Advisory Council Minutes, January 24-25, 2008

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-sixth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 24, 2008.

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 4:45 p.m. on January 24, the meeting was open to the public on January 25 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D. - attended via telephone
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Ronald C. Conaway, Ph.D.
Stowers Institute of Medical Research
Kansas City, MO 64110

Gary Johnson, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Hung-Wen Liu, Ph.D.
Professor and George H. Hitchings Regents Chair
Division of Medical Chemistry
College of Pharmacy
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Martin Chemers, University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. Richard Cummings, Emory University
Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University
Dr. Pat Kober, Association for Psychological Sciences
Ms. Meghan McGowan, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Mr. Ted Shoneck, Tunnell Government Services
Dr. Janet Smith, University of Michigan
Dr. Merna R. Villarejo, University of California, Davis

Federal Employees Present:


NIGMS employees and other NIH employees:

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

Open Portion of the Meeting

I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Berg thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and welcomed the new Council members: Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D., deputy executive director of policy and director, Office of Public Affairs, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology; and Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology and anatomy, University of Utah School of Medicine. Then he introduced the special consultants: Ronald C. Conaway, Ph.D., investigator, Stowers Institute for Medical Research; Gary Johnson, Ph.D., professor and chair, department of pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Hung-Wen Liu, Ph.D., professor, division of medical chemistry, college of pharmacy, University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 10-11, 2007, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 15-16, 2008 Thursday-Friday
September 18-19, 2008 Thursday-Friday
January 22-23, 2009 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 appointment of Josephine Briggs, M.D., as director, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. He also announced the appointments of Ms. Sally Lee, as the executive officer and Juliana Blome, Ph.D., as the chief, Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, both of NIGMS.

Dr. Berg noted that two long-time NIGMS grantees, Drs. Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, shared the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology with Dr. Martin Evans for the development of "knock-out mouse" technology. He also noted that Dr. Roger Kornberg, another long-time NIGMS grantee and 2006 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, has agreed to give the 2008 Stetten Lecture at NIH. Dr. Berg also announced that NIGMS grantee Dr. Gus Rosania was among the recently named Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) winners.

Dr. Berg noted that the "Enhancing Peer Review" self-study was proceeding rapidly with a draft report from the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH , and NIH Steering Committee working groups due to Dr. Zerhouni at the end of February. He briefly described some of the ideas that were actively being discussed.

Dr. Berg mentioned that two new significant programs within the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research had been announced, one on epigenomics and one on the human microbiome. He noted that Requests for Applications for these initiatives were recently released.

Dr. Berg noted that Dr. Zerhouni recently sent out a "desk to desk" message focused on science education. Dr. Berg mentioned that one of the major NIH activities in this area are curriculum supplements, and that one such supplement, developed largely by NIGMS staff called "Doing Science," remained very popular. He also noted that a new supplement on evolution was currently under development.

Dr. Berg announced that the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services had recently released a report on conflicts of interest in extramural research. He noted that NIH had released some initial responses to the report and that more activities on this important topic could be anticipated in the near future.

Dr. Berg reported that an omnibus appropriation bill had been passed that included an appropriation for NIGMS at the same level as in fiscal year 2007. He noted that the absence of any budget increase would lead to the funding of a smaller number of new and competing grants for fiscal year 2008 than in fiscal year 2007 and that policies related to the implementation of this appropriation were currently under development.

Finally, Dr. Berg announced that the NIGMS strategic plan, "Investing in Discovery," had just been released and was posted on the NIGMS Web site and that copies were available to the members of the Advisory Council and others upon request.

VI. Lessons Learned from Interventions Programs

A. Update: MORE Interventions RFA

Dr. Shiva Singh provided an overview of the historical context under which the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) initiative on the efficacy of interventions was developed. Key drivers include the continued underrepresentation of minorities in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, the paucity of data on the efficacy of programs developed to address this imbalance, and a need to understand the basis of various interventions. Dr. Singh discussed the research community's response to the NIGMS interventions initiative, and he introduced three broad categories of research currently funded by the effort. Brief presentations of three currently funded programs followed Dr. Singh's introduction.

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

B. Efficacy of Educational Enrichment Activities: a Mixed Methods Approach

Dr. Merna Villarejo of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) described a currently funded project that examines whether undergraduate science enrichment activities prepare and encourage targeted minority students to pursue biology-based professions, in general, and doctoral-level research careers in particular. Participants in the UC Davis Biology Undergraduate Scholars Program were much more likely than non-participant minority students-and more likely than the white/Asian student majority-to graduate with biology degrees, and biology degrees with high GPAs, thus ensuring that they are academically prepared to pursue careers in biomedical science.

PowerPoint Presentation

Contact: Dr. Merna Villarejo,, 530-752-6281

C. Promoting Diversity: Access and Engagement in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers

Dr. Sylvia Hurtado of the University of California, Los Angeles, presented results from the "Promoting Diversity: Access and Engagement in Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers" project that analyzes the efficacy of interventions to increase the pool of biomedical and behavioral research scientists. The data revealed that aspiring students entering biomedical fields in college has increased and become slightly more diverse over the last 30 years. However, a longitudinal study of the 2004 cohort highlights continuing obstacles. The availability of structured opportunity programs early in a student's career markedly affects the probability of that student's involvement in research. Further investigation will follow the cohort through graduation to understand scientific career access, engagement, and retention. For more information, visit the Higher Education Research Institute online.

PowerPoint Presentation

Contact: Dr. Sylvia Hurtado,, 310-825-1925

D. Assessing Scientific Inquiry and Leadership Skills

The currently funded "Assessing Scientific Inquiry and Leadership Skills" project studies research-immersion interventions that impact student performance outcomes and long-term commitment to biomedical research careers. Dr. Martin Chemers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, described psychological mediators such as: i) "science inquiry self-efficacy:" a student's belief about his or her ability to perform scientific work successfully; and ii) "identity as a scientist:" a student's sense that the role of a scientist is compatible with his or her own personal identity. Authentic research experiences and positive mentoring experiences are strong predictors of the psychological variables that are, in turn, strong predictors of performance outcomes.

PowerPoint Presentation

Contact: Dr. Martin Chemers,, 831-459-4516

VII. Report of the Protein Structure Initiative Assessment Panel

The NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) is a two-phased, 10-year effort begun in 2000 to streamline protein structure determination. A working group of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council recently conducted an evaluation to assess PSI progress. Dr. Janet Smith of the University of Michigan, who chaired the PSI Assessment Panel, presented an overview, stating that the PSI had been successful in developing effective pipelines leading from protein coding sequences to three-dimensional structures and had improved methodology and technology with benefits to the broader structural biology community. However, the Assessment Panel found serious flaws regarding the underlying concept of sparse coverage of protein sequence space with structures and expressed significant concerns about the dissemination of PSI results to the biological community and the cost-effectiveness of the program. For more information, read the report online. The Council discussed the PSI and the report, with some members supporting the underlying concept of the PSI and others expressing more skeptical views. All agreed on the importance of developing stronger links to protein function and to the biomedical research community and its needs. Dr. Berg stated that NIGMS plans to engage the broad biomedical research community in discussions about subsequent initiatives related to structural biology.

Contacts: Dr. Jeremy Berg, 301-594-2172; Dr. Janet Smith,, 734-615-9564

VIII. Concept Clearance: Pharm.D./Ph.D. F31s

Pharmacy schools have recently assumed a much greater role in training clinical pharmacologists. However, pharmacy students have not had many opportunities to concurrently pursue intensive research experiences during the time they are in the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program. Research intensive pharmacy schools have recently started dual-degree (Pharm.D./Ph.D.) programs to attract pharmacy graduates to research careers. Dr. Richard Okita requested, and received, Council approval to solicit Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31) applications from Pharm.D. students enrolled in Ph.D. graduate programs and pursuing areas of clinical pharmacology that meet the research mission of NIGMS.

Contact: Dr. Richard Okita,, 301-594-3827

IX. Workshop Report: Carbohydrate Chemical Space

The worldwide drive to understand the structure and function of the human glycome has accelerated and is quickly moving toward becoming an equal counterpart to genomics and proteomics. Because the human genome encodes thousands of glycoproteins, and a majority of translated proteins appear to be glycosylated, protein glycosylation is likely to be the most common type of post-translational modification. However, the size and complexity of the human glycome is large and not yet defined, posing tremendous and unique challenges not faced by studies in genomics and proteomics. Dr. Richard D. Cummings of Emory University provided a summary of a 2007 workshop that assessed the state of the science in glycobiology, and recommends new and innovative collaborative research initiatives for continued progress.

Contact: Dr. Richard D. Cummings,, 404-727-5962

X. Concept Clearance: Expanding Chemical Space for Carbohydrates

Chains of sugars called glycans play an important role in information transfer in biological systems. Due in part to the complexity of glycans, progress within the field has been slow. Despite the first reports of carbohydrate microarrays in 2002, large defined synthetic libraries are not available to capitalize on this technology, or to facilitate structural analysis. Given the complexity of the human glycome, it is predicted that thousands of unique, structurally defined glycans will be needed to create diagnostics, screening tools, and structural analysis standards. Dr. Pamela Marino requested, and received, Council approval to solicit applications to catalyze work in this area.

Contact: Dr. Pamela Marino,, 301-594-3827

XI. Concept Clearance: Extending MIDAS

The Modeling of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program began in May 2004 and currently consists of seven research groups and an informatics group. MIDAS develops computational tools that examine the emergence, dynamics, and sensitivities of infectious disease epidemics, to provide support for local and national policy makers. A formal, outside evaluation of the program, together with the needs of the epidemiological research community, suggest the need to extend the MIDAS research agenda and information technology capabilities. Drs. James Anderson and Irene Eckstrand requested, and received, Council approval to extend MIDAS with a research project grant component, a Centers of Excellence component, and an Information Technology resource program.

Contacts: Dr. James Anderson, 301-594-0943; Dr. Irene Eckstrand,, 301-594-0943


XIII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:50 p.m. on January 25, 2008.

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