Advisory Council Minutes, January 22-23, 2004

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred twenty-fourth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 22, 2004.

Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. The meeting was open to the public on January 22 from 10:40 a.m. to 4:05 p.m. and was followed by the closed session from 4:05 p.m. until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

Robert L. Becker, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.
Stanley Fields, Ph.D.
George C. Hill, Ph.D.
Corey Largman, Ph.D.
Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D.
Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.
Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.
Susan S. Taylor, Ph.D.
Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Eric F. Johnson, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine
The Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA

Hung-wen (Ben) Liu, Ph.D.
Department of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy
University of Texas
Austin, TX

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. James Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Ms. Pamela Moore, Capitol Publications

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Eve Barak, National Science Foundation
Dr. Elizabeth Hood, National Science Foundation
Dr. Chris Greer, National Science Foundation<
Dr. Robert Last, 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. Jeremy Berg called the meeting to order. He introduced the four new members of Council: Dr. Stanley Fields, professor of genome sciences and medicine, University of Washington; Dr. Richard Morimoto, professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology and dean of the Graduate School at Northwestern University; Dr. Gregory Reyes who recently retired from the position of vice president at the Schering-Plough Research Institute; and Dr. Virginia Zakian, the Harry C. Wiess professor in the life sciences in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.  Dr. Berg also welcomed the guests and introduced the two ad hoc consultants: Dr. Eric F. Johnson, professor, Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, The Scripps Research Institute; and Dr. Hung-wen Liu, professor, Division of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy, University of Texas.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 11-12, 2003 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 13-14, 2004
September 9-10, 2004
January 13-14, 2005
May 19-20, 2005

V. Council Operating Procedures

As is required each year, the Council was asked to approve its operating procedures. There are no substantial changes from previous years.

V. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced staffing changes at NIH. Dr. Norka Ruiz Bravo left NIGMS to become the NIH deputy director for Extramural Research in November 2003. Mr. Richard Turman was named NIH associate director for budget in October 2003. Dr. Dushanka Kleinman was named assistant director for Roadmap coordination. Dr. Faye Calhoun was named deputy director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in September 2003. In October 2003, Dr. Brent Stanfield was named acting director of the Center for Scientific Review. Dr. Belinda Seto was named deputy director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in December 2003. Dr. Timothy Condon was named deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in January 2004. Dr. Leamon Lee retired from his position as NIH associate director for administration in January 2004. Dr. Gerald Keusch stepped down from his post as director of the Fogarty International Center, and Dr. Sharon Hrynkow began serving as acting director of FIC in January 2004.

Dr. Berg noted that two former or current NIGMS grantees, Dr. Roderick MacKinnon and Dr. Paul Lauterbur, received Nobel Prizes in 2003 and noted that Dr. MacKinnon will be coming to NIH to give this year's Stetten lecture in October.

Dr. Berg summarized activities from his first two months as director. These included a presentation before the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH, the theme of which was how NIGMS has blazed the trail for much of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. In addition, he and other NIGMS staff participated in symposia on "Digital Biology: The Emerging Paradigm" and "The Functional Genomics of Critical Illness and Injury" and in workshops relating to the Protein Structure Initiative and to a proposal for a new training program in biostatistics.

He also commented on administrative issues confronting the Institute including the implementation of the extramural administrative support services Most Efficient Organization (MEO), the ceiling on FTE positions across NIH and within NIGMS, the responses to the conflict of interest issues raised by a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, and other matters. Finally, Dr. Berg commented on how pleased he was regarding his first two months at NIGMS and thanked NIGMS staff for their support and assistance with the transition.

VI. Update on NIH Roadmap Initiatives

Dr. Dushanka Kleinman, assistant director for NIH Roadmap Coordination, presented an update on NIH Roadmap activities. The NIH Roadmap was conceived to create a framework for priorities to optimize the NIH research portfolio and to establish a vision for a more efficient biomedical research enterprise. With input from the scientific community, a set of initiatives has been created that envelop three major themes: New Pathways to Discovery, Research Teams of the Future, and Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise. Dr. Kleinman stated that the criteria used to craft Roadmap initiatives included focusing on high-risk and interdisciplinary research, fostering public-private partnerships, and establishing novel mechanisms to improve clinical research (including policy and training). NIH staff are currently working on implementing the Roadmap, paying close attention to issues related to communication and evaluation.  More information about the NIH Roadmap can be found at

VII.  Concept Clearance: Predoctoral Training in Biostatistics

Dr. John Whitmarsh reported that the need for a new predoctoral training program in biostatistics is driven by a shortage of biostatisticians trained in computer science, bioinformatics, and statistical theory. To gather community input on the topic, NIGMS organized a workshop that brought together internationally recognized experts in biostatistics, bioinformatics, and biomedical and clinical research. Workshop participants discussed the current state of predoctoral programs in biostatistics as well as opportunities and needs for a newly designed program that includes deeper training in bioinformatics, computer science, and statistical theory. Dr. Whitmarsh described the outcome of the December 2003 workshop, which was sponsored by the NIH Office of the Director. Dr. Whitmarsh requested, and received, clearance from Council to create a biostatistics predoctoral training program.

VIII. Concept Clearance: Promoting Comparative Modeling Research

NIGMS initiated the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) 3 years ago with the aim of quickly and cheaply determining three-dimensional structures for protein family representatives. These experimentally determined structures will be used to predict the structures for a large number of homologous protein family members using comparative modeling methods. Improvements to current modeling methods will greatly enhance the utility of PSI products. Realizing the importance of comparative modeling, but acknowledging relatively modest improvement in this area in recent years, NIGMS organized a workshop inviting leading experts in the field to critically examine needs and to provide vision on how to move the field forward. Responding to advice from the October 2003 workshop participants, Dr. Jerry Li requested, and received, clearance from Council to issue a Request for Applications to attract proposals for the development of novel modeling approaches. Successful programs will be funded using the P20 Exploratory Center Grants mechanism and will consist of interdisciplinary teams with a track record of innovation and close collaboration with experimentalists.

IX. Concept Clearance: Linking Biomedical Research to the National Centers

The NIH Roadmap Initiative on Bioinformatics and Computational Biology provides for the establishment of National Centers for Biomedical Computing, the first of which will be funded beginning September 30, 2004. These Centers, funded via the cooperative agreement mechanism, will be the hubs for development of the nation's biomedical computing environment. The ultimate aim of this roadmap effort is to provide an environment in which any researcher, student, teacher, practitioner, or policy maker in the field of bioinformatics and computational biology will find at his or her fingertips the necessary data, interpretative materials, and tools for analysis, visualization, and modeling to accomplish his or her mission. It is recognized, however, that much of the nation's expertise and commitment for building a national computing environment will be outside the Centers.  Dr. Eric Jakobsson proposed a plan to fund investigator-initiated projects to collaborate with the National Centers, using the R01, R21, and R25 mechanisms. The R01 and R21awards will support both collaborating biological projects and collaborating technological projects. Collaborating biological projects will be those that partner with a Center to develop and adapt Center products for the enhancement of the biomedical project, with a view that the products of the collaboration will also become part of the computing infrastructure developed and supported by the Center. Collaborating technological projects will be those that contribute informatics and computational tools to the Center and collaborate with the Center to integrate those tools with the infrastructure developed and supported by the Center. The R25 awards will fund collaborating educational projects, which will adapt and develop the computational tools and environment developed and supported by the Center for purposes of education at all appropriate levels, with the goal of enhancing and securing the biomedical research workforce of the future.  Dr. Jakobsson requested, and received, Council approval to solicit applications to fund the Center-collaborative grants.

X. Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award

In 1998, NIGMS devised an innovative professional development mechanism to bring the energy, enthusiasm, and research orientation of postdoctoral fellows to the students of minority-serving institutions. The Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) program is relatively small, with only four awards made during the first two years of the program.  Since then, three additional awards have been made. Dr. Clifton Poodry presented a progress report in response to Council's previously stated concerns regarding the potential career costs to the postdoctoral fellows involved. Initial results show that the IRACDA programs attract a diverse pool of candidates. The postdoctoral fellows' publication rates exceeded those of a comparison group, even though a substantial amount of their time was devoted to teaching. The participating postdoctoral fellows are competitive for academic positions, and the minority-serving institutions have benefited from many new courses offered by the postdoctoral fellows.

XI. Annual Progress Report on the Pharmacogenetics Research Network

Dr. Rochelle Long reported that the initiative titled the Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN) and Knowledge Base is in its fourth year of funding. This multi-disciplinary, broadly-based effort is led by NIGMS and co-funded by five other NIH institutes. In the past year, two sets of independent advisors were brought in to guide NIH and the PGRN. In response to their recommendations, changes in network organization took place, and a goal-setting process was initiated along with timely follow-up actions.  Significant progress has been made with the knowledge base PharmGKB, which now posts linked genotype and phenotype information along with pathways displays. The network has set goals for data deposits, shared resources, and workshops on current topics to engage the scientific community. The next open scientific meeting of the PGRN will be held March 8, 2004 in Los Angeles.  For more information see

XII. Concept Clearance: Systems Biology of Wound Healing Initiative

Dr. Richard Ikeda reported on a Wound Healing workshop co-sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NIGMS, NIDDK, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The workshop, which was held September 22-23, 2003 in Annapolis, Maryland, aimed to identify areas for potential breakthrough discoveries in wound healing. Many opportunities to stimulate new high-impact research were identified. Among areas of opportunity relevant to the NIGMS mission are the involvement of stem cells (embryonic or adult) in wound healing, regeneration (in place of repair processes), and the use/development of small molecules (topical drugs) to augment or replace endogenous growth factors and signaling molecules in an effort to stimulate accelerated wound healing. Workshop participants warned that progress in these areas may be impeded by the current lack of an integrated and comprehensive understanding of the molecular and cellular processes and interactions that occur during normal and abnormal wound healing, and suggested that characterization of the systems biology of wound healing should be of equal priority to targeted high-impact projects. Dr. Ikeda requested, and received, Council approval to request applications for Exploratory Pre-Centers to encourage the formation of multidisciplinary research teams to address the systems biology of wound healing from molecules to skin (including the biofilm that covers the skin), and to assess new and novel strategies for accelerating and improving wound healing or inducing regeneration.

XIII. Concept Clearance: Training in Integrative and Organ Systems Pharmacology

Concerns have been raised in academia and industry about the lack of training that most current graduate students receive in the area of integrative and organ systems science. Too few recent graduates are sufficiently trained in understanding how to choose and use models appropriately. Isolated cellular and molecular components in vitro do not express the complex interactions that occur in vivo. While simulations based on in vitro results contribute to understanding intact systems, there remains a need to conduct experiments with the actual systems. Academic infrastructure in this area has eroded to the point that many institutions no longer have appropriate faculty and facilities to provide appropriate training. Dr. Peter C. Preusch requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting R25 (Education Grant) applications to support a summer short course in this research area.

XIV. Outcome of the Transfer of NIGMS Grants to NIBIB

The formation of the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in 2001 necessitated the transfer of funded grants from a number of NIH Institutes and Centers. Dr. James Cassatt summarized the outcome of the transfer of these funded grants from NIGMS to NIBIB. The initial goal for NIGMS was to transfer grants and the funds associated with them, which totaled $25,000,000. This goal was met by transferring several areas of research to NIBIB in areas consistent with the NIBIB mission statement. These areas included biomaterials, clinical chemistry, tissue engineering, and some areas of drug delivery. Subsequently, another transfer of grants was required. These grants were to be selected from a long list developed by an outside committee of experts that examined abstracts of funded grants in areas relevant to the NIBIB mission. NIGMS elected to transfer grants in basic instrument development related to solid state NMR, EPR, and optical spectroscopy--technologies which impact the core mission of NIGMS in areas of structural biology, protein physical chemistry and enzymology. NIGMS has and will continue to accept secondary assignment on those grant applications central to the core mission of NIGMS.


XV. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, January 23, 2004.


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.
Acting Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council