Advisory Council Minutes, May 15-16, 2003

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred twenty-second meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, 2003.

Dr. Judith Greenberg, acting 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 15 from 11:02 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. and was followed by the closed session from 4:10 p.m. until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

John N. Abelson, Ph.D.
Robert L. Becker, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.
Jay C. Dunlap, Ph.D.
George C. Hill, Ph.D.
Corey Largman, Ph.D.
Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.
Laura Roberts, M.D.
Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.
Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.
Susan S. Taylor, Ph.D.
D. Amy Trainor, Ph.D.
Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Richard M. Weinshilboum, M.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Thomas M. Michel, M.D., Ph.D.
Cardiology Section
VA Boston Healthcare System
Harvard Medical School
West Roxbury, MA

Jeffrey W. Roberts, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. James Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Mr. Andrew Hawkins, FDC Reports
Ms. Pamela S. Moore, Capitol Publications
Ms. Patricia Soochan, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Mr. Alec Stone, American Association of Anatomists
Mr. Andrew Quon, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Mr. Robert Yuan, National Research Council

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Karl Koehler, National Science Foundation
Dr. Michael Steuerwalt, 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. Judith Greenberg called the meeting to order. She welcomed the guests and introduced the two ad hoc consultants: Dr. Thomas M. Michel, professor, Cardiology Section, Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jeffrey W. Roberts, professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 23-24, 2003 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 11-12, 2003
January 22-23, 2004
May 13-14, 2004
September 9-10, 2004

IV. Report from the Acting Director, NIGMS

Dr. Greenberg announced that NIGMS' long-time budget officer, Earl Hodgkins, would be leaving on June 2 after 32 years at NIGMS, and that Nancy Vess, the deputy budget officer, would become acting budget officer. (She subsequently was selected to be the NIGMS budget officer.) Dr. Greenberg also announced several appointments in the Office of the Director, NIH: Dr. Raynard S. Kington, deputy director, NIH; Donald Poppke, director, Office of Budget; John Burklow, director, Office of Communications and Public Liaison; Dr. Mark L. Rohrbaugh, director, Office of Technology Transfer; and Robert Hosenfeld, director of the Office of Human Resources. Recent appointments in the Department of Health and Human Services include Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and Dr. Bernard A. Schwetz, acting director of the HHS Office for Human Research Protections.

Dr. Greenberg expressed her sorrow at the loss of Council member Dr. Ira Herskowitz, who died on April 28. Dr. Corey Largman spoke on behalf of the Council about Dr. Herskowitz's personal qualities.

Finally, Dr. Greenberg reported that the NIH appropriations bill for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2002, was finally signed in February. NIGMS' share of the budget is $1.847 billion, an increase of nearly 9 percent over FY 2001. This will enable the Institute to maintain a success rate for R01's of better than 30 percent and to provide increases in stipends for trainees and fellows. Stipends for predoctoral trainees and the first three levels of postdoctoral fellows and trainees will increase by 10 percent, and by 4 percent for the remaining five postdoctoral levels. Stipends for MARC U*STAR trainees will go up by 3 percent. For FY 2004, the President has proposed a budget of $1.923 billion for NIGMS. This represents an increase of 4 percent over the FY 2003 level.

V. Re-Engineering the Training of Biologists

Dr. James Cassatt of the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics reported on emerging areas within life sciences research that transcend traditional academic boundaries and require interdisciplinary approaches that integrate biology, mathematics, and physical and computer sciences. Unfortunately, undergraduate programs in most of the country's colleges and universities are not yet preparing students with the necessary set of skills to enter these new interdisciplinary fields. This point was made recently by the National Research Council of the National Academies in a report titled "BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists". The report calls for important changes in undergraduate biology training, especially for better preparation in mathematics, physics, and other quantitative sciences. At the Council meeting, several NIGMS staff members described activities at NIGMS and other federal and private institutions to enhance quantitative approaches in biology education.

Dr. John Jungck of Beloit College then presented an overview of the state of undergraduate quantitative biology education. The presentations and the "BIO2010" report provided the context for a Council discussion that followed on adding the quantitative sciences to undergraduate education in biology.

VI. Concept Clearance: Cellular Imaging Initiatives

Drs. Catherine Lewis and James Deatherage of the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics described how recent growth in atomic-level structural information, obtained through X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, has greatly increased our knowledge of biological structures. Despite the tremendous value of this information, however, little is known about molecular movement, intracellular molecular dynamics, and the formation of transient assemblies inside the living cell. Temporal or spatial relationships between individual molecules as they move within the cell cannot be captured by examining isolated static structures in vitro or by analyzing indirect biochemical or genetic data. Dynamic imaging of molecules in vivo will be required to track structural changes over time and to obtain direct information about native structures within the cell. Such information will extend and validate current knowledge on individual molecular structures and will add the dimensions of time and 3-dimensional intracellular space.

Although many laboratories are eager and poised to carry out this type of study, the necessary tools are not well developed. Numerous advances will be needed to address the current bottlenecks. Technology development in spectroscopy and optical microscopy will be required to improve instrumentation for higher-resolution imaging; to create new probes with enhanced spectral properties; and to generate innovative, high-throughput methods for image and data acquisition. New imaging modalities need to be explored. Methods for molecular and cellular imaging in vivo will become increasingly dependent on more sophisticated computational tools to store, process, and model complex data sets. Systems-level mathematical representations of cellular dynamics, complex structures, and molecular movement will be necessary. To achieve these goals, new programs will be required to support targeted strategies for high-risk approaches and multidisciplinary collaborative projects to address technological barriers. Dr. Lewis requested, and received, clearance from Council for a request for applications to develop fundamentally new labels with enhanced spectral characteristics for higher-resolution in vivo imaging. Council members also expressed support for a program announcement proposed by Dr. Deatherage to stimulate research in technology development for molecular and cellular imaging in vivo.

VII. Concept Clearance: Human Genetic Cell Repository Contract

Dr. Richard Anderson of the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology reported on the history of the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository contract, which began in 1972 to facilitate research in human genetics. The repository, which is housed at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, NJ, collects cell samples from people with biochemical and cytogenetic disorders, establishes cell lines from the samples, and distributes the cell lines and DNA samples from the cell lines to researchers. Over the past 31 years, the repository has greatly expanded its array of high-quality cell lines to more than 8,700, representing a broad range of human genetic conditions. The repository has also evolved in response to the changing needs of the genetic research community. Recently, in order to meet the demand from investigators involved in the study of normal human genetic variation, the repository established panels of cell lines derived from samples obtained by members of identified populations. DNA extracted from these lines is now being used in academic and industrial laboratories throughout the world. Dr. Anderson informed Council members that the current repository contract ends in September 2004. He requested, and received, Council approval to recompete the contract for another 5-year period.

VIII. Allostasis and the Response to Injury

Dr. Scott Somers of the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry reported on how two seemingly similar patients can have almost exactly the same type and degree of severe traumatic injury yet have very different outcomes, with one recovering without incident and the other having serious complications, possibly leading to death. Investigators are actively exploring various explanations for this dichotomy, including the possibility that an individual's emotional, psychological, behavioral, and sociological status could play important roles. Dr. Somers also reported on a March 20-21, 2003, workshop co-sponsored by NIGMS and the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research that focused on this area, particularly whether the "wear and tear" of living, termed allostatic load, can cause significant alterations in the programmed physiological response to injury. Allostatic load, which includes many different types of stress, has been actively studied in a variety of chronic disease conditions, such as coronary heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Scientists with expertise in this field have not yet thought about injury, nor have trauma specialists considered allostatic load. Following a lively exchange of ideas, meeting participants reached a consensus that there is considerable of potential for meaningful studies of allostatic load and the response to injury, but that it is unlikely that investigators are ready to submit fully integrated applications. Thus the group decided that disseminating the summary of the March meeting and holding additional educational meetings would benefit all research communities.

IX. Report: E. coli Information Resources Workshop

Dr. James Anderson of the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology reported that a group of researchers and database experts with diverse scientific interests convened on March 24-25, 2003, to review and critique the current status of informatics resources centered on the model organism E. coli. The meeting was organized to widen community involvement in redrafting a white paper on informatics previously submitted to NIH by the E. coli consortium. The participants arrived at a consensus that substantial improvement of informatics-related resources are required to realize the scientific benefits of the deep knowledge that exists for E. coli. The group created a list of priority needs and a plan to formalize these needs in a new document that would be submitted to NIH. The group also committed to developing a communications network that would involve broad representation of the E. coli and related organism research communities in order to assure wide agreement with the plan. Dr. Susan Gottesman of the National Cancer Institute agreed to lead these activities.

X. Concept Clearance: Planning for the Protein Structure Initiative

Dr. John Norvell of the NIGMS Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics described the progress of the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) at the midpoint of the 5-year pilot phase. The nine PSI research centers are routinely monitored by NIGMS staff and receive additional scrutiny by the PSI Advisory Committee (PSIAC), a working group of Council. At the November 2002 PSIAC meeting, committee members found impressive advances in the construction of the structural genomics pipeline and the development of necessary technology and methodology. They also noted a good start in solving structures. At a subsequent meeting in March 2003, the PSIAC reviewed progress made by the individual PSI research centers and began to discuss aspects of the design of the second, production phase of the PSI, which is scheduled to begin in mid-2005. Dr. Norvell then discussed plans for the production phase. Council members requested data on the efficiency of PSI centers in obtaining structures and the impact of the PSI on the field of structural biology. The Council will revisit the concept clearance for the production phase at its next meeting.

XI. Plans for Glue Grants Renewals

The glue grant program (Large-Scale Collaborative Project Awards) was begun in FY 2000, with the first award made in September of that year. Three additional awards were made in September of FY 2001. The first renewal application for these awards will be due in a little over a year. NIGMS has begun planning for these renewals, and Dr. Michael Rogers of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry presented a number of issues regarding the receipt, review, and award of glue grant renewal applications. The Institute has also begun planning guidelines for the termination of these large-scale awards, both at the renewal stage (if the renewal application is unsuccessful) and at the end of 10 years of funding (the maximum length for a glue grant). Finally, Dr. Rogers reported that NIGMS staff are aware that glue grant-generated resources may be desirable to continue beyond the termination of an award, and will be considering various options.

XII. Concept Clearance: Multidisciplinary Conference Grants

Dr. Michael Rogers presented a proposed program announcement to encourage the submission of grant applications for conferences that bring together scientists from disparate scientific disciplines. NIGMS currently provides for the support of scientific meetings through both conference grants (R13) and cooperative agreements (U13), as discussed at In general, scientific meetings must not only be in the areas supported by NIGMS, but must also be of special interest and opportunity for the Institute, and potential applicants must submit a letter of intent prior to an application. In recent years, NIGMS has established several new mechanisms to support groups of investigators who wish to work as multidisciplinary teams. For the purposes of this announcement, multidisciplinary means research relevant to the mission of NIGMS and spanning the disciplines of biological, physical, and/or computational sciences. Most current scientific meetings attract audiences from similar scientific backgrounds and do not facilitate interactions among scientists from disparate scientific backgrounds. Partly as a result, the relationships required to establish heterogeneous teams of scientists are most often forged on an ad hoc basis. NIGMS believes that supporting multidisciplinary conferences will facilitate the interactions and networking necessary for the development of multidisciplinary teams of the future. The Council approved the proposed program announcement.

XIII. The Programs of the MORE Division

Dr. Clifton Poodry of the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) provided an overview of the current programs supported by the Division. He indicated which programs support research and which programs support student development. He referred to the table on page 3 of the publication Scientists for the 21st Century, which is no longer available online (see "Program Overview by Career Stage"). Dr. Poodry also described eligibility criteria for MORE programs and how students typically are selected.

XIV. Report of Council Working Group on MORE

Council member Dr. George Hill reported on a meeting of the Council Working Group on MORE that took place on March 25, 2003. The meeting began with presentations by MORE staff members on the rationale for current program policies, the demographics of MORE-supported institutions, and the distribution of MORE awards. Members of the Working Group discussed a wide range of topics before focusing on two issues to bring to the attention of the full Council:

  1. There needs to be greater tracking of students participating in various MORE programs, and this information needs to be used in evaluating the programs as well as the funded institutions.
  2. The MORE Division should consider ways to address transitional points of risk during the career development of minority faculty members (undergraduate to graduate student, Ph.D. to initial faculty position, and SCORE recipient to R01 recipient). Council members requested that NIGMS staff follow up on these recommendations and report their progress at the next Council meeting.

XV. Council Initiated Discussion


XVI. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 4:10 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2003.


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

Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D.
Acting Chair
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council
Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council