Advisory Council Minutes, September 15-16, 2011

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred forty-seventh meeting at 8:35 a.m. on Thursday, September 15, 2011.

Dr. Judith H. Greenberg, acting director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After a closed session from 8:35 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. on September 15, the meeting was open to the public on September 16 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:17 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
Luisa DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D. 
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Karolin Luger, Ph.D.
Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D.
James L. Stevens, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Denise J. Montell, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

David A. Agard, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
University of California, San Francisco
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
San Francisco, CA  94158-2517

Charles F. Aquadro, Ph.D. 
Charles A. Alexander Professor of Population Genetics
Director, Cornell Center for Comparative and Population Genomics
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

David P. Bartel, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Member, Whitehead Institute
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Department of Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA  02139

Mary L. (Molly) Carnes, M.D.
Director, Center for Women's Health Research
Director, Women Veterans Health Program
Departments of Medicine, Psychiatry and Industrial and Systems Engineering
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI  53715

Jorge A. Goldstein, Ph.D., J.D.
Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox, P.L.L.C.
Washington, DC  20005

Sabeeha Merchant, Ph.D. 
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA  90095-1569

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Ms. Michelle Rodrigues, SRI International
Dr. Caroline Trupp Gil, American Chemical Society

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Richard Rodewald, National Science Foundation
Dr. Marcelo Vinces, National Science Foundation

NIGMS and other NIH employees:

Please see the sign-in sheet (available from NIGMS).


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Greenberg thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and then introduced the special consultants: David A. Agard, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco; Charles F. Aquadro, Ph.D., professor and director, Cornell Center for Comparative and Population Genomics, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University; David P. Bartel, Ph.D., professor and member, Whitehead Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mary L. Carnes, M.D., professor and director, Center for Women's Health Research, University of Wisconsin; Jorge A. Goldstein, Ph.D., J.D., director, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox, P.L.L.C.; and Sabeeha Merchant, Ph.D., professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Greenberg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 19-20, 2011, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 19-20, 2012

May 24-25, 2012

September 6-7, 2012

IV. NIGMS Acting Director's Report

Dr. Greenberg updated the Council on new NIH and HHS appointments, and she welcomed new NIGMS staff that joined the Institute since the May 2011 Council meeting. She noted the current uncertainty surrounding the establishment of a new NIH component, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), due to the likelihood of a continuing resolution to maintain NIH funding for FY 2011. This action is of particular interest to NIGMS, since the establishment of NCATS would be accompanied by the dissolution of the National Center for Research Resources, some of whose programs would migrate to NIGMS.

Dr. Greenberg provided an update on the implementation of the NIGMS Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training 2011, and urged the Council to stay up-to-date on newly released financial conflict of interest rules [PDF, 330KB]. Dr. Greenberg concluded her remarks by presenting a brief analysis of funding allocations within the NIGMS portfolio, noting the comparatively small proportion of spending on set-aside programs compared to investigator-initiated research project grants.

Contact: Dr. Judith H. Greenberg,, 301-594-2172

In light of anticipated budgetary concerns for FY 2012 and FY 2013, NIGMS presented an overview of ongoing programs with set-aside budgets in conjunction with concept clearances for new FY 2013 initiatives.

V. Concept Clearance: New Methods for Understanding the Functional Role of Human DNA Sequence Variants in Complex Phenotypes

Next-generation DNA sequencing has transformed human genetics by revealing the ubiquity of rare DNA sequence variants. Existing human DNA sequence data sets provide research opportunities to determine which variants, among the many identified, underlie the genetic basis of a phenotype. Dr. Donna Krasnewich requested, and received, Council approval to issue an RFA to solicit R01 applications proposing to design and validate creative and efficient experimental approaches to determine the functional relevance of human DNA sequence variants. Proposals may include biochemical, cellular, bioinformatics, statistical and/or high-throughput methods to elucidate new principles underlying the interpretation of DNA sequence variation in a well-phenotyped population.

Contact: Dr. Donna Krasnewich,, 301-594-0943

VI. Concept Clearance: Modeling Social Behavior

As discussed at the November 2008 Modeling Social Behavior Informational Conference, additional innovative systems theories and computational, mathematical or engineering approaches and methods are needed to deepen understanding of complex social behavior ranging from that in model organisms to human populations. Particularly needed are collaborative, trans-disciplinary research approaches that address collective behaviors arising from the behavior of individual elements or parts of a system working together. Dr. Stephen Marcus described plans to issue an RFA to solicit R01 applications that explore the often complex and dynamical relationships among the parts of a system and between the system and its environment. Dr. Marcus requested, and received, Council approval to solicit applications in this research area.

Contact: Dr. Stephen Marcus,, 301-451-6446

VII. NSF/NIGMS Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases

NIGMS has a longstanding interest in the role of social influences on the susceptibility of individuals or populations to infectious disease, the emergence of pathogens and the evolution and maintenance of drug resistance. Dr. Irene Eckstrand described the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases initiative [PDF, 620KB], a collaborative effort with the National Science Foundation, the NIH Fogarty International Center, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The program announcement, released in August 2011, encourages research that simultaneously addresses ecological change and evolutionary dynamics by combining field and laboratory research with mathematical, statistical and computational modeling.

Contact: Dr. Irene Eckstrand,, 301-594-0943

VIII. Reissued Funding Announcement*: Joint DMS/NIGMS Initiative to Support Research at the Interface of the Biological and Mathematical Sciences

*Note: NIH policy now requires Council approval for reissued RFAs.

The extraordinary growth of data-rich biology has created revolutionary opportunities for mathematically-driven advances in biological research. Recognizing this potential, for 10 years, NIGMS and NSF have joined together to promote research that employs sophisticated mathematical techniques and involves significant mathematical challenges to answer biological questions in areas of NSF and NIH interests. To date, NIGMS has funded 98 R01 projects, supporting more than 250 senior investigators. Dr. Paul Brazhnik explained that during the next phase of this partnership, the NSF will issue a funding announcement, and NIGMS will issue a Notice of Intent to Participate. NIGMS plans to then select meritorious projects for funding from the pool of applications received and reviewed by NSF. Dr. Brazhnik requested, and received, Council approval to continue participation in this joint initiative for the next 4 years.

Contact: Dr. Paul Brazhnik,, 301-451-6446

IX. Reissued Funding Announcement: Research to Understand and Inform Interventions that Promote Research Careers of Students in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences

Many different programs have been developed to encourage and support the development of an excellent and diverse biomedical research workforce. However, education, student development and training are strongly driven by beliefs and individual experiences. Many interventions (programs) have tended to rely more on folk insight than on empirical evidence. Dr. Clifton Poodry requested, and received, Council approval to solicit applications for research that tests the assumptions and hypotheses that undergird the interventions within those and other programs.

Contact: Dr. Clifton Poodry,, 301-594-3900

X. Reissued Funding Announcement: Drug Docking and Screening Data Resource

High-quality structure and binding affinity data can be used to optimize drug design software widely used in both academia and industry. Dr. Peter Preusch described a currently funded drug docking and screening data resource, the support of which will end in August 2013. This database aims to expand publicly available data sets by soliciting donations from the pharmaceutical industry for information that is no longer of proprietary interest to companies, although progress has been slow. The project also generates data on selected targets, as well as enriches the value of donated data by careful curation and extension of experimental observations. Dr. Preusch requested, and received, Council approval to reissue an RFA in late summer 2012. Final Council consideration of this proposal is scheduled for May 2012.

Contact: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-0828

XI. Reissued Funding Announcement: NIGMS Centers for Systems Biology

NIGMS currently funds 13 Centers of Excellence in Systems Biology. Each Center is funded initially for 5 years, with an opportunity for one competing renewal, for a maximum of 10 years of support. Dr. Peter Lyster stated that NIGMS plans to invite grant applications from institutions or organizations proposing to establish new Centers that will promote systems biology research, training and outreach in areas that are central to the Institute's mission. Dr. Lyster requested, and received, Council approval to reissue a 3-year funding announcement to continue the program by replacing sunsetted Centers with new ones.

Contacts: Dr. Peter Lyster,, 301-451-6446; Dr. James Anderson, 301-594-0943

XII. Update: AIDS Structure Centers

In 2007, NIGMS issued the funding solicitation "NIGMS Centers for the Determination of Structures of HIV/Host Complexes." The funded P50 Centers are now entering their fifth and final year of funding. In recognition of the success of these Centers, as highlighted at March 2011 meeting celebrating the program's 25th anniversary, NIGMS staff have been developing plans to renew the program and allow currently funded centers to continue their work without a funding lapse. Dr. Michael Sakalian reported on the September 2011 reissue of the RFA for this program.

Contact: Dr. Michael Sakalian,, 301-594-0828

XIII. Update: Macromolecular Interactions in Cells (Competing Renewals and Partnerships)

Higher-order functions in cells depend upon precise organization and coordination of macromolecules and processes in space and time. Deeper understanding of these events in living cells calls for new quantitative and systems analyses methods that unite and reconcile current microscopic, genomic and proteomic approaches. Dr. James Deatherage described the two planned funding announcements that aim to expand the conceptual and technical scope and capabilities of NIGMS-funded projects in this area. One solicitation will seek competing revisions of currently funded NIGMS R01 or R37 projects, while the other seeks applications for inter-institutional partnerships.

Contacts: Dr. Ann Hagan,, 301-594-4499; Dr. James Deatherage,, 301-594-3828

XIV. Presentation: Quantitative and Systems Pharmacology

A 1998, NIGMS-sponsored workshop focused on whether a merger of systems biology and pharmacology into a new discipline, quantitative and systems pharmacology, might significantly advance the discovery, development and clinical use of therapeutic drugs. Dr. Peter Sorger of Harvard Medical School described a white paper on the topic that resulted from the meeting attended by leaders from academia, industry and government. The report details the workshop attendees' strong consensus that there is an urgent need to reinvigorate academic pharmacology as a core discipline of translational medicine, by introducing into the traditional discipline concepts, methods and investigators from computational biology, systems biology and biological engineering.

Contact: Dr. Peter Sorger,, 617-432-6901

XV.  EUREKA Will Not be Reannounced in FY 2012

Four years ago, NIGMS published the first EUREKA funding announcement, to support exceptionally innovative research projects that would have a major impact on the field if they were successful. For the next 3 years, NIGMS staff reannounced the EUREKA program annually. Dr. Laurie Tompkins explained that this year, the Institute will not re-issue the program due to significant overlap with a new trans-NIH Common Fund initiative, the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award program, that will be published imminently. The new effort will retain the unique features of EUREKA while expanding its scope to include any topic of interest to NIH, and applicants will also have more flexibility regarding requested budgets and terms.

Contact: Dr. Laurie Tompkins,, 301-594-0943

XVI.  Legislative Update

In the summer of 2011, Congress produced a landmark agreement on long-term deficit reduction as part of the legislation to extend the debt ceiling. Dr. Warren Jones described some of the important features of this legislation and the possible impact on NIGMS.

Contact: Dr. Warren Jones,, 301-594-3827


XVIII.  Review of Applications

A summary of applications reviewed by the Council is available from NIGMS.


The meeting adjourned at 12:17 p.m. on September 16, 2011.


I hereby certify that to my knowledge the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.

Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D.
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council
Ann A. Hagan, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council