Advisory Council Minutes, May 21-22, 2009

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred fortieth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 21, 2009.

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 5:20 p.m. on May 21, the meeting was open to the public on May 22 from 8:28 a.m. to 11:35 a.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Bonnie Berger, Ph.D.
Professor of Applied Mathematics
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139

Mitzi I. Kuroda, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics and Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02115

James S. Schwaber, Ph.D.
Director and Daniel Baugh Endowed Professor
Daniel Baugh Institute for Functional Genomics/Computational Biology
Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology
Jefferson Medical College
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA 19107

James L. Stevens, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow, Toxicology
Lily Research Laboratories
Greenfield, IN 46140

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. John Godwin, National Science Foundation
Dr. Tanya Vassilevska, National Science Foundation
Dr. Elizabeth Vierling, 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 then he introduced the special consultants: Bonnie Berger, Ph.D., professor of applied mathematics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Mitzi I. Kuroda, Ph.D., professor, Department of Genetics and Medicine, Harvard Medical School; James S. Schwaber, Ph.D. director and Daniel Baugh Endowed Professor, Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University; and James L. Stevens, Ph.D., senior research fellow, toxicology, Lily Research Laboratories. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 22-23, 2009, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 10-11, 2009 Thursday-Friday
January 21-22, 2010 Thursday-Friday
May 20-21, 2010 Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing several key appointments within the Department of Health and Human Services and at NIH. These include the appointments of Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Bill Corr as deputy secretary, Margaret Hamberg as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Thomas Frieden as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mary Wakefield as the administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, Yvette Roubideaux as director of the Indian Health Service, David Blumenthal as national coordinator for health information technology, Rodney Ulane as director of the NIH Office of Scientific Programs and NIH training officer, and Donna Krasnewich as a program director in the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology.

Dr. Berg noted that Executive Order 13505 "Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells" had been issued on March 9, 2009, and that draft NIH guidelines on human stem cell research had been released for comment. He urged Council members to post comments by the closing date of May 26, 2009. He also noted that the extramural conflict of interest policy "Proposed Amendment of Regulations on the Responsibility of Applicants for Promoting Objectivity in Research for which Public Health Service Funding is Sought and Responsible Prospective Contractors" had been released May 8, 2009, and that comments could be posted through July 7, 2009.

Dr. Berg reminded the Council that many actions that stemmed from the NIH Enhancing Peer Review initiative were in the process of being implemented and noted the availability of resources for reviewers and applicants at the Enhancing Peer Review Web site (

Dr. Berg noted several additional trans-NIH activities. These included a new initiative led by
Dr. Berg in conjunction with Dr. Richard Hodes, the director of the National Institute on Aging, related to basic behavioral and social sciences that was in a formative stage, termed the "Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network" and a program on "Research on Causal Factors and Interventions that Promote and Support Careers of Women in Biomedical and Behavioral Science and Engineering" that emerged from the NIH Committee on Women in Biomedical Careers. He also noted that several activities related to training and workforce development were active within NIGMS and across NIH.

Dr. Berg briefly updated the Council on the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) and the plans for the new PSI: Biology initiative for which one request for applications has been released and more were expected to be released soon.

Dr. Berg noted that members of the NIGMS-supported Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) have been engaged in efforts to understand and model the ongoing outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

Dr. Berg announced that the NIGMS Feedback Loop, an electronic newsletter, had been converted to an interactive Web site (available at He stated that he hoped that this would increase the ability of NIGMS staff to provide useful information to the scientific community in an effective and timely manner.

Dr. Berg described the NIH appropriation for fiscal year 2009 which included a 2.7 percent increase for NIGMS and a 3.2 percent increase for NIH overall. He noted that the President's budget request for fiscal year 2010 includes an increase of 1.3 percent for NIGMS and an increase 1.4 percent for NIH overall.

Finally, Dr. Berg described the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and noted that its primary purposes are to stimulate the economy, to increase and preserve jobs and to advance biomedical research. He noted that $7.4 billion of ARRA funds were allocated to the NIH institutes and centers and that much of these funds would be used to fund grant applications that had already been submitted and reviewed, as well as to support administrative supplements to ongoing research grants. In addition, he briefly described new funding opportunities including extramural facilities improvement grants, instrumentation grants, challenge grants, grand opportunity (GO) grants, faculty start-up (P30) grants and competitive revisions. He noted that both NIH and NIGMS had developed resources on their Web sites that were intended to make information about opportunities and outcomes from ARRA funding readily available. He expressed gratitude for the great opportunities provided by the administration and Congress through ARRA and noted some of the challenges both for the scientific community and for NIH staff in implementing ARRA activities quickly.

V. Concept Clearance: Dynamics of Host-Associated Microbial Communities

Microorganisms are the dominant occupants and architects of our entire biosphere, and they comprise over 90 percent of the cells in the human body. The NIH Roadmap recently initiated the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), which will generate massive amounts of sequencing data reflecting microbial community composition from five human niches, and a handful of normal and diseased states. However, the HMP will not provide insight into the basic principles that govern the formation and persistence of host-associated microbial communities. A November 2008 conference sponsored by NIGMS identified a strong need for genetic, physiological, and ecological studies in this area. Dr. Shiva Singh requested, and received, Council approval to issue a solicitation for applications addressing the dynamics of host-associated microbial communities.

Contact: Dr. Shiva Singh,, 301-594-3900

VI. Update: Council Working Group for Training and Faculty Development

Council member Dr. Howard Garrison provided an update of the activities of the Council's Working Group for Training and Faculty Development. NIGMS assembled this group to invite and maintain a dialogue on training and diversity issues that impact the Institute. The Working Group has recently instituted regular conference calls and held a half-day meeting on May 20, 2009, to discuss issues raised by Council and NIGMS staff.

Contact: Dr. Howard Garrison,, 301-634-7000

VII. Final Report: Diversity Supplement Program

NIH recognizes the unique and compelling need to promote diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, clinical and social sciences research workforce. As part of the effort to achieve this goal, the NIH Diversity Supplement Program provides supplemental funding to current NIH grantees to recruit scientists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, with disabilities, and from disadvantaged backgrounds for a research training experience in their laboratories. NIGMS has been an active participant in this NIH-wide effort, contributing 10 percent of all funding since the program was established in 1989. To justify continued program support, NIGMS contracted with Abt Associates to conduct a needs assessment study of its Diversity Supplements program. Dr. John Whitmarsh provided a summary of the findings and recommendations of this assessment.

Contact: Dr. John Whitmarsh,, 301-451-6446

VIII. Dying Late As Young As Possible: Stem Cells, Longevity and Regeneration

Organisms possessing relatively long life spans have evolved a series of renewal and repair mechanisms to respond to both trauma and normal wear and tear. For example, under normal physiological conditions, the functions of many organs depend on the continuous destruction and renewal of cells. In some organisms, adult tissues and organs can be fully restored after amputation. Despite the importance of tissue homeostasis and regeneration to human biology and health, relatively little is known about how these processes are regulated. Studying simpler animals with extensive tissue turnover and regeneration capacities, which are also accessible to experimental manipulation, can offer insights. One such animal is the planarian, an organism known by generations of biologists to possess uncanny developmental plasticity. Dr. Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado of the University of Utah discussed his research program that employs the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea.

Contact: Dr. Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado,, 801-581-3548


IX. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m. on May 22, 2009.


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