Advisory Council Minutes, February 3, 2022

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council convened in open session for its 178th meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 3, 2022. The meeting was held remotely.

Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D., 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 12:35 p.m., the closed session was held from 1:40 p.m. to 4:06 p.m.

Council Members Attending Remotely

Darrin Akins, Ph.D.
Squire J. Booker, Ph.D.
Peter J. Espenshade, Ph.D.
Laura F. Gibson, Ph.D.
Ron G. King, Ph.D., M.B.A.
Danielle Li, Ph.D.
David H. Mathews, M.D., Ph.D.
Ronald M. Przygodzki, M.D.
Amy Rosenzweig, Ph.D.
Melanie Sanford, Ph.D.
Pamela Stacks, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Attending Remotely

Natalie Ahn, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor
Department of Biochemistry
University of Colorado at Boulder
Boulder, CO 80303

Angela Byars-Winston, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Center for Women's Health
Madison, WI 53715

Osvaldo Gutierrez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry
Texas A&M University
University Station, TX 77843

Terri Goss Kinzy, Ph.D.
President
Professor of Biological Sciences
Illinois State University
Normal, IL 61790-1000

Sonya Neal, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
University of California, San Diego
San Diego, CA 92093

Smita Patel, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Rutgers University
Piscataway, NJ 08854

Lesilee Rose, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of California, Davis
Davis, CA 95616

Jeffrey Sun, J.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Distinguished University Scholar
Associate Dean for Innovation and Strategic Partnerships
College of Education and Human Development
University of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40292

Leyte Winfield, Ph.D.
Professor of Organic Chemistry
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Chair, Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
Spelman College
Atlanta, GA 30314

Wendy Young, Ph.D.
Executive Partner
MPM Capital
Brisbane, CA 94005

Council roster (available from NIGMS)

Members of the Public Attending Remotely

Not tracked because this was a virtual conference.

Other Federal Employees Present

None

OPEN SESSION OF THE MEETING

I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Lorsch thanked the regular members of the Council and introduced the special consultants.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 9, 2021, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 19, 2022
September 15, 2022
February 2, 2023
Thursday
Thursday
Thursday

IV. NIGMS Director’s Report

Dr. Lorsch thanked the NAGMS Council and NIGMS staff for their continued service, welcomed special consultants, and recognized new and retiring Council members. He memorialized Hector Wong, M.D., who served NIH on study sections as a reviewer and was an NAGMS Council designated appointee.

Dr. Lorsch announced NIGMS and NIH staff changes, including, among others, that Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., stepped down as the NIH director but will continue to lead his research laboratory at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., is currently the NIH acting director. Dr. Lorsch shared that Dorit Zuk, Ph.D., has been appointed as the NIGMS deputy director, and Della White, Ph.D., is the new clinical research strategy coordinator. He memorialized Brian Pike, Ph.D., who was a scientific review officer in the NIGMS Scientific Review Branch.

Dr. Lorsch informed the Council that two NIGMS grantees were among those who received 2021 Nobel Prizes: David W.C. MacMillan, Ph.D., of Princeton University won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and David Julius, Ph.D., of University of California, San Francisco, won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. Additionally, he shared that NIGMS’ Kenneth D. Gibbs, Jr., Ph.D., M.P.H., was selected as a 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow.

Dr. Lorsch alerted the Council to two NIGMS lectures that are now available on demand: the Judith H. Greenberg Early Career Investigator Lecture held on September 29, 2021, and the DeWitt Stetten Jr. Lecture held October 20, 2021. He reminded the Council about the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program. MOSAIC has welcomed 32 new scholars into the program, and the inaugural MOSAIC meeting was held in October 2021.

Dr. Lorsch updated the Council on administrative supplement programs related to COVID-19 for Institutional Development Award (IDeA) and Native American Research Centers for Health programs to analyze SARS-CoV-2 variants. He also provided updates on two additional administrative supplements related to NIGMS-funded awards for building cloud-based learning modules and to IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence grants to fund research collaborations. Dr. Lorsch then shared information on other NIGMS supplement opportunities, and updates on the NIGMS National and Regional Resources Program.

Dr. Lorsch summarized data related to renewals for the Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) program. Established investigators and early stage investigators renewing their first grants (“ex-ESIs”) have higher award rates for MIRA renewals and conversions than R01 renewals. Both R01 and MIRA renewals received budget increases, and ex-ESIs and lower-budget MIRA renewals received the largest increases. R01-to-MIRA conversions overall received significant budget increases.

The Council discussed total institutional support, the higher MIRA award rates, and the 51% research time commitment.

Contact: Jon Lorsch, Ph.D., jon.lorsch@nih.gov

V. Presentation: Striving Towards Racial Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (STRIDE)

Striving Towards Racial Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (STRIDE) is a rotational committee of diverse staff that aims to foster racial/ethnic diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) efforts at NIGMS. The committee’s goals are to create a more inclusive and equitable NIGMS workplace environment, break down silos, and improve the Institute’s culture. The presentation included data about the NIH workforce landscape. STRIDE recommendations approved by NIGMS leadership included moving to a first-name basis when staff address one another (internal) and eliminating of the use of the term “professional staff” for certain job categories (generally, Ph.D. and M.D. degree holders) in favor of calling all staff professionals. The STRIDE committee also is facilitating small group discussions about NIH scientific workforce diversity.

Contacts: Shawn Gaillard, Ph.D., shawn.gaillard@nih.gov; Darlene Lee, leed@mail.nih.gov; Michael Sesma, Ph.D., msesma@nigms.nih.gov

VI. Concept Clearance: IDeA Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Phase 1

Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) support the establishment and development of innovative, state-of-the-art biomedical and behavioral research centers at institutions in IDeA-eligible states through awards for three sequential 5-year phases. COBRE Phase 1 awards support the establishment of a multicomponent center in a thematic scientific area that galvanizes multidisciplinary research. The goal is to develop a critical mass of investigators competitive for peer-reviewed external research funding. There are no substantive changes from the previous funding opportunity announcement (FOA). COBRE research themes will be broadened and aligned with institutions’ strategic priorities; themes that are similar to an institution’s current or prior funded COBREs will be considered low programmatic priority for funding. The eligibility criteria for research project leaders will be defined using the standard NIH definition of a new investigator. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue a COBRE Phase 1 FOA with no significant changes to the program.

Contact: Michele McGuirl, Ph.D., michele.mcguirl@nih.gov

VII. Concept Clearance: IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)

IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) foster the development, coordination, and sharing of research resources and expertise that will expand research opportunities and increase the number of competitive investigators in IDeA-eligible states. INBRE grants aim to enhance the caliber of faculty at research institutions and undergraduate schools who can attract more talented students toward contributing to the science and technology workforce. Each INBRE is a state-wide network with multiple institutions, including lead and research-intensive, primarily undergraduate, community colleges and tribally controlled colleges and universities. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue an INBRE FOA with no significant changes to the program.

Contact: Krishan Arora, Ph.D., arorak@mail.nih.gov

VIII. Concept Clearance: Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP)

The overarching goal of the Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) is to develop a diverse pool of well-trained postbaccalaureates who transition into and complete rigorous research-focused doctoral degree programs in biomedical fields relevant to the NIGMS mission. The program will clarify the expectations of an “established investigator” and enhance the language around providing a safe and inclusive environment. The Council discussed flexibility to expand the timeline of PREP. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue a PREP FOA with no significant changes to the program.

Contact: Anissa J. Brown, Ph.D., anissa.brown@nih.gov; Laurie Stepanek, Ph.D., laurie.stepanek@nih.gov

IX. Concept Clearance: Proposed Programs from the UNITE “E” Committee: Institutional Climate Assessment and DEI Action Plan Development Grant and Excellence in DEIA Investigator’s Grant

The overall charge of the extramural research ecosystem (UNITE E) group is the change of NIH policies, culture, and structures to promote extramural workforce diversity and inclusion. Two proposed programs arose from the group. The first, Institutional Climate Assessment and DEI Action Plan Development Grant, is intended to conduct objective climate assessments using validated instruments. Additionally, the program requires critical self-studies and action plans developed for culture change, including metrics and methods for assessing progress, disseminating results, and sustaining efforts. The proposed second program, Excellence in DEIA Investigator’s Grant, is a 5-year combined research and mentoring grant for principal investigators who have demonstrated excellence in promoting DEIA in biomedical research. This program aims to help offset the “diversity tax” and promote advances in DEIA and the scientific research of investigators committed to advancing DEIA. The Council discussed smaller-scale awards, eligibility for awards, and review criteria. NIGMS received Council approval for these proposed programs.

Contact: Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D., jon.lorsch@nih.gov

X. Concept Clearance: Diversity Enhancing Medical Scientist Training Program

The goal of the proposed diversity enhancing medical scientist training program is to develop a diverse pool of highly trained clinician-scientist leaders to meet the nation’s biomedical research needs, specifically in IDeA state institutions and in schools that have a historic mission of serving those in underrepresented groups. The program will be modeled after other NIGMS diversity enhancing programs with an emphasis on the unique features of research training for clinician scientists. NIGMS received Council approval for this program.

Contact: Alison Gammie, Ph.D., alison.gammie@nih.gov

XI. Concept Clearance: Predoctoral-to-Postdoctoral Diversity-Enhancing Cohort Program

The proposed diversity enhancing cohort program will support the transition from graduate to postdoctoral training. The program will have two components: an individual predoctoral to postdoctoral fellow transition award and a cohort-based mentoring and career development research education program that supports the fellows. The research education component will provide cohort-building activities, additional oversight, skills development, mentoring and networking, career preparedness, and institutional engagement. The individual trainees will compete through the NIH system for fellowship transition awards, and NIGMS will assign awardees into the research education programs. NIGMS received Council approval to issue funding announcements for the program.

Contacts: Alison Gammie, Ph.D., alison.gammie@nih.gov

PUBLIC COMMENTS RECEIVED

On February 8, 2022, Mallory Smith of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) sent the following comments about the open portion of this meeting:

February 8, 2022

Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
Director
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

RE: Comments to NAGMS Advisory Council

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) is an international nonprofit scientific and educational organization that represents more than 12,000 students, researchers, educators and industry professionals. The ASBMB strongly advocates for strengthening the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce, supporting sustainable funding for the American research enterprise, and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM.

The ASBMB applauds the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), especially efforts being made through the UNITE program. The newly approved concept of the Excellence in DEIA Professor’s is transformative and will give much-needed recognition to investigators at institutions who are committed to mentoring the next generation of historically marginalized scientists. Furthermore, programs such as this ensure that investigators are rewarded and not discouraged from maintaining DEIA initiatives.

In addition to current NIGMS programs and committees, such as Striving Towards Racial Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (STRIDE) and Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) conversions from R01 to R35 grants, the ASBMB strongly recommends that the National Institute of Health continue to create and support programs and awards geared toward strengthening the STEM workforce by (1) expanding existing undergraduate training programs and increasing grant awards to institutions in states that have Institutional Development Award (IDeA) and (2) continuing the renewal of MIRA awards.

Increase funding for STEM training pipeline by expanding undergraduate diversity training programs and awards to IDeA-eligible states

While NIGMS has programs to increase diversity in STEM, from the undergraduate to postdoctoral level, there is a significant loss of talent in the transition between high school and undergraduate programs that would benefit from the establishment of a new program. The Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement and Maximizing Access to Research Careers programs fund undergraduate students from only sophomore to senior year. These programs should be expanded to support first-year students. Immersing students early in their undergraduate education will increase the number who stick with science and choose it as a career.

To expand on the NIH’s current efforts to build research capacity in states that have had historically low levels of NIH funding, there should be an increase in awards offered for IDeA states to guarantee their availability. We recommend that NIGMS increase the number of IDeA awards from one to two awards per state, and publish data from these awards to NIGMS Loop.

Continue the issuance and renewal of MIRA awards

The ASBMB is enthused that the rate of MIRA renewals is twice that of traditional R01 renewals. This demonstrates the benefits of giving researchers enhanced flexibility to pursue novel ideas and explore unexpected findings that would have otherwise not met the narrow research aims proposed in R01 grants. We hope to see this program expand to provide new awards to more researchers, since the current MIRA awardee pool largely consists of historically well-resourced labs. By providing more MIRA awards, NIGMS can extend the benefit of stable and flexible funding to a greater proportion of the scientific community.

We encourage NIGMS to replicate the success of MIRA awards beyond the initial pool of MIRA awardees to investigators at minority-serving institutions particularly historically Black colleges and universities, that would hugely benefit from the optimized structure of the MIRA program.

The ASBMB also urges the NIGMS council to remain diligent in conducting research on funding disparities and rectifying the proportionally low representation of historically marginalized investigators among the R01 and MIRA awardees.

CLOSED PORTION OF THE MEETING

This session of the meeting was closed to the public, as it concerned matters exempt from mandatory disclosures under Sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5, U.S.C. and Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act as amended (5 U.S.C. Appendix 2).

Members exited the meeting during the discussion and voting process on applications from their own institutions or other applications that presented a potential conflict of interest, real or apparent. Members signed a statement to this effect.

REVIEW OF APPLICATIONS

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences considered 1,066 research and training applications requesting $511,098,725 in total costs. The Council recommended 1,065 applications with a total cost of $510,369,578.

ADJOURNMENT

The meeting adjourned at 4:06 p.m. on February 3, 2022.

CERTIFICATION

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

 

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

 

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