Advisory Council Minutes, May 25-26, 2017

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred sixty-fourth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

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 8:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. on May 25, the meeting was open to the public on May 26 from 8:31 a.m. to 11:43 a.m.

Council Members Present

Goldie Byrd, Ph.D.
Carmen W. Dessauer, Ph.D.
Samuel H. Gellman, Ph.D.
William Gern, Ph.D.
Kaye Husbands Fealing, Ph.D.
Larry Overman, Ph.D.
Mark Peifer, Ph.D.
Sean B. Seymore, Ph.D., J.D.
Janet L. Smith, Ph.D.
Willem (Wilfred) A. van der Donk, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present

William J. Jusko, Ph.D.
State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
State University of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14214

Tarun Kapoor, Ph.D.
Pels Family Professor
Selma and Lawrence Ruben Laboratory of Chemistry and Cell Biology
The Rockefeller University
New York, NY 10065

Nicholas Reich, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology
School of Public Health and Health Sciences
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003

Karen Schindler, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Genetics
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Piscataway, NJ 08854

Michael Summers, Ph.D.
Distinguished University Professor
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Robert E. Meyerhoff Chair for Excellence in Research and Mentoring
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD 21250

Council roster (available from NIGMS)

Members of the Public Present

Dr. Adam Fagen
JoAnne Goodnight, The Jackson Laboratory
André Porter, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Dr. Yvette Seger, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Dr. Erika Shugart, American Society for Cell Biology
Kevin Wilson, American Society for Cell Biology

NIGMS and Other NIH Employees

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

Other Federal Employees Present



I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Lorsch thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and introduced the special consultants. He then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 26-27, 2017, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 14-15, 2017     Thursday-Friday
January 18-19, 2018          Thursday-Friday
May 24-25, 2018                Thursday-Friday

IV. NIGMS Director’s Report

NIGMS Director Dr. Jon R. Lorsch updated the Council on staff hires and departures at NIGMS and NIH, highlighting the arrival of Dr. Thomas E. Price as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Dr. Tony Beck (formerly of the NIH Office of Research Infrastructure Programs), Science Education Partnership Award program manager, which is now under NIGMS. Dr. Lorsch described a recent NIH visit from Senator Shelley Capito (R-WV), and pointed the Council to the video link of the April 5, 2017, Early Career Investigator lecture. He then announced the June 22, 2017, Workshop on Responsible Communication of Basic Biomedical Research: Enhancing Awareness and Avoiding Hype, cosponsored by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); this event will be videocast.

Dr. Lorsch then provided a summary of the Grant Support Index (GSI), a newly announced NIH policy aiming to promote a stronger and more stable biomedical research workforce and to enhance stewardship of taxpayer dollars . In a time of hypercompetition for NIH grants, increasing age of investigators and a skewed distribution of funding (10 percent of principal investigators [PIs] receive more than 40 percent of all NIH funding), NIH aims to bring the workforce back into equilibrium by working with NIH grant applicants/recipients to limit the total NIH grant support provided to an individual PI through NIH-supported research. Development of the GSI has been informed by data from a variety of sources showing diminishing incremental research output according to extent of grant support and lab size. Additional impetus for the GSI concept comes from recent enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act, which directs the NIH director to promote policies that encourage earlier independence and increased funding for new investigators. However, the new GSI policy will co-exist with current policies to protect early-stage investigators, R56 (“Bridge”) awards and the NIGMS-sponsored Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA) program. The GSI is a measure of PI support that awards points for different funding mechanisms: an R01/U01 is 7 points, and other funding mechanisms are scaled appropriately, based on required commitment. In response to stakeholder feedback and concern, NIH is excluding certain mechanisms from GSI scoring, including training grants and infrastructure awards. Dr. Lorsch noted that a similar policy is being developed for the NIH intramural research program. He also stated that exceptions to the GSI score funding algorithm are expected to be rare and will be negotiated by the NIH director. For a detailed analysis of data informing the development of the GSI policy, visit bioRxiv, where a preprint version of Marginal Returns and Levels of Research Grant Support Among Scientists Supported by the National Institutes of Health is posted for review and comment.

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

V. Update: Center for Scientific Review

Dr. Richard Nakamura, director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR), provided an update of NIH peer-review activities relevant to NIGMS. He also noted that a relatively flat budget climate has reduced NIH’s purchasing power and resulted in declining success rates agency-wide. Dr. Nakamura described CSR-led studies of ranking and scoring grant applications and a collaboration with NIGMS to test a new application-score visualization system. He also described a study to examine the effects of application anonymization on possible racial, gender, seniority and institutional biases. Dr. Nakamura requested suggestions and commentary from the Council on new approaches to peer review.

Contact: Dr. Richard Nakamura, 301-435-1111,

VI. Report: Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) Program

SEPA, an NIH R25 research-education program, supports educational activities that complement or enhance the training of a diverse workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs. Dr. Tony Beck described SEPA’s goals to the Council. These include providing the following: opportunities for students from underserved communities to consider biomedical careers, teacher professional development in science content and teaching skills, community health literacy through science centers and museum exhibits, and the NIH curriculum supplement series. Other supported projects include interactive digital media resources that target STEM and health-related topics such as obesity, viral pandemics or the impact of environmental pollution. Dr. Beck noted that SEPA projects must employ rigorous evaluation metrics.

Contact: Dr. Tony Beck, 301-480-4623,

VII. Evaluation: Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) Program

MIDAS is a collaborative network of research scientists who use computational, statistical and mathematical models to understand infectious-disease dynamics. They then develop methods that will assist the nation to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious disease threats. NIGMS has been funding the MIDAS program since 2004, for a total cost of more than $10 million per year. In 2015, NIGMS contracted the Institute for Defense Analysis Science and Technology Policy Institute to evaluate the impact of the MIDAS program. Dr. Nathan Moore presented the results of this evaluation.

Contact: Dr. Nathan Moore, 301-827-6659,

VIII. Public Comment Period

Dr. Erika Shugart, executive director of the American Society of Cell Biology (ASCB), stated that Dr. Lorsch had updated the ASCB Council on the new GSI policy and that ASCB appreciated NIH’s response to comments and concerns. She also noted that ASCB recently approved a new 5-year strategic plan that underscores two things: the centrality of cell biology (stem cells, medical, cell biology/tissues), and the need to accelerate science outreach to policymakers.

Dr. Yvette Seger, director of science policy at FASEB, noted the organization’s continued interest and involvement in efforts related to NIH’s rigor and reproducibility initiative, also mentioning the June 22, 2017, Workshop on Responsible Communication of Basic Biomedical Research: Enhancing Awareness and Avoiding Hype.

André Porter, policy analyst at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), commented on the group’s sustained support of NIGMS’ mission and programs. ASBMB continues its focus on supporting the biomedical research workforce and maintaining consistent research funding. He encouraged NIGMS to continue to work toward devising new funding mechanisms and opportunities. Porter extended ASBMB’s appreciation of NIH’s responsiveness to concerns and recommendations about the GSI policy and provided two more suggestions of topics to address: possible inequities from decoupling funding from scoring and potentially including non-PIs on subawards.


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


The meeting adjourned at 11:43 a.m. on May 26, 2017.


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