Advisory Council Minutes, September 19-20, 2013

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred fifty-third meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 19, 2013.

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 5:34 p.m. on September 19, the meeting was open to the public on September 20 from 8:32 a.m. to 12:21 p.m.

Council Members Present:

David A. Agard, Ph.D.
Gail E. Besner, M.D.
Mary (Molly) L. Carnes, M.D.
Luisa DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Alan (Rick) F. Horwitz, Ph.D.
Richard Lalonde, Pharm.D.
Karolin Luger, Ph.D.
Scott J. Miller, Ph.D.
Denise J. Montell, Ph.D.
Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D.
Margaret C. Werner-Washburne, Ph.D.
Holly A. Wichman, Ph.D.

Council Members Absent:

David O. Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D.
Diana S. Natalicio, Ph.D.
Marc A. Nivet, Ed.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Duane A. Compton, Ph.D.
Senior Associate Dean for Research
Professor, Department of Biochemistry
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
Hanover, NH 03755

Henry T. Greely, J.D.
Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law
Professor (by courtesy) of Genetics
Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-8610

John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology
The Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA 92037

Tony Romeo, Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology and Cell Science
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-0700

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present

Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, American Society for Cell Biology
Dr. Judith Bond, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Howard Garrison, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Dr. John Gerlt, The University of Illinois
Dr. Lori Pellnitz, SRI International
Dr. Eduardo Perozo, The University of Chicago
Dr. Steven Sheriff, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Dr. Kate Weber, American Chemical Society
Dr. Kevin Wilson, American Society for Cell Biology

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: Duane A. Compton, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Research, professor of Biochemistry, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; Henry T. Greely, J.D., Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law, professor (by courtesy) of Genetics, Director, Center for Law and the Biosciences, Stanford University; John E. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, The Scripps Research Institute; Tony Romeo, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and Cell Science, The University of Florida. Dr. Lorsch then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 16-17, 2013, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 23-24, 2014
May 22-23, 2014
September 18-19, 2014

IV. NIGMS Director's Report

NIGMS Director Dr. Jon Lorsch opened the meeting by introducing himself, thanking outgoing Council members for their service, and expressing appreciation to Dr. Judith Greenberg for her exceptional dedication to the Institute as acting director. He announced new scientific staff at NIGMS and within the federal government, and alerted the Council to three upcoming events: the 10th annual MIDAS symposium, the 2013 Stetten lecture and the second annual Cell Day. Dr. Lorsch then provided an overview of the recently launched NIH Big Data to Knowledge initiative. He concluded by discussing budget-related issues and upcoming plans for Institute strategic planning.

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

V. Presentation: Recent Basic Discoveries in Chemistry and Their Interface With Biology

Basic chemistry research, primarily synthetic chemistry, has made important contributions to human medicine. Council member Dr. Scott Miller of Yale University presented an overview of the historical impact of chemistry on biomedicine, noting the real-life importance of the discovery of new reactions, catalysts and strategies on both the identification of new drugs and production scale-up. He provided several case studies highlighting the challenge of achieving selective chemistry in complex molecular environments, and he presented existing challenges related to the discovery of complex, potentially selective, bioactive molecules.

Contact: Dr. Scott J. Miller,, 203-432-9885

VI. Presentation: The Concept of Challenge Grants

One of the goals of the NIGMS strategic plan is to "advance awareness and understanding of the basic biomedical research enterprise, including its value, requirements, and potential impact." This can be a challenge because connecting basic, non-disease-targeted discoveries to their later applications can be a lengthy, time-consuming endeavor. Dr. Darren Sledjeski discussed a potential crowd-sourcing approach to access the collective wisdom and knowledge of a broad and diverse group of people. He proposed using a challenge-prize model, authorized for federal agency use by the America COMPETES Act, to encourage the broader NIGMS stakeholder community of interested scientists, science writers, students and others to submit examples that fall into one or both of two categories:

  • Major NIGMS-funded breakthroughs that led to improvements in health and well-being
  • Applications in medicine, industry, technology, or elsewhere that have their roots in NIGMS-funded research

Contact: Dr. Darren Sledjeski,, 301-594-0943

VII. Presentation: Enhancing Reproducibility and Transparency of Research Findings

Recently, the NIH director formed an ad hoc group of NIH senior leadership to confront underlying problems with the reproducibility of research results. Key issues include poor training, poor evaluation and perverse reward incentives. NIH Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak updated NIGMS staff and the Council on several principles for addressing these issues. He outlined planned next steps linked to improving scientific rigor, especially in pre-clinical biomedicine, and he described collaborative efforts with scientific journals and the broader research community. Dr. Jon Lorsch then provided examples of NIGMS plans related to this trans-NIH initiative. These include an assessment of inter- and intra-cell line variability and development of training modules addressing experimental design and data interpretation and the role of the current scientific reward system in generating potentially inappropriate emphases on publication and other progress metrics.

Contact: Dr. Rashada Alexander,, 301-443-7975

VIII. Concept Clearance: Pharmacogenomics Research Network

The Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) has achieved its goal of stimulating this area of investigation. As a result, the network has "raised the level of play" in the field with a demonstrable scientific and health impact. Dr. Rochelle Long stated that the upcoming cycle of the PGRN in FY 2015 offers an opportunity to support the highest quality investigator-initiated research, and to provide the added benefit of core resources for the research community. Dr. Long requested, and received, Council approval to proceed with PGRN-related funding opportunities for Research Centers, Network Resources, a Knowledge Base and a small Coordinating Center, as part of a plan for transitioning these research activities into the regular NIH granting system.

Contact: Dr. Rochelle Long,, 301-594-3827

IX. Concept Clearance: Regional Consortia for High-Resolution Cryo-Electron Microscopy

The state of cryo-electron microscopy (EM) has advanced radically as a result of innovations in electron-detector technology, which enables superior resolution, nearly noiseless electron counting and high frame rates. Dr. Paula Flicker reported that the new technology and its required skilled personnel are both complex and expensive, suggesting the need for an NIGMS-sponsored initiative of limited scope to ensure investigator access to state-of-the-art detection capabilities. Dr. Flicker requested, and received, Council approval to support consortia of established, independently-funded cryo-EM laboratories.

Contact: Dr. Paula Flicker,, 301-594-0828

X. Concept Clearance: Competitive Revision for Emerging Technologies Within Biomedical Technology Research Centers (P41)

NIGMS-funded Biomedical Technology Research Centers (BTRCs) develop and disseminate advanced technologies for use by the national research community. In some instances, a relatively modest, temporary funding stimulus can enable an emerging opportunity with significant potential impact. Dr. Amy Swain requested, and received, Council approval to solicit applications from NIGMS BTRCs to support emergent, cutting-edge technological development projects to meet the evolving needs of NIH-funded researchers. She noted that at least one NIH-funded Driving Biomedical Project must serve as a test bed for the proposed technology development projects.

Contact: Dr. Amy L. Swain,, 301-435-0752

XI. Concept Clearance: Encouraging Partnerships Between Biomedical Technology Research Centers and Small Business

Some technologies developed and disseminated by NIGMS-funded BTRCs are well-suited for commercialization or licensing. Because of the high level of technical and biomedical expertise in BTRCs, these centers have served very effectively as test beds for emerging technologies. Encouraging the private sector to approach BTRCs as partners in technology development and commercialization has the potential to move these tools into the research community more quickly and successfully. Dr. Doug Sheeley requested, and received, Council approval to promote awareness of the BTRC program to the small-business community, and to encourage small businesses to collaborate with BTRCs to enhance technology dissemination.

Contact: Dr. Douglas Sheeley,, 301-594-9762

XII. Presentation: Research to Understand and Inform Interventions That Promote the Research Careers of Students in Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences: Lessons Learned

In 2003, NIGMS established a Research on Interventions program. This research investment aims to test assumptions and hypotheses regarding social and behavioral factors that affect interest, motivation and preparedness for careers in biomedical and behavioral research. Dr. Clifton Poodry provided an update on this program, highlighting interventions designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups entering biomedical careers.

Contact: Dr. Clifton Poodry,, 301-594-3900

XIII. Public Comment Period

Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, executive director of the American Society for Cell Biology, presented a brief update of the group's current activities related to promoting basic biomedical research


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


The meeting adjourned at 12:21 p.m. on September 20, 2013.


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