Advisory Council Minutes, May 19-20, 2005

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred twenty-eighth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 19, 2005.

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 19 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:28 p.m. It was followed by the closed session from 8:30 a.m. on May 20 until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.

Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.

Stanley Fields, Ph.D.

Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.

Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.

Corey Largman, Ph.D.

Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.

Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.

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

Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.

Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.

Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

John C. Goodman, Ph.D.

Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.

Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D.

Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Michael S. Levine, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Andrew W. Murray, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

John Newport, Ph.D.
Division of Biology
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Franklyn Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Mayo Clinical Cancer Center
Mayo Clinic and Foundation
Rochester, MN

Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.
Department of Anesthesiology
Duke University School of Medicine
Durham, NC

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. Robert Atcher, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Mr. James Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Dr. Don Burke, Johns Hopkins

Mr. Jamie Cuticchia, RTI

Dr. Stephen Eubank, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute

Mr. Steve Evangelista, SRI International

Dr. Susan Haynes, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Ms. Lynette Hirschman, MITRE Corporation

Ms. Anne Imrie, SAIC

Dr. Tom Marr, University of Alaska

Mr. Steve Naron, IBM

Mr. Joe Pratt, RTI

Mr. Ronald Ruth, Lyncean Technologies Incorporated

Mr. Gary Strong, MITRE Corporation

Ms. Barbara Wanchisen, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Eve Barak, National Science Foundation

Dr. Christopher Greer, National Science Foundation

Dr. Kamal Shukla, National Science Foundation

Ms. Victoria Sutton, HHS Emerging Leaders Program

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 introduced the ad hoc members: Michael Levine, Ph.D., professor, department of molecular and cell biology, University of California at Berkeley; Andrew Murray, Ph.D., professor, department of molecular and cellular biology, Harvard University; John Newport, Ph.D., professor, department of biology, University of California, San Diego; Franklyn Prendergast, M.D., Ph.D., director, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center; and Debra Schwinn, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, surgery, and pharmacology, Duke University School of Medicine.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 13-14, 2005 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 22-23, 2005 — Thursday-Friday

January 26-27, 2005 — Thursday-Friday

May 18-19, 2006 — Thursday-Friday

September 14-15, 2006 — Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced staff appointments at NIH: Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, M.D., was named director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Dr. Antonio Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D., was named director of the Center for Scientific Review; Judith Vaitukaitis, M.D., was named senior advisor to the NIH Director on scientific infrastructure and resources, stepping down from her position as director of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR); while Barbara Alving, M.D. was named acting director of NCRR.

Dr. Berg discussed the current status of the interim final regulations regarding conflict of interest covering NIH employees. He noted that hundreds of comments on the interim regulations had been received and the final regulations were expected to be issued soon.

Dr. Berg discussed the presentation of the President's budget for FY2006 to Congress. He noted that hearings with subcommittees in both the House and the Senate had gone well.

Dr. Berg noted several activities related to training programs at NIH including two reports from the National Research Council (NRC) and an upcoming meeting (on June 7) with program directors regarding training programs supported by NIGMS. The NRC reports are the "Bridges to Independence" report from the committee chaired by Dr. Tom Cech and the regular report on the National Research Service Act (NRSA) chaired by Dr. Gordon Hammes. He noted that NIH staff are now analyzing the reports.

Dr. Berg noted that a meeting with directors of the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) division programs is to take place on June 12-14. He also noted that a working group of the NAGMS council to be co-chaired by Dr. Virginia Zakian is being established to examine the goals of the MORE division programs.

Dr. Berg discussed two areas of controversy involving NIH that have been in the news. The first involves an open letter sent by Dr. Richard Ebright and co-signed by hundreds of microbiology researchers expressing concern about funding of biodefense-targeted research at the expense of broader bacteriological research. He noted that NIH leaders including Dr. Zerhouni had recently met with representatives from the American Society for Microbiology and that initial interactions were planned. An analysis of research supported by NIGMS revealed that no such shift in priorities had occurred. He also discussed the controversy involving NIH and the American Chemical Society (ACS) and its Chemical Abstracts Division regarding the PubChem project launched as part of the Molecular Libraries initiative of the NIH Roadmap. He noted that, in his opinion, these efforts are complementary rather than competitive and that NIH was working with ACS to resolve these issues.

Dr. Berg noted that NIGMS had recently launched two electronic outreach initiatives, The NIGMS Feedback Loop and the Biomedical Beat. He noted that the response from the scientific community had been quite positive and thanked NIGMS staff who were helping with these initiatives for their efforts.

Finally, Dr. Berg noted that Dr. Eric Jakobsson, who had served for 2 years as director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, would be returning to his position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He thanked Dr. Jakobsson for his leadership in moving the Center forward during its formative stages.

V. Update on the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network

Dr. Rochelle Long presented an overview of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN) and its accomplishments over the last funding period. The PGRN held several open meetings, donated materials to the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository, published papers, and jointly developed PharmGKB, a repository for pharmacogenetic/pharmacogenomic information. A standing independent panel of external scientists advises the PGRN. Dr. Long presented to the NAGMS Council the panel's 2004-05 recommendations along with the PGRN's responses. Dr. Long stated that the PGRN is undergoing an open competition for renewal, with new awards anticipated in summer 2005. To view the group's goals, as well as information about individual PGRN investigators, see

VI. Update on the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study

Dr. Irene A. Eckstrand presented an update on the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), which supports research to develop computational models that will assist policymakers, public health workers, and other researchers in making better-informed decisions about emerging infectious diseases. Current MIDAS models are agent-based, taking account of how individual people interact in their daily lives, and focus on disease epidemiology, social networks, and response strategies. Through a group effort, MIDAS has developed computational models of how avian influenza might spread in Southeast Asia and has looked at how various strategies might slow or halt a local outbreak. Results from this work will be published in peer-reviewed journals shortly. MIDAS is beginning work on a U.S. model, a task that will require significant high-performance computing resources and collaboration with other Federal agencies. These modeling activities may become one of the largest computational projects in biology.

VII. HESC Research: Recent Progress and Future Directions of NIGMS Grantees

On April 17-19, 2005, NIGMS hosted a workshop to provide an opportunity for NIGMS grantees conducting human embryonic stem cell (HESC) research to report on their recent progress, to exchange information, and to identify problems, challenges, and opportunities associated with this emerging area of research. The workshop brought together an unusually wide spectrum of scientists working on HESC, reflecting the breadth of basic research supported by NIGMS. In attendance were 68 participants, including NIGMS grantees (R01 awardees, recipients of supplements to research grants, and P20 Exploratory Center grantees), members of their laboratories, outside speakers, and NIH staff. Dr. Marion Zatz summarized the meeting, which featured keynote talks by Dr. Andrew Murray and Dr. Peter Schultz, four scientific sessions, a poster session, and a panel discussion titled, "Scientific and Technical Challenges and Opportunities."

VIII. Update on Minority Recruitment by Institutional Research Training Grants

NIGMS supports the preparation of underrepresented minority students and postdocs for careers in biomedical research through individual fellowships, supplements to research grants, and institutional research training grants. Over the past 10 years, the participation of underrepresented minority trainees has risen, now averaging approximately 11-12 percent.

Dr. Janna Wehrle reported that the number of research training grant programs with extremely poor minority representation (as described in competing applications) is now quite low. Multiple factors contributed to these recent gains. First, the 2002 T32 training program re-announcement included language on the availability of individuals from underrepresented groups as an integral part of applicant pool evaluation. Second, programs for which there are serious concerns have received conditional awards, including intense monitoring throughout the life of the award, and a formal evaluation of minority recruitment progress before the award's last 2 years. With very few exceptions, programs that have received such awards have made substantial improvement in minority recruitment and retention. Third, NIGMS provides resources and lists best practices online.

IX. Concept Clearance: Program Announcement for Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program

Recent data show that more than half of the students from minority groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical sciences are enrolled in institutions granting the associate degree. Since many of these students have the desire and potential to pursue research careers, efforts may be undertaken to improve these students' skills, provide challenging curricula, outstanding mentoring, and active research experiences, along with guidance and financial support. Dr. Adolphus Toliver discussed the NIGMS Bridges to the Baccalaureate program, which meets these needs through partnerships between community colleges granting associate degrees and colleges and universities granting the baccalaureate degree. The Bridges program develops integrated programs to identify underrepresented students and provide them with necessary academic skills to transition to undergraduate degree programs in the biomedical, behavioral, or related sciences. Dr. Toliver presented proposed changes to the Bridges program announcement that broaden the eligibility of students who can participate in this program and allow for better progress toward achieving the program's goals. Dr. Toliver requested, and received, Council approval for making changes to the Bridges to the Baccalaureate program announcement.

X. Concept Clearance: Minority Biomedical Research Support SCORE Program

The long term objectives of the Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) Support of Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) Program are: 1) to increase the research competitiveness of scientists at minority-serving institutions in order to improve their ability to seek funding from other external sources and 2) to enhance the research capacity of minority-serving institutions. Dr. Hinda Zlotnik described proposed changes to the SCORE program, in which the amount of support for research projects submitted by individual investigators will vary according to their developmental stage and objectives. She noted that differential support will also be provided for activities that aim to enhance the institution's research capacity. Research collaborations will be encouraged, to facilitate an individual investigator's progression to a level where they can successfully compete for other external sources of support. Dr. Zlotnik requested, and received, Council approval to make the proposed changes to the SCORE program.

XI.  Concept Clearance: Structural Genomics/PSI Knowledge Base

As identified and discussed at previous NAGMS Council meetings and other venues, a critical need for the upcoming production phase of the NIGMS Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) is to increase the program's impact on the broader scientific community. Dr. Jerry Li stated that this impact will be best measured by the usability and accessibility of PSI products and resources. Currently, most of these resources are maintained in different formats by individual research centers, and there is no single point-of-entry to access this information. To promote information integration, standardization, and dissemination, Dr. Li described plans to create a central PSI Knowledge Base that will accomplish several goals. First, this resource will provide an integrated, central information repository and Web portal for PSI targets, structures, computational models, computer programs, experimental methods and results, materials, publications, and other PSI deliverables. Second, the PSI Knowledge Base will create a unified, functional annotation platform that transforms structural information into functional insight and knowledge consumable by a broader research community. Third, the PSI Knowledge Base will provide an outreach interface for target solicitation and community annotation. Fourth, it will enable the organization of technical workshops, courses, and other training programs to actively disseminate knowledge. Dr. Li requested, and received, Council approval to support the development of the PSI Knowledge Base using a U01 cooperative agreement mechanism.

XII. Concept Clearance: PSI Materials Repository

Over the next 5 years, the PSI will provide a wealth of new structural information that will be used to better understand sequence-structure relationships, protein family and evolutionary relationships, and to predict unknown structures. The PSI centers will not, however, routinely perform functional studies on the proteins that are cloned and expressed. Currently, public information about and accessibility to PSI materials is limited. To provide better access to these resources, NIGMS plans to establish a PSI Materials Repository to store and distribute clones generated by PSI centers. The goals of the repository include centralizing, coordinating, standardizing, and archiving materials from PSI-1 and PSI-2 Centers. In addition, the repository will provide direct links to the PSI Knowledge Base and other related databases. Outreach and advertisement of the resource will maximize usage of PSI-generated materials by the outside community, increasing the overall impact of the PSI. Dr. Cathy Lewis requested, and received, Council approval to establish the PSI Materials Repository.

XIII. Concept Clearance: NIGMS AIDS Structural Biology Program

Although the structures of many HIV proteins have been determined by X-ray diffraction and NMR, only a few structures of HIV components complexed with cellular components have been determined. Nonetheless, these complexes provide attractive targets for new generations of anti-AIDS drugs. Dr. James Cassatt proposed a plan to fund two centers focused upon the structural determination of complexes between HIV proteins and cellular components. These centers would take advantage of the technologies developed through PSI by setting up automated procedures for cloning, expression, and structure determination. Structures to be determined would originate from the PSI centers themselves as well as from individual research grants (R01s and R21s) linked to the centers. The linked R01s and R21s, which are expected to provide a wide range of expertise that would be coordinated with that of the centers, would be funded through a separate announcement issued by the NIAID Division of AIDS Research. Dr. Cassatt requested approval to initiate plans for establishing the AIDS Structural Biology Centers; however, Council decided to table further discussion on the Centers until its September 2005 meeting.

XIV. Concept Clearance: Collaborative Research for Genetic and Genomic Studies of Basic Behavior in Animal Models

Dr. Laurie Tompkins described plans to stimulate collaborative research that investigates the mechanisms underlying behavior in any nonhuman vertebrate or invertebrate animal except for primates. The purpose of the planned program announcement (soliciting R01 and R21 applications) is to facilitate collaborations between behavioral scientists and investigators with expertise in state-of-the-art genetics, molecular biology, and genomics. Dr. Tompkins noted that anticipated outcomes of this effort include enhancement of existing animal models or the development of new models that represent normal or abnormal human behavior. The collaborations will consist of one investigator who is a basic behavioral scientist with little or no experience doing genetic, molecular, or genomic analysis of any phenotype, and another investigator who is an expert in genetics, genomics, and/or molecular biology but has little or no experience analyzing behavior. Dr. Tompkins requested, and received, Council approval for issuing a program announcement to establish collaborations among behavioral scientists and genetic/genomic researchers.


XV. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:40 p.m. on Friday, May 20, 2005.


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