuse, misappropriation or unauthorized disclosure of submitted confidential information which may come to Leap’s attention.

Notwithstanding the above, Leap shall have no liability to Leap with regard to any information which Leap can prove:

(i) was in the public domain at the time it was disclosed or has entered the public domain through no fault of Leap;
(ii) was known to Leap, without restriction, at the time of disclosure, as demonstrated by files in existence at the time of disclosure;
(iii) is disclosed with the prior written approval of the submitter;
(iv) becomes known to Leap, without restriction, from a source other than Leap without breach of this statement; or
(v) is disclosed pursuant to the order or requirement of a court, administrative agency, or other governmental body; provided, however, that Leap shall provide prompt notice of such court order or requirement to submitter to enable submitter to seek a protective order or otherwise prevent or restrict such disclosure.

Furthermore, please recognize that Leap may already be funding, or considering funding, the same or similar technology as covered by a submitted proposal—or have previously received from third parties—information or proposals similar to that which was submitted, that was not subject to confidentiality.

Leap’s adherence to the above use of confidential information shall continue for a period of three (3) years from the receipt date of a submitted proposal.

Full proposal application steps.

  1. Download guidelines
  2. Download full proposal template (and cost and schedule template)
  3. Upload your full proposal and submit your application between 21 May 2021 and 24 May 2021, 11:59p ET.

Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have questions, please review our FAQ section.

[i] Moffit, T.E., Arseneault, L., Belsky, D., et al. A gradient of childhood self-control predicts health, wealth and public safety. PNAS. 108: 2693-2698 (2011).

[ii] Richmond-Rakerd, L.S., Caspi, A., Ambler, A., et al. Childhood self-control forecasts the pace of midlife aging and preparedness for old age. PNAS. 118: (2021). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010211118

[iii] Caspi, A., Houts, R.M., Belsky, D.W., et al. Childhood forecasting of a small segment of the population with large economic burden. Nat Hum Behav. 1: (2016). doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0005.

[iv] Wade, M., Fox, N. A., Zeanah, C.H., and Nelson, C. A. Long-term effects of institutional rearing, foster care and brain activity on memory and executive functioning. PNAS. 116: (5) 1808-1813 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1809145116

[v] Fox, N.A., Almas, A.N., Degnan, K.A., et al. The effects of severe psychosocial deprivation and foster care intervention on cognitive development at 8 years of age: findings from the Bucharest Early Intervention Project. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 52:9: 919–928 (2011).

[vi] https://openai.com/blog/emergent-tool-use/

[vii] Wang, Q., Zhang, H., Poh, J.S., et al. Sex-Dependent Associations among Maternal Depressive Symptoms, Child Reward Network, and Behaviors in Early Childhood. Cerebral Cortex. 30 (3): 901-912 (2020). doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhz135.

[viii] Roy, B.C., Frank, M.C., DeCamp, P., Miller, M., and Roy, D. Predicting the birth of a spoken word. PNAS. 112: 12663–12668 (2015).  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1419773112

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