CSSI Offices

Office of the Director


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives (CSSI) serves as an innovation center for NCI, investing in exploratory research and developing resources, standards, and infrastructures that investigators need to traverse innovation bottlenecks. CSSI OD spearheads new Center initiatives, manages research grant programs, and oversees all CSSI activities.

CSSI OD Staff List

CSSI OD Programs


Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies (IMAT)

The Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies program supports the development of potentially transformative technologies in cancer research using phased grant support. IMAT is involved throughout the technology development timeline, from proof-of-concept demonstration to rigorous analytical validation. The goal of theprogram is to equip basic and clinical research communities with novel analytical capabilities through the development of next‐generation, cutting‐edge technologies.


Provocative Questions (PQ)

The Provocative Questions initiative stimulates research in understudied areas across the cancer research continuum. Using NCI-sponsored workshops, challenging areas of cancer research are identified by extramural investigators and evaluated by NCI leadership. These areas are the basis for the funding opportunities available through Provocative Questions. Nine PQs are currently available for proposals from the research community. 


Informatics Technology for Cancer Research

The Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (ITCR) program supports the development of novel informatics technologies spanning all aspects of cancer research. These tools support the analysis of -omics, imaging, and clinical data, as well as network biology and data standards, among others.


Cancer Grand Challenges

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the world’s leading funders of cancer research, are partnering to fund the Cancer Grand Challenges (CGC) program. CGC will fund novel ideas by multidisciplinary research teams from around the world that offer the potential to advance bold cancer research and improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.


Serological Sciences Network

The Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet) was developed in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic through a congressional appropriation to NCI in order to develop, validate, improve, and implement serological testing and associated technologies. The goals of SeroNet are to increase our understanding of the immune response to the novel coronavirus, develop and improve serological assays, and increase testing capacity.


R50 Research Specialist Award

NCI’s R50 Research Specialist Award provides salary support and travel funds for exceptional scientists that are pursuing research within the context of an existing cancer research program. This includes non-tenure track scientists in a research lab, core facility managers, and data scientists who do not intend to pursue an independent research career.


R35 Outstanding Investigator Award

NCI’s R35 Outstanding Investigator Award supports accomplished leaders in cancer research who are providing significant contributions toward understanding cancer and developing applications that may lead to a breakthrough in biomedical, behavioral, or clinical cancer research.


Big Data Scientist Training Enhancement Program (BD-STEP)

As the volume of healthcare data grows, there is an increasing need for trained data science experts. The Big Data Scientist Training Enhancement Program was launched in partnership with Veterans Health Administration to develop the workforce of healthcare data scientists using VA data resources. 


Pilot Programs

Exploratory research pilot programs address research gaps related to data science, new technologies, standards, and preanalytical variables. These projects help accelerate progress in cancer-relevant scientific fields while allowing NCI to pilot new programs before incorporating them into the Institute.