Advisory Council Minutes, May 13-14, 2004

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred twenty-fifth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 13, 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 May 13 from 10:35 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. and was followed by the closed session from 2:35 p.m. until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

Robert L. Becker, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.

Stanley Fields, Ph.D.

Eric Jacobsen, Ph.D.

Corey Largman, Ph.D.

Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.

Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D.

Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.

Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.

Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.

Susan S. Taylor, Ph.D.

Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.

Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

George C. Hill, Ph.D.

Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D.

Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D. (present by phone)

Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.

Special Consultants Present:

I. Kelman Cohen, M.D.
Emeritus Professor
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA

T. Kendall Harden, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Carrboro, NC

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:


Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Eve Barak, National Science Foundation

Dr. Judith Plesset, National Science Foundation

Dr. Kamal Shukla, 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 a new member of Council, Dr. Eric Jacobsen, professor of chemistry and chemical biology, Harvard University. Dr. Berg also welcomed the guests and introduced the two ad hoc consultants: Dr. I. Kelman Cohen, professor emeritus, plastic and reconstructive surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University; and Dr. T. Kendall Harden, professor, department of pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 22-23, 2004 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 9-10, 2004
January 13-14, 2005
May 19-20, 2005
September 22-23, 2005

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced staffing changes at NIH. The National Cancer Institute appointed two new deputy directors in April 2004. Dr. Karen Antman was named deputy director for translational and clinical science and Dr. Mark Clanton was named deputy director for cancer care delivery systems. Dr. Charles E. "Chick" Leasure, Jr. retired from his position as NIH deputy director for management in February 2004. Ms. Colleen Barros was named acting deputy director for management. Dr. Stephen Ficca retired from his position as director of the NIH Office of Research Services in March 2004. Dr. Ann Hagan was named associate director for extramural activities at NIGMS in May 2004. Dr. Derrick Tabor left NIGMS to become the program director for Project Export at the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Dr. Berg also announced that Dr. Mark McClellan was appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He had previously served as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Berhard Schwetz was named head of the HHS Office for Human Research Protections in April 2004.

Dr. Berg described the progress to date regarding the President's budget for fiscal year 2005. He noted that initial hearings have been held in both the Senate and the House and that both sets of hearings were quite supportive of NIH. The momentum that has been established through the period of the doubling of the NIH budget and with the development of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research was clearly noted. Dr. Berg also commented on how Dr. Zerhouni illustrated the management of the NIH over the period of the doubling by noting the reduction in research management and support (RMS) as a percentage of the budget from 4 percent to 3.5 percent. He also described progress toward resolving the employee conflict of interest issues that have arisen for NIH.

Dr. Berg also described two congressionally-mandated meetings that had recently taken place. The first involved a working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director charged with examining basic behavioral research supported across the NIH. This committee is chaired by Dr. Linda Waite, a sociologist from the University of Chicago. The second committee involved representatives from 10 Federal agencies with research interests at the interface between the biological and physical sciences. This meeting was organized through the efforts of Dr. Rod Pettigrew from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and Dr. Denise Caldwell from the Physics Directorate at the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Berg also announced formalization of an Education Interest Group within NIGMS chaired by Dr. Eric Jakobsson. He noted that the group is intended to form a point of contact for education prior to graduate school. He also summarized some of his own other activities including a presentation at the GREAT group meeting of the AAMC and the announcement of the funding of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) components.

V. Update on Reorganization of Center for Scientific Review (CSR)

Dr. Brent Stanfield, acting director of NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR), provided an update on CSR's study section reorganization activities, the unprecedented numbers of applications CSR is receiving for review, and the technologies CSR has adopted to enhance the peer review process. Dr. Stanfield reported that CSR's reorganization, as recommended by the Panel on Scientific Boundaries for Review (PSBR), is continuing to move forward on schedule (see Thus far in the implementation phase of the reorganization, 12 Integrated Review Groups (IRGs) have been completely reorganized, and their component study sections have been created. Guidelines for study sections that will compose the remaining four IRGs to be reorganized have been recommended by the CSR Advisory Committee and approved by the CSR director. All IRGs that will be reorganized as a result of the PSBR process are expected to be established by early 2005. Dr. Stanfield also reported that the PSBR reorganization is taking place at a time when unprecedented numbers of grant applications are being submitted to NIH. In FY 2002, the number of applications received for CSR review increased by 17 percent over the previous year. In FY 2003, the numbers jumped again, by 24 percent. In FY 2004, CSR is on pace to receive yet another record number of applications. Dr. Stanfield discussed innovations in peer review, including distribution of applications to reviewers on CDs instead of paper, and NIH's Internet Assisted Review system. Finally, he spoke about issues related to the review of applications from new investigators. For more information on CSR and to view a video of a mock study section, visit

VI. Update on Large Grant Working Group

The first meeting of the Large Grant Working Group of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council was held on May 12, 2004. The working group, chaired by Dr. Richard Morimoto, includes Council members Dr. Stanley Fields, Dr. Gregory Reyes, and Dr. Susan Taylor, as well as Dr. Douglas Lauffenburger and Dr. Laura Weiss Roberts, both of whom could not attend the first meeting. The meeting focused on general issues related to evaluation of the large NIGMS-funded grant programs, including the glue grants, the Protein Structure Initiative, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network, and the NIGMS Centers of Excellence in Complex Biological Systems Research. The group will plan and implement a process to analyze and evaluate processes, tools, and timing of the review of mechanisms. In addition, the group plans to focus on ways in which the large grants can coordinate efforts and results across programs.

VII. Concept Clearance: Genetic/Genomic Resources for Emerging Models

Several research groups have presented convincing cases that the genome of their chosen model organism deserves to be sequenced. However, obtaining the sequence is only the beginning. The ability to conduct comprehensive functional and comparative analyses often requires additional technology and resource development specific to the model system being studied. Dr. Anthony Carter described a proposed program announcement to support the development of genetic and genomic tools and resources for the study of promising model organisms, whose genomic research is still at an early stage of development. Dr. Carter provided a profile of the general characteristics of model organisms that would be considered responsive to the proposed program announcement, and he presented background information on selection of the R24 (research resource grant) funding mechanism. The program will emphasize research community input and prioritization of needs. Applicants must ensure that reagents, technologies, and resources developed under this initiative will be made widely available to the research community. Applications must include specific plans for data sharing and exercising intellectual property rights. Dr. Carter requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting proposals to seed resource and technology development for promising model systems.

VIII. NIH Roadmap Update

The NIH Roadmap for Medical Research has become a reality. Dr. Berg briefly described the Roadmap process and ongoing implementation efforts. The first grants funded through the Roadmap process were being reviewed during this Council meeting. Dr. Berg summarized the current status of the Roadmap Initiatives for which NIGMS is playing a leading role, including those which are administered by the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology and Structural Biology Implementation Groups. Dr. Berg also discussed the processes in place for extending Roadmap Initiatives beyond FY 2005.

IX. X-Ray Crystallography As Microscopy

Dr. Eaton Lattman made a presentation on X-ray crystallography as microscopy. He began by saying that operation of a generic microscope has three components: (1) learning how to prepare and understand the specimen of interest; (2) using a probe to interrogate the specimen point by point; and (3) implementing a mechanism to process the output of the probe into an enlarged image and learning to understand and interpret these data. X-ray crystallography fits this description well. The first two steps are fairly straightforward; a crystal is the specimen, and an X-ray beam is the probe. Dr. Lattman discussed in some detail the third, more mysterious step, focusing on how X-rays that are diffracted from crystals are converted to images of molecules, and how these images should be understood and interpreted.

X. Overview of NIGMS Budget and Programs

The amount of funds available to support investigator-initiated grants in addition to new, larger-scale programs depends on the overall size of the NIGMS budget and on ongoing commitments to existing programs. Dr. Berg described plans to examine the impact of these commitments, which include both smaller-scale research grants and major initiatives that include the large glue grants, the Protein Structure Initiative, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network, and the NIGMS Center of Excellence in Complex Biological Systems Research. He also discussed plans to examine how funding for the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research may impact the discretionary budget.

XI. Report from the NIGMS Committee Examining Possible Update of the MBRS SCORE Program

During 1996 and 1997 following the creation of the MORE Division, the Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) programs were revamped to create the following programs: Support of Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE), Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement, and Initiative for Minority Student Development. Although these revisions improved program accountability and separated research funding from student development, they have not fully evolved to meet the changing needs of the national biomedical research endeavor and the variety of minority-serving institutions that are eligible for MBRS support. The current SCORE program resembles the original MBRS research program in that it supports meritorious, investigator-initiated, research projects from a wide range of scientific disciplines submitted as part of a program project application. However, the number of components may range from one to 28 subprojects and pilot projects per grant, and eligible institutions vary considerably in size, resources and research capabilities from small, non-research intensive institutions to very large, research-intensive institutions. Dr. Arthur Zachary and Dr. Clifton Poodry distributed a report describing a recent re-examination of the MBRS SCORE program, which was performed by an internal NIGMS committee with staff from the scientific divisions and the scientific review, grants management, and budget offices. Through regional visits and other means of communication, in the coming months NIGMS staff will seek input from current SCORE program participants and report the results at an upcoming Council meeting.


XII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 14, 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