Advisory Council Minutes, May 21, 2020

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in open session for its one hundred and seventy-third meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 21, 2020.

Dr. Jon R. Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After an open session from 9:30 a.m. to 11:36 a.m., the closed session was held from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Council Members Attending Remotely

Darrin Akins, Ph.D.
Celeste Berg, Ph.D.
Squire J. Booker, Ph.D.
Enrique M. De La Cruz, Ph.D.
Peter J. Espenshade, Ph.D.
Guy Padbury, Ph.D.
Ronald M. Przygodzki, M.D.
Michael Summers, Ph.D.
Cathy Wu, Ph.D.
John Younger, M.D., M.S.

Special Consultants Attending Remotely

Cecilia P. Chung, M.D., ​Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Staff Physician
Tennessee Valley Healthcare System
US Department of Veterans Affairs
Nashville, TN 37232-2681

Laura F. Gibson, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Vice President for Research & Graduate Education
Associate Dean for Research, School of Medicine
Alexander B. Osborn Distinguished Professor
Hematological Malignancies
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26506

Danielle Li, Ph.D.
Class of 1922 Career Development Professor
Associate Professor
MIT Loan School of Management
Cambridge, MA 02142

Brian Munsky, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and School of Biomedical Engineering
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523

Amy Rosenzweig, Ph.D.
Weinberg Family Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences
Departments of Molecular Biosciences and of Chemistry
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL 60208

Melanie Sanford, Ph.D.
Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Council roster (available from NIGMS)

Members of the Public Attending Remotely

Not tracked because this was a virtual conference.

Other Federal Employees Present



I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Lorsch thanked the regular members of the Council who were attending remotely and introduced the special consultants. He then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 16, 2020, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 17, 2020
January 21, 2021
May 20, 2021

IV. NIGMS Director’s Report

NIGMS Director’s Report Slides [PDF 3.7MB]

NIGMS Director Dr. Jon R. Lorsch thanked the NAGMS Council and NIGMS staff for accommodating a first-ever all-virtual meeting and welcomed new Council members. Dr. Lorsch also acknowledged NIGMS staff departures, new hires, and promotions, including the reassignment of Dr. Darren Sledjeski as deputy director, Division of Extramural Activities, who oversees Council meeting preparations. Dr. Lorsch announced the recent hiring of Dr. John Ngai as director of NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. He next described NIH and NIGMS responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include accommodations for grantees to pay trainees and staff while in stay-at-home status and enabling grantees to donate personal protective equipment and other supplies. NIH/NIGMS is accepting late applications for NIGMS-specific FOAs with due dates in May 2020 and extending early-stage investigator (ESI) eligibilities. NIGMS is also funding competitive revision administrative supplements for COVID-19 research (such as infectious disease modeling research and repurposing developmental therapeutics or diagnostics originally targeted for other indications). Dr. Lorsch pointed to a critical need for modeling research in general, to improve access to data and to inform development and testing of modeling techniques. He highlighted the NIGMS-funded MIDAS Coordination Center​ as central to considering and managing many of these issues. Dr. Lorsch noted the Institute’s online offerings, including a new webinar series for the training community, resources for scientists at all career levels, and various virtual learning STEM educational resources. He reported that the FY 2019 NIGMS research project grant success rate was over 30%, with a record number of ESIs funded, prompting Council’s suggestions to continue to assess qualitative and quantitative measures related to this population’s career progression over time.

Contact: Dr. Jon Lorsch,

V. Presentation: NIGMS Strategic Plan Discussion

2020 represents the fifth and final year of the current NIGMS Strategic Plan, and the Institute has begun the process of developing a strategic plan for 2021-2025. Council reviewed the draft framework of broad goals and objectives:

  • Goal 1: Optimize Support for Investigator-Initiated Research
  • Goal 2: Invest in the Development of a 21st Century Scientific Workforce
  • Goal 3: Enhance Research Capacity and Enable Access to Critical Research Resources
  • Goal 4: Advance the Public’s Understanding of the Critical Role Played by Fundamental Biomedical Research
  • Goal 5: Maintain or Enhance Investments in the NIGMS Workforce to Better Enable Delivery of Mission

Some of the goals are continuations from the current plan while others represent modifications or additions of goals and objectives. Council feedback yielded discussion and a few specific comments: Consider wording of Goal 1 (“optimize” rather than “maximize”) and a more explicit focus on evaluation. Dr. Lorsch noted that the current document is an early framework, and that comments will be used to help shape future versions of both this framework and the ensuing plan. A request for information will be released for public comment in the next few weeks.

Contact: Dr. Jon Lorsch,

VI. Presentation: Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) Program Evaluation Follow-up Plans

At the January NAGMS Council meeting, a working group of Council presented their evaluation of the SCORE program. In response, Dr. Ming Lei, director of the Institute’s Division for Research Capacity Building, presented a plan to implement the working group’s recommendations. Going forward, NIGMS intends to highlight institutional research capacity building and student participation in quality research as important program objectives. Dr. Lei noted a key activity planned is a rebranding/renaming of the program to the Develop Academic Research Excellence (DARE) Award, to align with the program’s revised focus on developing research excellence: a shift from its current emphasis on competitiveness. NIGMS will redesign the current SCORE funding mechanisms as well as support a resource center to expand participation by eligible institutions and develop an evaluation plan.

Contacts: Dr. Ming Lei,

VII. Concept Clearance (Re-Issue): Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE)

U-RISE is an institutional student development program. It is limited to applications from training programs at research-active institutions (i.e., those with a 3-year average of NIH research project grant funding less than $7.5 million total costs per year). This reissued concept clearance is for a revised U-RISE funding announcement containing minor administrative changes and an increased emphasis on promoting safety in the research training environment and teaching to the highest practices in biomedical research. Council voted and unanimously approved the concept.

Contact: Dr. Alison Gammie,

VIII. Concept Clearance (Re-Issue): Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC)

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing the next generation of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and diversity-enhancing programs including MARC, an institutional student development program that currently provides support to train undergraduates. This program is limited to applications from training programs at research-intensive institutions (i.e., those with a 3-year average of NIH research project grant funding equal to or above $7.5 million total costs per year). In FY 2019, NIGMS supported 569 undergraduate students at 54 institutions. This reissue of a revised MARC funding announcement contains minor administrative changes and an increased emphasis on promoting safety in the research training environment and teaching to the highest practices in biomedical research. Council voted and unanimously approved the concept.

Contact: Dr. Alison Gammie,

IX. Concept Clearance (Re-Issue): Joint NSF/NIGMS Initiative to Support Research at the Interface of the Biological and Mathematical Sciences

The longstanding joint program between NIGMS and the Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) on mathematical biology (aka, the BioMath program) supports research projects where mathematics and statistics play essential roles in advancing the biological and biomedical sciences. Both DMS and NIGMS recognize and agree that when programmatic goals are compatible, coordinated management and funding of a program can have a synergistic effect on the level and scope of research, thereby leveraging the investments of both federal agencies. This reissue is a revised solicitation for the productive BioMath program, which will continue to support and promote research at the interface between mathematical and life sciences. Council voted and unanimously approved the concept.

Contact: Dr. Haluk Resat, haluk.resat@nih.g​ov

X. Concept Clearance (Re-Issue): Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) Program

NIH has a longstanding commitment to stimulate research at educational institutions that provide degrees for a significant number of the nation’s research scientists, but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. The goals of the AREA program are to i) support small-scale research grants at institutions that do not receive substantial funding from NIH, ii) provide active biomedical research experiences primarily for undergraduate students, and iii) enhance the research environment at applicant institutions. AREA eligibility is limited to faculty with a primary appointment at a non-health professional school or college and to institutions that award baccalaureate science degrees and have received no more than $6 million per year of NIH support (total costs) in 4 of the last 7 fiscal years. This a reissue of a revised AREA funding announcement with no significant changes. Council voted and unanimously approved the concept.

Contact: Dr. Alexandra Ainsztein,

X. Public Comment Period

Dr. Erica Shugart, executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology, submitted written comments to NIGMS [PDF].


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


The meeting adjourned at 3:45 p.m. on May 21, 2020.


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


Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council


Erica Brown, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council