SPARC Phase 2 Launches

NIH Common Fund awards multiple institutions to spur the next generation of neuromodulation therapeutics informed by the systematic development of high-resolution anatomical and functional neural circuit maps of the vagus and other nerves.

SPARC Phase 2

Published Date

October 26, 2022


News Release October 26, 2022

The second phase of research and development funded by the SPARC program kicks off.

The NIH Common Fund’s SPARC (Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions) program is pleased to announce awards for the unique and synergistic projects: REVA, HORNET and VESPA, as well as the Neuromod Prize awards. The SPARC Program also extends its support of the SPARC Data and Resource Center (DRC) for a sixth year. The DRC develops and supports users of the SPARC Portal which provides open access to digital resources that can be cited, shared, visualized, computed, and used for virtual experimentation. Each awarded team contributes to SPARC’s goal of catalyzing the development of next generation bioelectronic therapeutics for peripheral neuromodulation using an open team science approach.

REVA (Reconstructing Vagal Anatomy)

REVA launches the collaboration of the Data Analysis and Visualization Epicenter (DAVE) and the SPARC DRC to implement connectivity maps and interactive 2D/3D visualizations of the human vagus nerve. This program will inform neuromodulation strategies that target specific vagal sub-circuits to improve clinical outcomes in vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) trials. The two awardees are faculty at Case Western Reserve University and The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

HORNET (Human Open Research for Neural Engineering)

HORNET assembles an open source, clinical grade neuromodulation platform by seeking technologies and components to safely modulate nerve function. This program has the potential to significantly advance the clinical translation of peripheral neuromodulation therapies in humans. Awardees come from University of Southern California, Med Ally LLC, Medipace Incorporated, Case Western Reserve University, University of California - Los Angeles, and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

VESPA (VNS Endpoints from Standardized Parameters)

VESPA seeks to identify the physiological effects of altering vagus nerve activity to discover how best to stimulate nerve fibers for specific therapeutic effects. This program includes an interdisciplinary team at the University of Minnesota, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and Mayo Clinic.

A list of awardees for REVA, VESPA, and HORNET can be found at

Neuromod Prize Phase 1

Eight winners were announced for the $9.8 million competition which seeks groundbreaking use of peripheral nerve stimulation that can independently regulate 2 or more autonomic functions without unintended effects on target organs. The winners for Phase 1 are now creating proof-of-concept designs using diverse approaches to stimulate a range of targets, including the spinal cord, sacral, pelvic, and vagus nerves. The winning Phase 1 solutions have demonstrated potential to reduce pain, restore function, and address debilitating conditions — improving patient quality of life with limited side effects. See how at

In the SPARC Program Phase 2 period, the SPARC DRC continues the cross-core, integrated effort to make the SPARC Portal an easy to use, accessible and sustainable resource for the peripheral nervous system research community. Datasets, resources, and knowledge are accessible in accordance with FAIR principles: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR), on the SPARC Portal. The SPARC Portal and DRC are available to support data sharing and curation of data generated not only by SPARC awardees in Phases 1 and 2 of the program, but also accept contributions from the autonomic nervous system community at large. The DRC is composed of multiple teams, identified as

  • DAT-CORE, led by awardee Dr. Joost Wagenaar of University of Pennsylvania, runs Pennsieve, a scalable and sustainable platform for scientific data integration and analysis. It enables rapid viewing and search, integration and linking of data across modalities, followed by analysis via custom or standardized tools.

  • K-CORE, led by awardees Drs. Maryann Martone and Bernard de Bono of the University of California, San Diego, focuses on curation and knowledge management, including the SPARC Connectivity Knowledge Base of the Autonomic Nervous System (SCKAN), a semantic store modeling the topology of nerve-end organ connectivity. SCKAN acts as a core component of powerful query and visualization capabilities within SPARC.

  • MAP-CORE, led by awardee Dr. Peter Hunter of the University of Auckland, offers a multi-scale, multi-organ, multi-species map management project. The neuroanatomical structure modeling creates 2D and 3D connectivity maps informed by knowledge retrieved from SCKAN.

  • SIM-CORE, led by awardee Dr. Niels Kuster of the IT’IS Foundation, develops and runs o2S2PARC, an open online simulation platform to study in a precise and predictive manner nerve electrophysiology and its interaction with organ physiology. It is the central hub for running, sharing, and integrating computational models and analyses across the SPARC community.

  • SODA, led by awardee Dr. Bhavesh Patel of the California Medical Innovations Institute, establishes desktop software which creates streamlined SPARC data curation workflow by allowing the rapid, automated preparation of data and metadata according to the FAIR SPARC data citation guidelines.

The DRC’s vision is to accelerate autonomic neuroscience research and development of peripheral neuromodulation therapeutics to treat diseases and conditions with precision. Each award of the Common Fund’s SPARC Program represents a critical step in a coordinated approach to dramatically advance biomedical science and conditions of the organs of the peripheral nervous system. SPARC is fully compliant with the NIH Data Management and Sharing Policy and supports the FAIR principles as adherence to these principles allows data sharing in a meaningful way. This signifies a new era of open source data which invites investigators to share, use, experiment and interact with data and models, and notably collaborate with other researchers. The SPARC Portal acts as an online laboratory that will augment the goals of finding effective bioelectronic therapies for conditions of the peripheral nervous system.

About SPARC: The Common Fund’s SPARC program supports the development of the SPARC Portal, a sustainable, interactive, open-source tool which accelerates development of therapeutic bioelectronic devices that modulate electrical activity in nerves to improve organ function. Visit

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