Advisory Council Minutes, September 14-15, 2006

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-second meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 14, 2006.

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 4:55 p.m. on September 14, the meeting was open to the public on September 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:50 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Stanley Fields, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, NC 27710

Robert Landick, Ph.D.
Department of Bacteriology
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI 53706

Douglas Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
Biological Engineering Division
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. Jim Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Dr. David Botstein, Princeton University
Dr. Edward Dennis, University of California San Diego
Ms. Jesika McKenzie, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences
Ms. Michelle Rodrigues, SRI

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 special consultants: Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and cancer biology and vice dean for basic science, Duke University School of Medicine; Robert Landick, Ph.D., professor of bacteriology, University of Wisconsin; and Douglas Lauffenburger, Ph.D., professor and director of the division of biological engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former member of Council. Then he introduced and welcomed the guests.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 18-19, 2006, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 25-26, 2007
May 17-18, 2007
September 10-11, 2007

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced that President Bush announced his intention to appoint John E. Niederhuber, M.D., as director of the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Niederhuber joined NCI in September 2005 and began serving as the institute's acting director in June 2006.

He announced that Ms. Suzanne Servis was appointed director of the NIH Office of Management Assessment. This office covers areas ranging from program integrity and management controls to best practices and organizational analysis. He also announced that Ms. Ann Brewer was named director of the NIH Executive Secretariat, a position she had held on an acting basis since November 2004.

Dr. Berg announced the addition of two new program directors to the NIGMS staff in the MORE Division. They are Jermelina Tupas, Ph.D., who was most recently at NSF and had previously held academic positions at the University of Hawaii at Manoa; and Alberto Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D. who was an associate professor of biology at the Universidad del Turabo in Puerto Rico.

Dr. Berg noted that Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, announced that he would resign his position. A successor has not yet been named. In addition, the four-year term of Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., ended in July 2006. The acting Surgeon General is Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Berg noted an important development affecting training programs supported by NIH. On August 4, the NIH released a revised policy regarding tuition, fees, and health insurance costs (see The key elements of this policy include: 1. Health insurance is now part of the training-related expenses budget category with additional amounts of $2,000 per predoctoral student and $4,000 per postdoctoral student are permitted to cover or help defray these costs. 2. The formula for calculating tuition payments has been changed from $3,000 plus 60% of any amount in excess of $3,000 to 60% of all tuition charges up to a cap of $16,000 for Ph.D. programs or $21,000 for dual-degree programs. Furthermore, the policy reiterates the previous policy in noting that institutions are allowed to rebudget costs between the stipend and tuition/fees categories.

This policy is intended to slow the loss of training positions associated with rapid growth in tuition costs during times of highly constrained training budgets while recognizing the most difficult to control costs to institutions. Responses will be tracked and evaluated after data are available for 2 years under the new policy.

Dr. Berg thanked Drs.Warren Jones, John Norvell, and Jim Onken of NIGMS, as well as Drs. Norka Ruiz Bravo, Walter Goldschmidts, and Peter Preusch in the NIH Office of Extramural Activities, for their efforts in getting this policy launched.

Dr. Berg also noted that NIH and NIGMS released new program announcements regarding training grants. He noted the following special requirements for NIGMS T32 training grant applications:

  1. Describe the mission and objectives of the program to be supported by the training grant.
  2. Describe how the proposed training grant fits into the institution's overall graduate training programs: how is it unique from other existing predoctoral training programs?
  3. Describe collaborative and interdisciplinary features of the proposed training program.
    For ongoing programs, has training in any scientific disciplines or fields been added or deleted?
  4. Describe any innovative features or activities that will be provided for trainees.
  5. Do the prospective trainees have adequate quantitative backgrounds relevant to the proposed training to pursue cutting-edge biomedical research?
    Describe what the training program does to ensure that students have appropriate quantitative graduate training.
  6. Describe how the training program provides opportunities for exposure to topics related to human health, physiology, and disease.

Dr. Berg commented on the preparations for the next phase of the Roadmap to be launched in fiscal year 2008. He noted that NIH is now reaching out to the scientific community for ideas about areas NIH should consider for developing trans-NIH activities or initiatives. This outreach includes three components. First, a series of meetings with diverse groups of about 20 scientists each have been or are soon to be held here.

Dr. Berg noted that he and Dr. Story Landis, director, National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, are chairing such a meeting on September 26, 2006. Second, each NIH institute and center recently submitted up to five potential initiatives for consideration. Third, a broad Request for Information (RFI) will be released early in October to solicit comments and other ideas from the scientific community at large. All of these ideas will be clustered and prioritized with the goal of developing new initiatives for funding in fiscal year 2008. The funds to support these new initiatives will come from within the previously developed and approved Roadmap budget.

Dr. Berg also noted that the second phase of the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) is in full swing with the large-scale centers have been working together quite closely to refine their target selection strategy with the goal of getting broad coverage of large and important protein families. The specialized centers are also now quite active and the efforts of the entire network are being integrated in appropriate ways. He also commented on two additional PSI activities. The PSI Materials Repository that will serve to make available and preserve the large number of expression clones and selected other materials that have been and are being developed by the PSI centers should soon be operational. He noted that NIGMS is planning to release a slightly modified Request for Applications (RFA) for the PSI Knowledge Base as soon as possible.

Dr. Berg highlighted the second annual NIH Pioneer Symposium to be held on September 19, 2006. All 13 awardees from last year will be making short scientific presentations and the 2006 Pioneer Awards will be announced by Dr. Zerhouni. He thanked the NIGMS Pioneer team: Dr. Judith Greenberg, Shan McCollough, Ann Dieffenbach, Stacy Charland, Marcia Cohn, and Dr. Warren Jones, as well as the other members of the High-Risk Research Roadmap implementation work group, who worked very hard to make this year's Pioneer program a success.

Finally, Dr. Berg commented on the status of the NIH budget for next year. He noted that both the House and Senate committees have passed budgets with modest increases for NIH and NIGMS, but no bills have passed either the House or the Senate.

V. Update: Systems Biology Centers

In recent years, NIGMS has created a set of initiatives to promote quantitative, interdisciplinary approaches to problems of biomedical significance. Dr. Jerry Li coordinated a presentation that featured progress reports from two NIGMS-funded Systems Biology Centers. Dr. Peter Sorger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who leads the Center for Cell Decisions Processes, described the Center's aim to understand mammalian signal transduction from a systems perspective using experimentally verified mathematical models. Ongoing modeling efforts are being expanded to increase the biological complexity of experimental settings and to incorporate newly developed microdevices to collect data that cannot be obtained easily using conventional methods. Dr. Sorger stated that in pursuit of its scientific goals, the Center has three facets: 1. interdisciplinary, high risk-high impact research; 2. training and education at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels; and 3. outreach to a broad audience, particularly in disadvantaged and minority communities. Dr. Sorger highlighted the value-added nature of the Center's activities as compared to individually funded investigator grants. Dr. David Botstein of Princeton University, who leads the Center for Quantitative Biology, highlighted recent progress. Dr. Botstein reported that the Center's newly integrated introductory undergraduate education program for students interested in research careers in physics, chemistry, biology, or computer science is thriving and is now a permanent element of the university curriculum. He also reported on the customized design and construction of novel imaging instruments that permit new biological measurements and noted that the Center has become a leader in combining metabolic pool and flux data with gene expression studies.

Contacts: Dr. Peter Sorger,, 617-252-1648; Dr. David Botstein,, 609-258-7005; Dr. Jerry Li,, 301-594-0828.

VI. Update: The LIPID MAPS Approach to Lipidomics

The NIGMS "glue grant" program was put into place to enable large-scale biomedical research projects by bringing diverse groups of scientists together. Dr. Edward Dennis of the University of California, San Diego, provided a progress report on one such glue grant, the LIPID MAPS Consortium. This project seeks to identify and measure the amounts of all lipids within a cell and to build maps characterizing each lipid's life cycle and interactions. Dr. Dennis, who leads the effort, described the group's global, integrated approach to the study of lipidomics that employs an extensive informatics infrastructure and is distributed among six cores: fatty acyls, glycerolipids, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, sterol lipids, and prenol lipids. Dr. Dennis summarized recent progress from one of the cores as an example, reporting new liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry results on eicosanoid lipids. He also discussed the development of metabolite and pathway maps and described correlations of lipid metabolite changes across various lipid categories. More information on LIPID MAPS.

Contacts: Dr. Edward Dennis,, 858-534-3055; Dr. Jean Chin,, 301-594-0828.

VII. NIH's Strategic Vision

NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni discussed the NIH's current strategic vision for balancing priorities in challenging times. Currently, the NIH is focusing on five key principles: 1. protecting NIH's core mission of discovery and the generation of new knowledge; 2. protecting the future through addressing the needs of new investigators; 3. focusing on the grants supply/demand imbalance; 4. proactively communicating about the investment in the NIH; and 5. promoting NIH's vision for a future medicine that is predictive, personalized, pre-emptive, and participatory.

Contact: John Burklow,, 301-496-4461.

VIII. Approval: Short Courses for Integrative and Organ Systems Pharmacology

In January 2004, the NAGMS Council approved plans to solicit applications for short courses that provide an intensive, 2- to 3-week, hands-on training experience in the proper use of animal models for research in pharmacology and related integrative sciences. The Council agreed upon issuing 3-year awards, with program evaluation after the second year. During the first 2 years, the courses recruited 105 students, and evaluations of the program were enthusiastically positive. However, Dr. Peter Preusch indicated that evaluation may be premature at this time and reported that NIGMS staff recommend extending the current program and existing awards for one year so that a decision on whether to continue the program can be made on the basis of 3 years of experience. Dr. Preusch reported that NIGMS staff think it is too soon to know whether the current model is the best avenue through which to provide this type of training and requested Council approval to extend the current 3-year awards for an additional year. In the absence of a quorum, Dr. Jeremy Berg indicated that a vote will be taken by e-mail. This request was subsequently approved by e-mail voting.

Contact: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-3827.

IX. Update: NIH Reauthorization

Dr. Warren Jones updated the NAGMS Council on the potential NIH re-authorization process, which has gained traction in the post-NIH budget-doubling period. Chairman of the House Authorization Committee Rep. Joe Barton has developed draft legislation to add components to the NIH Reauthorization law. Selected points of this draft legislation include: 1. creating an organization within the NIH Office of the Director to identify and consider trans-NIH research; 2. creating a Common Fund reservoir to finance these trans-NIH activities; 3. establishing a formal process to review the organization of the NIH every 7 years. Dr. Jones reported that the bill is still a work in progress, and no apparent companion legislation has been developed in the Senate.

Contact : Dr. Warren Jones,, 301-594-3827.


XI. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:50 p.m. on Friday, September 15, 2006.


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