Advisory Council Minutes, January 22-23, 2009

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-ninth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2009.

Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After a closed session from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. on January 22, the meeting was open to the public on January 23 from 8:04 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:


Special Consultants Present:

David Burgess, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Boston College
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D., FACS
Director, Wound Healing Program
Department of Surgery
Marshfield Clinic
Marshfield, WI 54449

John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Biology
The Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA 92037

Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D.
Ray and Stephanie Lane Professor of Computational Biology
Professor of Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering and Machine Learning
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

James L. Stevens, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow, Toxicology
Lily Research Laboratories
Greenfield, IN 46140

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. K. Gwin, Baylor University
Dr. Lara Mahal, University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Richard I. Martinez, Omni SciHD Consultants
Ms. Meghan McGowan, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences
Dr. Jeff Mize, Baylor University
Dr. Amy Pollick, Association for Psychological Sciences
Mr. Ted Shoneck, Tunnell Government Services
Ms. Alison Trepod, SRI International

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. LaJoyce H. Debro, National Science Foundation
Dr. James Deshler, National Science Foundation

NIGMS employees and other NIH employees:

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


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Berg thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and then he introduced the special consultants: Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D., FACS, director, Wound Healing Program, Department of Surgery, Marshfield Clinic; John E. Johnson, Ph.D., professor, Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute; Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D., Ray and Stephanie Lane Professor of Computational Biology, Carnegie Mellon University; and James L. Stevens, Ph.D., senior research fellow, Toxicology, Lily Research Laboratories. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 18-19, 2008, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 21-22, 2009  Thursday-Friday
September 10-11, 2009  Thursday-Friday
January 21-22, 2010  Thursday-Friday

IV. Council Operating Procedures

As is required each year, the Council approved its operating procedures. There were no substantial changes from previous years.

V. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing the appointments of Dr. Linda S. Birnbaum as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Jack Jones as the Chief Information Officer of NIH. He also noted that Dr. Lana Skirboll was named acting director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives which encompasses the functions of the former Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), including the NIH Roadmap, as well as the NIH Offices of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, Research on Women's Health, AIDS Research, and Disease Prevention. Dr. Berg noted also that he is co-chairing with Dr. Tom Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, a search committee for a new director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Dr. Berg reported that Dr. Elias Zerhouni had resigned as NIH director effective October 31, 2008. Dr. Raynard Kington has been named acting NIH director while Dr. Larry Tabak, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, was named acting deputy director of NIH. He also reported that Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo stepped down as NIH deputy director for extramural research in November 2008, and that Dr. Sally Rockey had been named acting deputy director for extramural research.

Dr. Berg announced four appointments within NIGMS, namely Dr. Laurie Tompkins as chief of the Genetic Mechanisms Branch in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology; Dr. Michael Bender as a program director in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology; Dr. Vernon Anderson as a program director in the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry; and Dr. Paul Brazhnik as a program director in the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Dr. Berg reported that Dr. John Norvell announced that he would retire in February 2009 and commented on Dr. Norvell's long and outstanding career in NIGMS as a program director deeply involved with structural biology, including the Protein Structure Initiative, and as assistant director for research training.

Dr. Berg noted that the Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to three scientists who had received NIH funding: Martin Chalfie, Ph.D., Roger Tsien, Ph.D., and Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D. They were recognized "for the discovery and development of green fluorescent protein, GFP." Dr. Berg emphasized that this work has had significant impact on many aspects of biomedical and chemical research and that funding from NSF, as well as other agencies, had also played major roles in supporting the prize-winning research.

Dr. Berg briefly updated the Council on progress related to the NIH Enhancing Peer Review initiative. He noted that many changes would be initiated in the upcoming summer review meetings and that other key changes such as the shortened R01 application would begin in 2010.

Dr. Berg made a short presentation about the NIH Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) system. He noted that this automated system provides a uniform and transparent way of identifying research in approximately 220 areas across NIH, including ready access to the specific grants and projects with dollar amounts.

Finally, Dr. Berg presented the new NIGMS logo and briefly described the process used in its development and the concepts that underlie the logo design.

VI. PSI Overview

Dr. Berg provided an overview of NIGMS' Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), whose long-range goal is to make the three-dimensional atomic-level structures of most proteins easily obtainable from knowledge of their corresponding DNA sequences. The first pilot stage of the PSI began in 2000 with the creation of research centers to serve as pilots for the design of the later production phase, which began in 2005 and will end in 2010. Dr. Berg discussed the recent findings of the PSI Assessment Panel and described the Institute's planning efforts for PSI:Biology, the next phase of the NIGMS structural genomics investment.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg, 301-594-2172

VII. Report: Future Structural Initiatives Meeting

In October 2008, NIGMS sponsored the Future Structural Genomics Initiatives meeting to consider future options for Institute funding in this area. Dr. Peter Preusch noted recurring themes from the meeting, including: i) the evolution of intellectual drivers for structural genomics; ii) the engagement of a broad scientific community in selecting protein structural targets; iii) annotation improvements; and iv) enhanced use of the intellectual and material products of structural genomics through improved access, education and dissemination. Dr. Preusch stated that meeting attendees endorsed improved connections between structural and functional studies, continued technology development for protein production and structure determination, as well as more emphasis on biomedically important protein targets.

Contacts: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-0828; Dr. David Eisenberg, 310-825-3754

VIII. Report: PSI Advisory Committee

Representing the PSI Advisory Committee (PSIAC), Dr. Lila Gierasch of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, shared her impressions from the October 2008 NIGMS Future Structural Genomics Initiatives meeting and the December 2008 PSI Annual Meeting. Dr. Gierasch presented the annual PSIAC report and offered the group's recommendations for the future of the PSI: namely, continued NIGMS support of high-throughput structural biology research with an emphasis on high-impact biological problems, substantial community engagement and membrane protein structure determination.

Contact: Dr. Lila Gierasch,, 413-545-6094

IX. Concept Clearance: PSI: High-Throughput Structure Biology

In response to a January 2008 PSI Assessment Panel, NIGMS has made several changes to the program, including increasing its focus on biological problems, providing more transparency on target selection, enabling the community to nominate protein targets and enhancing outreach to the biomedical community through the PSI-Nature Structural Genomics Knowledgebase and the PSI Materials Repository. Drs. Peter Preusch and John Norvell provided details of proposed future initiatives, including i) new centers to enhance efforts in high-throughput structure methods and membrane protein structure determination; ii) proposed partnerships for high-throughput enabled structural biology research; and iii) and continued support of the PSI Genomics Knowledgebase and Materials Repository. Drs. Preusch and Norvell requested, and received, Council approval to pursue the PSI programs through appropriate funding solicitations.

Contacts: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-0828; Dr. John Norvell,, 301-594-0533

X. Concept Clearance: Contract Re-Competition for the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository

In 1972, NIGMS established the Human Genetic Cell Repository to facilitate research in genetics and related areas by providing high-quality, well-characterized, contaminant-free cell lines from people with a range of genetic disorders as well as from normal individuals. An online catalog lists and provides information about the repository's approximately 10,000 cell lines and DNA samples derived from these lines. Since its inception, the repository has been funded by a series of contracts awarded competitively to the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, New Jersey. Dr. Judith Greenberg, the repository's project officer, requested and received, Council approval to re-compete the contract for five more years.

Contact: Dr. Judith Greenberg,, 301-594-0943

XI. Overview: Research on Interventions

Dr. Shiva Singh discussed recent progress from the NIGMS Research on Interventions that Promote Research Careers program. This effort funds individual investigator grants that test assumptions and hypotheses that undergird interventions intended to increase the interest, motivation and preparedness of underrepresented individuals' preparedness for careers in biomedical and behavioral research. Dr. Singh also provided a brief summary of the Minority Biomedical Research Supported Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program.

Contact: Dr. Shiva Singh,, 301-594-3900

XII. Findings from a National Longitudinal Study of the RISE Program

NIH programs such as RISE program provide training and support for students from underrepresented groups, as part of ongoing efforts to encourage these students to pursue science careers. Dr. P. Wesley Schultz of California State University in San Marcos summarized several key findings from his NIGMS-funded longitudinal panel study begun in 2005 to track the educational pathways of more than 1,300 minority science students from 45 U.S. campuses. Dr. Schultz noted that the results to date show strong evidence that participating in the RISE program sustains student interest in biomedical science, largely due to research experience and, to a lesser extent, mentorship and financial support.

Contact: Dr. P. Wesley Schultz,, 760-750-8045

XIII. Issues Regarding Handling of Post-Glue Grant Research Resources

The NIGMS large-scale collaborative project awards, or "glue grant" program, began in 2001 with the aim of building infrastructure and developing unique research resources to solve important problems facing biomedicine. Dr. Michael Rogers stated that, collectively, the glue grant consortia have created many valuable cell lines, antibodies, chemical libraries, arrays, databases and other resources that should be maintained beyond the life of the glue grant awards. NIGMS staff assembled an organized set of questions and a list of annotated resources from each consortium. Dr. Rogers invited Council input on how to proceed with the continuation of glue grant-generated research resources.

Contact: Dr. Michael Rogers,, 301-594-3827

XIV. Report: Modeling Social Behavior Conference

Social behaviors have a significant impact on health. For example, infectious diseases spread through social contact, and social behavior influences development through processes that have been studied in both humans and model organisms. With the advent of large-scale computational models of social systems, it is now possible to study how behavior and social systems affect each other. Dr. Iain Couzin of Princeton University presented an overview of his research in this area, which aims to scale from individual interactions to collective behavior in groups. Dr. Joshua Epstein of the Brookings Institution then presented a summary of a November 2008 NIGMS-sponsored meeting on modeling social behavior.

Contacts: Dr. Iain Couzin,, 609-258-8786; Dr. Joshua Epstein,, 202-797-6163

XV. Concept Clearance: Modeling Workforce Diversity

Two NIGMS working groups have met to discuss the feasibility, merits and approaches of developing models of the scientific workforce that would inform development of programs and policies. Dr. Berg stated that three issues of particular interest include: i) understanding how to diversify the scientific workforce; ii) studying the impact of policies targeted at new investigators on development of the workforce; and iii) establishing appropriate models that ensure good data collection. Since the working groups' reports indicate that modeling workforce diversity is feasible, Dr. Berg requested, and received, Council approval to issue a small funding solicitation in this area.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg,, 301-594-2172

XVI. Legislative Updates

Dr. Warren Jones described the principal NIH-related provisions that are being considered for inclusion in the economic stimulus legislation that is currently being developed by Congress. He also described the status of ongoing efforts to complete the FY 2009 appropriations process and discussed the Congressional committees that have jurisdiction over NIH.

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

XVII. Report: Conference on Dynamics of Host-Associated Microbial Communities

Through the Roadmap, NIH recently funded the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which will explore the community of microorganisms that resides in and on the human body. Dr. Shiva Singh presented a summary of a recent NIGMS-sponsored conference that considered how genetic, physiological and ecological studies can complement metagenomic approaches to deepen understanding of microbe-host interactions. Dr. Singh noted that the outcome of the conference has been summarized in a white paper that will be used to guide possible future initiatives.

Contact: Dr. Shiva Singh,, 301-594-3900


XIX. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m. on January 23, 2009.

A continuation of the closed session of Council was held as a teleconference on March 4, 2009, beginning at 1:00 p.m. and adjourning at 2:15 p.m.


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

Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D.
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council
Ann A. Hagan, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council