Advisory Council Minutes, May 17-18, 2007

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-fourth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2007. 

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 May 17, the meeting was open to the public on May 18 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Stanley Fields, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Russ Altman, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Bioengineering
Stanford University Medical Center
Stanford, CA 94305

Franklyn Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, MN 55905

Tim B. Schedl, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO 63110

Alasdair Steven, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Structural Biology Research
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

Craig Townsend, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218

Scott A. Waldman, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair and Director
Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and Medicine
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. Robert Berendt, Robert Berendt Associates
Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University
Dr. Pat Kobor, American Psychology Association
Ms. Nancy Moy, SRI International
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Steve Meachan, National Science Foundation
Dr. Lucy Robinson, National Science Foundation
Dr. Junping Wang, 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 welcomed the new Council members: Clifford Houston, Ph.D., associate vice president for educational outreach and the Herman Barnett Distinguished Endowed Professor in Microbiology and Immunology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston; and W. James Nelson, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences and molecular and cellular physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine.  Then he introduced the special consultants: Russ B. Altman, M.D., Ph.D., chair, department of bioengineering, Stanford University School of Medicine; Tim B. Schedl, Ph.D., professor, department of genetics, Washington University School of Medicine; Craig Townsend, Ph.D., professor, department of chemistry, Johns Hopkins University; and Scott A. Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., chair and director, department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics and medicine, Thomas Jefferson University. Franklyn Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D., professor, department of molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, Mayo Clinic, attended via telephone.  Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II.  Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 25-26, 2007, meeting were approved as submitted.

III.  Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 10-11, 2007      Monday-Tuesday
January 24-25, 2008            Thursday-Friday
May 15-16, 2008                   Thursday-Friday
September 18-19, 2008      Thursday-Friday

IV.  Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing the death of Dr. Stephen Straus, a senior advisor to the NIH director and founding director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Dr. Berg announced the appointments of Griffin Rodgers, M.D., as director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and Barbara Alving, M.D., as director of the National Center for Research Resources. He also announced the appointments of Jennifer Spaeth as the new director of the NIH Office of Federal Advisory Committee Policy and Patricia Brown, V.M.D., as the new director of the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

He noted that the President recently nominated Tevi Troy for the position of HHS deputy secretary and Kerry Weems for the position of the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Dr. Berg reported on activities related to the NIGMS Strategic Plan.  He noted that input to the strategic planning process has come from three sources:  1) scientific societies; 2) a Web-based Request for Information; and 3) discussions at a one and one-half day meeting on April 12-13, 2007.  He noted that an initial presentation of the strategic plan will be made at the next Council meeting.  He also gave a short slide presentation similar to the one that he presented at the strategic planning meeting, which provided an overview of the NIGMS budget and programs.

Dr. Berg discussed the presentation of the President's Fiscal Year 2008 budget to Congress. He noted that Dr. Zerhouni presented this budget to the appropriations subcommittees in both the House and the Senate.  Dr. Berg also discussed hearings that Senators Harkin and Specter, the chair and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee, respectively, had been holding, which included a series of other hearings with small groups of Institute directors. He noted that he had participated in a hearing on "Frontiers of Science" with Dr. Francis Collins from the National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Donald Lindberg from the National Library of Medicine, and Dr. Roderic Pettigrew from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.  He mentioned that Dr. Zerhouni and the Institute and Center directors recently held a retreat to plan possible scenarios for the Fiscal Year 2009 budget.

Dr. Berg commented on some recent activities of programs intended to increase the diversity of the biomedical workforce.  He noted that NIGMS has been working to implement many aspects of the Council's working group report on the MORE division programs.  He stated that Dr. Clifton Poodry helped to organize a successful workshop run by the National Academy of Sciences on interventions intended to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in science.  Dr. Berg also discussed his participation in the meeting of the MIT9 President's group involving the senior leadership from Princeton, MIT, and seven other major research universities that was focused on faculty diversity issues.  He noted that he had provided an overview of  NIGMS' programs and listened to their perspectives on the challenges of diversifying their faculties.

Finally, Dr. Berg discussed plans to evaluate the larger programs that NIGMS initiated during the beginning of the budget doubling.  He noted that the first of these evaluations involves the Protein Structure Initiative, whereby an external evaluation committee has been established and will meet on September 24, 2007. 

VI.  Concept Clearance: Development of High Resolution Probes for Cellular Imaging

Recent advances obtained through X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance approaches have greatly increased our knowledge of biological structures. Despite the tremendous value of these studies, information on intracellular molecular dynamics and transient assembly formation has been more difficult to capture. A major barrier to obtaining real-time information on dynamic cellular processes is the lack of sufficiently powerful molecular probes for imaging individual molecules in living cells. Dr. Catherine Lewis proposed to re-announce a Request for Applications (RFA) to support targeted programs to create probes with enhanced spectral characteristics by establishing small teams of chemists, biologists, and spectroscopists to construct new classes of probes. Dr. Lewis requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting proposals for the development of high-resolution cellular imaging probes.
Contact: Dr. Catherine Lewis,, 301-594-0828

VII.  Concept Clearance: Drug Docking and Screening Data Resource

Computational tools to predict how drugs interact with their targets have the potential to speed drug development, but current methods are not reliable. A major roadblock is that not enough experimental data are available to develop and test new tools. To counter this problem, NIGMS plans to establish a Drug Docking and Screening Data Resource containing high resolution structural information about drugs bound to selected target proteins, together with reliable affinity measurements for large groups of chemically related molecules. Industrial and academic groups have declared their willingness to provide existing but unpublished data to launch this effort. The Resource will collect and curate existing data and make it publicly available, generate new data to optimize and complete datasets, and compare docking and screening tools. Dr. Janna Wehrle requested, and received, Council approval to establish the Drug Docking and Screening Data Resource using a U01 cooperative agreement mechanism.
Contact: Dr. Janna Wehrle,, 301-594-0828

VIII.  Update:  Minority Recruitment by Institutional Research Training Grants

NIH requires evaluation by peer review panels and advisory councils of underrepresented minority recruitment and retention plans and efforts on competing institutional research training grant applications. Beginning in 1988, NIGMS began a process whereby after peer review and NAGMS Council input, the NIGMS Committee on Minority Recruitment (CMR) examines each applicant's plans and efforts in underrepresented minority recruitment and retention, and recommends funding actions to the NIGMS director. Over the past 10 years, participation of underrepresented minority trainees on NIGMS training grants has risen from about 6 percent to about 11 percent. However, nationally the number of underrepresented minority students and post-docs in biomedical research training programs remains low, and thus continued progress is essential.   Dr. Shawn Drew presented an update of CMR's efforts.
Contact: Dr. Shawn Drew,, 301-594-3900

IX.  Workshop Report: Metagenomics and the Human Microbiome Project

A series of workshops has recently engaged NIH participation in a discussion for an international Human Microbiome Project (HMP). The HMP has trans-NIH significance because it would promote better approaches to diagnosing disease, developing new therapeutics and therapeutic strategies, and maintaining human health. A microbiome, consisting of the microbes resident in and on other organisms, is an integral part of the animal and plant genetic landscape, having been shaped by co-evolution, and having profound effects on normal functioning. Dr. James Anderson described a set of projects that will help launch the HMP, which will be a key component of an international Metagenome Project.
Contacts: Dr. James Anderson, 301-594-0943; Dr. Matthew Portnoy, 301-594-0943.

X.  Revisiting MORE's Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program

The Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP) encourages recent baccalaureate graduates from groups underrepresented in the biomedical and behavioral sciences to earn Ph.D. degrees in these fields. After two funding cycles, the Institute's MORE Division is proposing changes to make the program more effective. NIGMS staff examined progress reports from existing programs and solicited ideas and suggestions from institutional PREP program directors. Dr. Jermelina Tupas presented the planned PREP revisions, which will appear in a revised funding announcement in June 2007.
Contact: Dr. Jermelina Tupas,, 301-594-3900

XI.  Developments and Opportunities in the Computational Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases

The NIGMS-funded MIDAS (Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study) collaborative grant program develops and applies computational and mathematical models to study the dynamics and control of deliberately introduced or natural infectious disease threats. MIDAS investigators have produced a number of high-profile studies of spread and control of pandemic influenza, which have had a significant impact on policy and pandemic planning. MIDAS steering committee chair Dr. Bryan Grenfell of Penn State University summarized the current state of infectious disease dynamics modeling and discussed the field's future priorities. He noted the need for balancing basic research with the growing pressure for models to provide on-demand input into policy formulation.
Contacts: Dr. Bryan Grenfell,, 814-865-6080; Dr. James Anderson, 301-594-0943

XII.  Modeling Social Behavior in Humans and Model Organisms

Modeling is changing the face of biology, giving scientists tools for understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of living systems from signal transduction pathways to gene networks to cell biology. The significant contribution that modeling has made to rapid progress in these fields suggests modeling approaches may advance the study of social behavior, defined as behavior between or among individuals of the same species. Modeling approaches provide additional tools for testing hypotheses and making predictions, drawing on a large body of knowledge on social organization and behavior based on observation and theory. Dr. Irene Eckstrand reported that NIGMS staff are considering convening an interdisciplinary working group of experts, including sociologists, behavioral scientists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and others, to develop a report on the feasibility, utility, and scope of an initiative on modeling social behavior.
Contact: Dr. Irene Eckstrand,, 301-594-0943


XIV.  Review of Applications

A summary of applications reviewed by Council is attached (Attachment II).


The meeting adjourned at 12:30 p.m. on May 18, 2007.


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