Advisory Council Minutes, May 22-23, 2014

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred fifty-fifth meeting at 8:31 a.m. on Thursday, May 22, 2014.

Dr. Jon R. Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After a closed session from 8:31 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. on May 22, the meeting was open to the public on May 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:14 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Gail E. Besner, M.D.
Henry T. Greely, J.D.
Alan (Rick) F. Horwitz, Ph.D.
Richard Lalonde, Pharm.D.
Scott J. Miller, Ph.D.
Marc A. Nivet, Ed.D.
Margaret C. Werner-Washburne, Ph.D.
Holly A. Wichman, Ph.D.

Council Members Absent:

David A. Agard, Ph.D.
Mary (Molly) L. Carnes, M.D.
Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D.


Special Consultants Present:

Eric Alani, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of Genetics
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Cornell University
459 Biotechnology Building
Ithaca, NY 14853-2703

Douglas A. Bayliss, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology
Professor of Anesthesiology
University of Virginia
1340 Jefferson Park Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22908

Vasant G. Honavar, Ph.D.
Professor and Edward Frymoyer Chair of Information Sciences and Technology
Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics
Professor of Neuroscience
Pennsylvania State University
301A Information Sciences and Technology Building
University Park, PA 16802

Tarun M. Kapoor, Ph.D.
Pels Family Professor
Head, Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology
The Rockefeller University
1230 York Avenue, Box 202
New York, NY 10065

Alfonso Mondragón, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular Biosciences
Northwestern University
2205 Tech Drive
Evanston, IL 60208-3500

Tom W. Muir, Ph.D.
Van Zandt Williams Class of 65 Chair of Chemistry
Professor and Associated Faculty in Molecular Biology
Department of Chemistry
Princeton University
327 Frick Chemistry Laboratory
Princeton, NJ 08544

Mark Peifer, Ph.D.
Hooker Distinguished Professor
Department of Biology
University of North Carolina
CB#3280, Coker Hall
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

Stephen W. Ragsdale, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Chemistry
University of Michigan Medical School
1150 W. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0606

Shankar Subramaniam, Ph.D.
Professor, Departments of Bioengineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Nano Engineering
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, MC 0657
La Jolla, CA 92093

Council roster (available from NIGMS)

Members of the Public Present

Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, American Society for Cell Biology
Sara Lee Davis
Dr. Adam Fagen, Genetics Society of America
Dr. Howard Garrison, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Dr. Yihan Shao, Q-Chem, Inc.
Dr. Kate Weber, American Chemical Society

Federal Employees Present:


NIGMS and other NIH employees:

Please see the sign-in sheet (available from NIGMS)


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Lorsch thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and then introduced the special consultants: Eric Alani, Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University; Douglas A. Bayliss, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology, professor of anesthesiology, University of Virginia; Vasant G. Honavar, Ph.D., professor and chair of information sciences and technology, professor of bioinformatics and genomics, professor of neuroscience, Pennsylvania State University; Tarun M. Kapoor, Ph.D., professor and head, Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology, The Rockefeller University; Alfonso Mondragón, Ph.D., professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences, Northwestern University; Tom W. Muir, Ph.D., chair of chemistry, professor in molecular biology, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University; Mark Peifer, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina; Stephen W. Ragsdale, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biological Chemistry, University of Michigan Medical School; and Shankar Subramaniam, Ph.D., professor, Departments of Bioengineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Nano Engineering, University of California, San Diego. Dr. Lorsch then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 23-24, 2014, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 18-19, 2014        Thursday-Friday
January 22-23, 2015             Thursday-Friday
May 21-22, 2015                  Thursday-Friday

IV.  NIGMS Director’s Report

Dr. Lorsch updated the Council on staff hires and departures at NIGMS and noted two ongoing searches for the NIGMS deputy director and the director, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity. He alerted the group to “Life: Magnified,” an exhibit of scientific images at Washington Dulles International Airport June through November 2014, and the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program 50th Anniversary Symposium to be held at NIH on July 17, 2014. Dr. Lorsch also discussed various ongoing efforts and strategies to refocus the Institute toward its core mission of supporting investigator-initiated research. He mentioned a current collaborative project with Dr. Eric Green, director, National Human Genome Research Institute, on issues common to the two institutes, particularly database support and management. Dr. Lorsch then discussed NIGMS’ activities related to the NIH Initiative to Enhance Reproducibility and Transparency of Research Findings Link to external Web site. These include support for grants to develop training modules and efforts to enhance cell authentication awareness, tools and methods.

Contact: Dr. Jon R. Lorsch,, 301-594-2172

V. Presentation: Strategies for Scientific Workforce Diversity

The Working Group on Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, called for a newly created position entirely dedicated to diversity and charged with developing a vision and comprehensive strategy to expand recruitment and retention as well as promoting inclusiveness and equity throughout the biomedical research enterprise. Dr. Hannah Valantine has been hired to fill this position, leading NIH’s diversity efforts as its first chief officer for scientific workforce diversity. Dr. Valantine summarized her past career as a cardiologist and her most recent position as senior associate dean for diversity and leadership at Stanford University School of Medicine. She shared her own definition of diversity and its importance for research excellence, and she described the nature and success of diversity enhancement efforts at Stanford. These included interventions to address the academic scientific culture and its direct impact on the pipeline, recruitment and retention. Dr. Valantine concluded her presentation by discussing her goals and plans for promoting scientific workforce diversity at NIH.

Contact: Dr. Hannah Valantine,, 301-451-4296

VI. Presentation: Why New Investigational Drugs Fail So Often and What We Should Do About It

The most important contributing factor to the high cost of new drugs is the high failure rate in clinical drug development, particularly at the “proof of concept” stage in Phase II clinical trials. Pfizer’s Global Head of Clinical Pharmacology, Dr. Richard Lalonde, stated that most drugs fail at this stage because of insufficient efficacy determined during the discovery phase of research. Drug targets are often selected with insufficient understanding of human systems pharmacology—in particular, how modulation of a particular target will result in a desired therapeutic response. Dr. Lalonde presented this problem as having broad societal implications due to delayed access to new medicines for unmet medical needs, greater cost to patients for new medicines, higher insurance rates and taxes to support health care and the inefficient use of drug-discovery resources for drugs that fail.


Contact: Richard Lalonde, Pharm.D.,, 860-441-8517

VII. Concept Clearance: Data Reproducibility Training Modules

Several studies have shown that a surprising number of biomedical research studies cannot be reproduced by other laboratories under conditions detailed in scientific publications. Probable causes for this problem include the complexity of life-science research, which makes it difficult to identify and/or control all the experimental variables that could affect results. Other contributing factors are the culture and pressures to report high-profile biomedical research findings, the effects of unintentional experimental bias, weaknesses in experimental design and interpretation, and insufficient documentation of experimental procedures and results. Dr. Michael Rogers requested, and received, Council approval to solicit research education project (R25) applications for a small grant program to develop exportable training modules focused on good laboratory and research practices to improve data reproducibility. These modules will be designed to be incorporated into research training programs for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty.

Contact: Dr. Michael Rogers,, 301-594-3827

VIII. Presentation: NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository

The NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository provides well-characterized, high-quality human cell lines and DNA for use in biomedical research. The repository, established by NIGMS in 1972, currently contains more than 11,000 cell lines acquired from apparently healthy individuals, individuals with inherited diseases and individuals of diverse geographic origins. The repository also houses a collection of induced pluripotent stem cell lines, including those that carry disease-gene mutations. Dr. Bender provided a summary of the January 2014 NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository Concept Clearance Meeting, at which the group recommended that NIGMS begin the process for competition to fund the repository for an additional 5-year period.


Contact: Dr. Michael Bender,, 301-594-0943

IX. Presentation: PRAT Strategic Plan

The NIGMS PRAT Program represents NIGMS’ only intramural component. Initially intended to train a highly selected group of postdoctoral fellows in pharmacology, the program has evolved in recent years to support fellows in a broader range of biomedical research areas. In view of changes in how research training is conducted in the 21st century and recognizing that the program has evolved over its half-century existence, NIGMS conducted a strategic planning process to continue to optimize the direction of the program for the next 5 years. Dr. Judith H. Greenberg described the plan’s strategic goals to Council and Dr. Jessica Faupel-Badger presented plans for implementing these strategies.

Contacts: Dr. Judith H. Greenberg,, 301-594-0943; Dr. Jessica Faupel-Badger,, 301-451-8786.

X. Public Comment Period

Dr. Adam Fagen, executive director of the Genetics Society of America Link to external Web site, presented an overview of the organization and its support for investigator-initiated research. He noted a recently issued white paper that speaks to the issue and publicly concurred with many current NIGMS strategies to support individual scientists and their laboratories.

Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology Link to external Web site (ASCB), echoed support for NIGMS’ continued focus on investigator-initiated research. He encouraged NIGMS program staff to play an active role in identifying outstanding basic scientists working in areas of importance to the NIGMS mission. Finally, he noted that ASCB has created a reproducibility task force aligned with NIH efforts in this area.

Dr. Howard Garrison, deputy executive director for policy and director of the Office of Public Affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Link to external Web site (FASEB), thanked NIGMS for its service to the biomedical basic research community. He also informed the group that FASEB has created and distributed state-specific fact sheets about the benefits of NIH-funded research on health and on local economies.


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


The meeting adjourned at 12:14 p.m. on May 23, 2014.


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

Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D.
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council

Ann A. Hagan, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council