Advisory Council Minutes, September 19, 2019

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred and seventy-first meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 19, 2019.

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 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., the closed session was held from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Council Members Present

Darrin Akins, Ph.D.
Celeste Berg, Ph.D.
Squire J. Booker, Ph.D.
Goldie S. Byrd, Ph.D.*
Enrique M. De La Cruz, Ph.D.
Peter J. Espenshade, Ph.D.
William A. Gern, Ph.D.
Kaye Husbands Fealing, Ph.D.*
Tarun M. Kapoor, Ph.D.
Larry E. Overman, Ph.D.
Guy Padbury, Ph.D.
Michael Summers, Ph.D.
Ronald M. Przygodzki, M.D.
Cathy Wu, Ph.D.
John Younger, M.D., M.S.

*attended remotely

Special Consultants Present

Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia, Ph.D.
Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1034

Cheryl Quinn, Ph.D.
Independent Consultant
QnA Pharma Consulting, LLC
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Olivia Rissland, D.Phil.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Aurora, CO 80045

Sara Van Driest, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Pediatrics
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Nashville, TN 37232-9225

Council roster (available from NIGMS)

Members of the Public Present

Dr. Matthias Clauss, Indiana University School of Medicine
Dr. Naomi Charalambakis, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Dr. Yvette Seger, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Dr. Jodi Yellin, Association of American Medical Colleges

Other Federal Employees Present

Dr. Zhilan Feng, National Science Foundation


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

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

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 16-17, 2019, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 16, 2020
May 21, 2020
September 17-18, 2020

IV. NIGMS Director’s Report

NIGMS Director’s Report Slides [PDF 3MB]

NIGMS Director Dr. Jon R. Lorsch thanked the Council for their continued dedication to making Council meetings possible and successful, and he recognized retiring members. He then welcomed new NIGMS staff and noted the recent retirement of Dr. James Deatherage and the departure of Dr. Kristine Willis. He announced the departure of Dr. Susan Gregurick, who was named NIH associate director for data science and director of the NIH Office of Data Science Strategy. Dr. Lorsch highlighted The Research Organism (RO) Landscape: Choosing the Best Organism for Your Scientific Question workshop held on September 12, 2019, and reminded the Council about this year’s Stetten Lecture featuring Dr. Christina Smolke whose lecture is titled Scalable Platforms for Generating RNA Sensors and Controllers. In communications-related news, Dr. Lorsch provided an update on the NIGMS partnership with Scholastic, Inc., featuring Pathways magazine and associated classroom materials about basic biomedical research. To date, this resource has reached an estimated 2.5 million middle and high school students and 19,000 teachers in all 50 states. Dr. Lorsch then gave an update on recent activities/publications of the NIGMS Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation: i) analyses of the NIGMS SBIR/STTR portfolio showed a relationship between geographic distribution and commercialization success, toward actionable steps to improve overall program performance; and ii) a newly developed natural language-processing/machine-learning algorithm accurately auto-assigns applications to program staff, saving time, increasing objectivity/standardization, and retaining institutional knowledge. NIH is considering expanding use of this tool agency wide. Dr. Lorsch discussed NIGMS’ rapid response to address a global helium gas shortage that is affecting biomedical research. He concluded with programmatic notes on the reissue of the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award for established investigators, the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers program to promote successful transitions of postdocs from diverse backgrounds to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions, and various NIGMS regional technology resources.

Contact: Dr. Jon Lorsch,

V. Presentation: NIGMS Response to the Sepsis Working Group Report

Dr. Rochelle Long summarized the Institute’s follow-up actions to recommendations from the Council’s Sepsis Working Group. NIGMS recently published two documents in the NIH Guide: i) Notice of Information: NIGMS Priorities for Sepsis Research and ii) Request for Information (RFI): Strategies to Support Acquisition and Use of Biospecimens for Research on Sepsis in Humans (responses due November 15, 2019). Dr. Long stated that NIGMS plans to meet with other relevant NIH institutes and centers to determine how scientific interests in this area intersect and to monitor progress toward shared goals in sepsis research.

Contact: Dr. Rochelle Long,

VI. Concept Clearance: NIH Science Education Partnership Award

The objective of the R25 Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program is to support educational activities that complement or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research. SEPA funds STEM and informal science education (ISE) projects for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. These projects aim to i) enhance the diversity of the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce pipeline; and ii) foster a better understanding of NIH-funded research and its implications for public health. NIGMS encourages SEPA applications focusing on NIH mission-relevant topics not addressed by existing school, community, or ISE-based activities. Council approved the Institute’s request to solicit applications for this funding opportunity.

Contacts: Dr. Tony Beck,

VII. Concept Clearance: Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources for Pre-College and Informal Science Education Audiences (SBIR/STTR)

The Interactive Digital Media STEM Resources (IDM STEM) program leverages concepts and STEM resources developed by the NIGMS SEPA program into commercial products. IDM STEM is the only NIH SBIR program with a specific focus on STEM-based resources for learning and improving health literacy. Examples of funded projects include classroom-based activities to improve mathematical reasoning for K-5 students, the science of baseball to teach science and mathematics, a virtual reality platform to teach difficult concepts in organic chemistry, and digital psychoeducation for teens and young adults with substance use disorders. Council approved the Institute’s request to solicit applications for this funding opportunity.

Contact: Dr. Tony Beck,

VIII. Concept Clearance: Collaborative Program Grant for Multidisciplinary Teams

The NIGMS Collaborative Program Grant is intended to support groups of three to six principal investigators (PIs) to pursue research problems of sufficient scope and complexity that could not be accomplished through individual or multiple-PI R01 applications (not confined to a single institution). Funded via an RM1 mechanism, this grant supports a single, well-integrated program of research with a unified set of specific aims, excludes subprojects, and may include a clinical trial. The research program must be central to the NIGMS mission and have sufficient impact to warrant the Institute’s investment of significant funds and well-defined goals that can be achieved within 5 to 10 years. Council approved the Institute’s request to solicit applications for this funding opportunity.

Contact: Dr. Peter Preusch,

IX. Concept Clearance: Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for Early-Stage Investigators

An NIGMS MIRA provides support for an investigator’s overall program of research, which is fundamentally different from other NIGMS funding opportunities that provide support on a project-by-project basis. The goal of MIRA is to increase the efficiency of NIGMS funding by providing investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs. Changes to the NIGMS MIRA for early-stage investigators include encouraging eligible applicants to apply at an earlier career stage, asking reviewers to consider scientific promise, encouraging applicants to move into research areas distinct from those of their postdoctoral mentors, and emphasizing that preliminary data is neither required nor expected. Council approved the Institute’s request to solicit applications for this funding opportunity.

Contact: Dr. Sailaja Koduri,; and Dr. Michele McGuirl,

X. Concept Clearance: Biomedical Technology Development and Dissemination Centers (BTDD)

NIGMS supports early-stage technology projects through the NIGMS Technology Development R01 and R21 programs. In contrast, the NIGMS Biomedical Technology Development and Dissemination Centers (BTDD) program aims to support iterative, refinement (i.e., hardening) stages of technology development to maximize a technology’s utility. Eligible technologies should be developed to the point that early-stage processes and proof of concept are already in place, so that the BTDD effort can focus on later stages of technology development including beta testing with driving biomedical projects in the first project-funding period. MIRA applicants and awardees can participate in all components of the BTDD program and receive funds from the grant. Council approved the Institute’s request to issue a BTDD funding announcement.

Contacts: Dr. Mary Ann Wu,

XI. Concept Clearance: Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR)

The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Program Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR) is one of four IDeA initiatives. The objectives of IDeA-CTR are to support the development of infrastructure and human resources required to conduct clinical and translational research in IDeA-eligible states and to address health concerns that affect medically underserved people and/or that are prevalent among populations in IDeA states. Council approved the Institute’s request to reissue the IDeA-CTR funding announcement.

Contacts: Dr. Rafael Gorospe,

XII. Concept Clearance: : NIGMS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Predoctoral Institutional Research Training Grant

Issued in FY 2017, the NIGMS-specific predoctoral T32 funding announcement enhanced NIGMS’ ability to promote and monitor modernization of biomedical graduate education, including enhancing diversity of the biomedical research enterprise. To continue to effectively catalyze changes in graduate education, NIGMS intends to revise this funding announcement to address curricular changes; partnerships with and input from potential employers; standards of practice in biomedical research; and data-management and dissemination plans. Dr. Alison Gammie emphasized that reproducibility training will be a scored review criterion, and she emphasized updated NIH policies on human subjects and sexual harassment. Council approved the Institute’s request to reissue this funding announcement.

Contact: Dr. Alison Gammie,; and Dr. Shiva Singh,

XIII. Concept Clearance: Training Modules to Enhance the Rigor, Reproducibility, and Responsible Conduct of Biomedical Data Science Research

NIGMS supports the development of training modules designed to enhance the rigor, reproducibility, and responsible conduct of data science research. The target audiences for these modules are trainees and researchers at any level. Product modules are relatively short units of sufficient depth and coverage to empower a trainee with knowledge and skills to improve the rigor, reproducibility, and responsible conduct of their data science research. Training modules are expected to cover material not typically taught as part of current institutional coursework, but developed modules could be used in future courses. Council approved the Institute’s request to reissue this funding announcement.

Contact: (not available)

XIV. Public Comment Period

No notes.


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


The meeting adjourned at 4:00 p.m. on September 19, 2019.


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