Advisory Council Minutes, September 20-21, 2010

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred forty-fourth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 20, 2010.

Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After a closed session from 8:35 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. on September 20, the meeting was open to the public on September 21 from 8:35 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
John E. Johnson, Ph.D. (via telephone conference)
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D.
James L. Stevens, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Luisa DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Periodontics
Director, Center for Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration
University of Illinois at Chicago
College of Dentistry
801 S. Paulina
Chicago, IL 60612-7211

Karolin Luger, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Colorado State University
1870 Campus Delivery, 383 MRB
1385 Center Avenue
Fort Collins, CO 80523

David O. Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
Section of Hospital Medicine
Director, Center for Health and Social Sciences
University of Chicago
5841 S. Maryland Avenue, MC 2007
Chicago, IL 60637

Denise J. Montell, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Biological Chemistry
Director, Center for Cell Dynamics
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
855 North Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205

William P. Tansey, Ph.D.
Ingram Professor of Cancer Research
Interim Chair and Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Scientific Director, Vanderbilt Functional Genomics Shared Resource
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
4140 Medical Research Building III, U-3218
Nashville, TN 37232-8240

Graham C. Walker, Ph.D.
American Cancer Society
Research Professor of Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Department of Biology, 68-633
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA 02139

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Robert Berendt, Berendt Associates
Ms. Rachel Levison, Arizona State University
Dr. Sherry Marts, Genetics Society of America
Dr. Caroline Trupp Gil, American Chemical Society

Federal Employees Present:


NIGMS and other NIH employees:

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

Open Portion of the Meeting

I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Berg thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and then introduced the special consultants: Luisa DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor, Department of Periodontics, University of Illinois at Chicago; Karolin Luger, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Colorado State University; David O. Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago; Denise J. Montell, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biological Chemistry; William P. Tansey, Ph.D., Ingram professor of Cancer Research, Vanderbilt University Medical Center; and Graham C. Walker, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 20-21, 2010, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 27-28, 2011Thursday-Friday
May 19-20, 2011Thursday-Friday
September 15-16, 2011Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced the appointments of Larry Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., as NIH principal deputy director; Sally Rockey, Ph.D., as NIH deputy director for extramural research; and Alan Guttmacher, M.D., as director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. He also noted the selection of James Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., as director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives and Robert Kaplan, Ph.D., as director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. He noted the appointment of Neil Shapiro, J.D., as NIH associate director for budget. Within the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Berg announced the appointment of Donald Berwick, M.D., as administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Finally, he noted the nomination of Subra Suresh, Ph.D., as director of the National Science Foundation.

Within NIGMS, Dr. Berg announced the appointments of Alexandra Ainsztein, Ph.D., as a program director in the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics and Sara Seetharam, Ph.D., as a contract scientific review officer in the Office of Scientific Review. He also noted that Jennifer Cho and Matthew Jones joined the Grants Administration Branch's staff. Finally, he noted that John Whitmarsh, Ph.D., retired from his position as special assistant to the director, NIGMS.

Dr. Berg provided brief updates on the status of the NIGMS Strategic Plan on Training and Workforce Development, and the funding of the Pharmacogenomics Research Network and the PSI:Biology structural biology program. He mentioned several NIH-wide efforts to analyze and make progress toward increasing diversity and representation in the biomedical workforce, including both intramural and extramural scientists.

Dr. Berg relayed the NIH Scientific Management Review Board's recommendation to create a new institute focused on substance use, abuse and addiction including programs from NIDA, NIAAA, NCI, NIMH and other NIH entities. He noted recent events related to NIH policies on human embryonic stem cells. Finally, he said that both the House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees had passed bills recommending increases of 3.2% for NIH overall and 3.6% for NIGMS, but commented that these bills were not expected to be acted on further in the immediate future and that funding of NIH through a continuing resolution was expected through the end of 2010.

V. Update from the NIGMS Director

Dr. Berg described an analysis of the new NIH peer review scoring system. He discussed the correlations between the five criterion scores (Significance, Approach, Innovation, Investigator, Environment) and the Overall Impact Score for NIGMS grant applications that he presented at an earlier Council meeting. He noted that the NIH Division of Information Services within the Office of Extramural Research had completed a similar analysis and that the results closely parallel those for NIGMS applications. He commented on the fact that these analyses have received considerable attention in the extramural and science policy worlds. He then presented an extension of the NIGMS analysis showing the relationships between percentile score and the overall impact score for funded and unfunded R01 grant applications.

Dr. Berg also presented an analysis of the productivity of NIGMS investigators using the number of publications and the average impact factor of the journals in which these publications appeared as metrics, noting that these metrics have clear limitations, but the relevant data were available. The analysis involved NIGMS R01 grantees from fiscal year 2006 and included all NIH funding from these investigators as a means to minimize the effects of papers citing more than one grant. A plot of these productivity metrics as a function of the total annual direct cost funding for fiscal year 2006 revealed an increase in productivity that peaked around $800,000. He also noted that there was a very large range in these productivity metrics at each funding level.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg, 301-594-2172

VI. Concept Clearance: Planning Grants for Clinical Trials of High Relevance to NIGMS

Dr. Rochelle Long presented a proposed plan to improve the process by which NIGMS handles Institute-funded large-scale clinical trials relevant to the NIGMS mission. The concept involves an R34-based planning grant mechanism for this limited number of trials. This action is intended to provide applicants time and support to complete essential organizational and oversight elements before a trial is funded in full. Following successful funding and completion of a planning grant, applicants would submit full trial proposals to NIGMS as R01 applications. Dr. Long requested, and received, concept clearance from the Council to develop the plan, which would also include a Web portal for applicants.

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

VII. Demonstration: NIGMS Evaluation Web Site

NIGMS, through its Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, seeks to inform grantees about the process of program evaluation, which aims to improve the ability of program managers to achieve goals for their cognate programs. Ms. Rosalina Bray presented an overview of a new page on the NIGMS Web site devoted to evaluation-related information, tools and resources. The site is designed for program coordinators, directors, administrators and principal investigators who wish to learn more about program evaluation.

Contact: Dr. Juliana Blome,, 301-594-3827

VIII. Presentation: Discovery of a Pro-Neurogenic, Neuroprotective Chemical

Physical activity, social or other enriching experiences promote the birth and maturation of new nerve cells within the adult hippocampus, the brain region that controls memory. However, even in a healthy adult brain, most newly formed nerve cells die during the month it takes to develop and become wired into the brain's circuitry. With funding from an NIH Director's Pioneer Award, Dr. Steven McKnight of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas recently completed a drug screening study in which he identified one such molecule that protects vulnerable brain cells in mice. Dr. McKnight described this recent research and its potential implications for preserving cognitive decline associated with aging. For more information, see

Contact: Dr. Steven McKnight,, 214-648-3342


X. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:05 a.m. on September 21, 2010.


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