Advisory Council Minutes, September 11-12, 2003

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred twenty-third meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 11, 2003.

Dr. Judith Greenberg, acting director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. The meeting was open to the public on September 11 from 10:35 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. and was followed by the closed session from 2:40 p.m. until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

John N. Abelson, Ph.D.
Robert L. Becker, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.
Jay C. Dunlap, Ph.D.
George C. Hill, Ph.D.
Corey Largman, Ph.D.
Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.
Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.
Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.
Susan S. Taylor, Ph.D.
D. Amy Trainor, Ph.D.
Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.
Richard M. Weinshilboum, M.D.

Members Absent:

Laura Roberts, M.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Charles F. Aquadro, Ph.D.
Professor of Population Genetics
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY

Kenneth S. Zaret, Ph.D.
W.W. Smith Chair in Cancer Research
Cell and Developmental Biology Program
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Philadelphia, PA

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Ms. Janet Aker, The Blue Sheet
Dr. Peter Bruns, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Dr. Chris Peterson, Stanford Research Institute

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Eve Barak, National Science Foundation
Dr. Joan Esnayra, National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Chris Greer, National Science Foundation
Dr. Karl Koehler, National Science Foundation

NIGMS Employees and Other NIH Employees:

The sign-in sheets are not available.


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Judith Greenberg called the meeting to order. She welcomed the guests and introduced the two ad hoc consultants: Dr. Charles F. Aquadro, professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University; and Dr. Kenneth S. Zaret, senior member and program leader, Cell and Developmental Biology Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 15-16, 2003 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 22-23, 2004
May 13-14, 2004
September 9-10, 2004
January 20-21, 2005

IV. Report from the Acting Director, NIGMS

Dr. Greenberg announced that Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences and professor and director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, was named director of NIGMS and will join the Institute early in November. She thanked the NIGMS staff for their unfailing cooperation during the year and a half that she was Acting Director and told the Council members how much she enjoyed working with them.

Dr. Greenberg announced several other changes in staffing at NIGMS, including the appointment of Dr. Eric Jakobsson as the first director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computation Biology (CBCB). Dr. Greenberg acknowledged the outstanding job that Dr. James Cassatt did as acting director of CBCB during its first couple of years of existence. In a related staffing change, Dr. John Whitmarsh, a program director in the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics, moved to CBCB. Dr. LaShawn Drew joined NIGMS as a program director in the MORE Division.

Elsewhere at NIH, Dr. Story Landis became director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke on September 1; Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, retired in August; Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, announced his intention to step down from these positions as soon as a replacement is found; Dr. Elvera Ehrenfeld, director of the Center for Scientific Review, announced her intention to leave that position at the end of September; and Mr. Donald Poppke, director, NIH Office of Budget, announced his intention to retire by the end of September.

The Council observed a minute of silence in recognition of the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Dr. Greenberg summarized the Institute of Medicine report, "Enhancing the Vitality of the National Institutes of Health: Organizational Change to Meet New Challenges," that was written in response to a request by Congress. She commented that NIH was generally pleased with the report, and will be addressing many of the recommendations.

She also provided an update on NIH's Roadmap activities, commenting that at an institute directors' retreat in June, a series of Roadmap initiatives were discussed and priorities agreed upon. The first set of initiatives will be rolled out in FY 2004. At the January Council meeting more details will be provided about these initiatives.

V. Study of NIGMS' Large Grants Programs

NIGMS has initiated several research programs in recent years that entail the use of large-grant mechanisms. Examples include the Protein Structure Initiative, Glue Grants, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network, Centers of Excellence in Complex Biomedical Systems Research, and Centers of Excellence in Chemical Methodologies and Library Development. The size and complexity of these programs raise issues and challenges not typically encountered in the administration of smaller, investigator-initiated research projects that are the mainstay of NIGMS-supported research. Dr. James Onken described plans for the formation of a subcommittee of the Council that will provide guidance as the Institute develops policies and procedures to monitor and administer these programs in the future.

VI. Evaluation of Outcomes of NIGMS MORE Activities

At the May 2003 meeting, the Council discussed a report that resulted from a meeting of the Council Working Group on Minority Opportunities in Research. One of the recommendations in the report was that NIGMS should do more to track students participating in the various MORE programs and that this information should be used in evaluating its programs. Dr. Greenberg described an NIGMS proposal to gather data that will be useful for determining the outcomes of the Institute's programs with respect to increasing the pool and research productivity of minority researchers and improving the research environment at institutions that serve underrepresented minority students and faculty. Dr. Joan Esnayra, program officer of the National Academies Board on Higher Education and Workforce, provided an update on an ongoing National Research Council study assessing the outcomes of minority research training programs at NIH. This study is funded by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

VII. Concept Clearance: Development and Dissemination of Quantitative Materials and Methods in Biology Education

At the May 2003 meeting, the Council engaged in discussion with NIGMS staff on what the Institute might do to promote training at the quantitative/biology interface. This discussion was carried out in the context of the report from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists." The central themes running through the eight main recommendations of BIO 2010 are that undergraduate biology education needs much more emphasis on physical and information sciences and problem-centered educational approaches, and that these approaches need to be integrated with learning of biology. The issues raised by BIO 2010 are crucial to the long-term health of the American biomedical research enterprise. As the NIH component that has the broadest cross-cutting responsibility for ensuring progress in all areas of biomedical science, and in the light of NIGMS' mission to support the training of the biomedical research workforce, it is particularly suitable for NIGMS to play a role in the transformation of undergraduate biology education. Dr. Eric Jakobsson described an NIGMS-sponsored initiative to collaborate with the NIH Office of Science Education to fund faculty and curriculum experts for the development and dissemination of quantitative materials in biology education. Dr. Jakobsson requested, and received, clearance from Council on supporting this project in collaboration with the NIH Office of Science Education.

VIII. Concept Clearance: Planning for the Protein Structure Initiative

As a follow-up to his presentation at the May 2003 Council meeting, Dr. John Norvell reported on further progress made in the pilot phase of the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) and described plans for the production phase, which is scheduled to begin in mid-2005. He also addressed Council members' request for data on the efficiency and success of PSI centers in obtaining structures and the impact of the PSI on the field of structural biology. The Council discussed the program and provided concept clearance for the production phase of the PSI.

IX. Update on the Glue Grants

Dr. Pamela Marino reviewed the progress made to date by the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG) glue grant, which seeks to define the paradigms by which glycan-binding proteins (GBPs) and their ligands mediate cellular communication. Dr. Marino noted that the CFG has coalesced into a highly integrated, international laboratory that is creating and characterizing unique resources including a library of glycosyltransferase and GBP knockout strains of mice. The CFG is well on the way to moving the emerging field of 'glycomics' forward through the research being done within its cores, as well as through its creation of information platforms and a growing inventory of reagents and cutting-edge technical services that it is providing the scientific community. The CFG cores are now fully functional for phenotyping the CFG's null mice (hematologically, histologically, immunologically, metabolically, and behaviorally), determining the glycogene expression patterns and glycan structures expressed by null mouse tissues, and characterizing the carbohydrate specificity of GBPs. This ongoing assembly of data by the cores is building a comprehensive, molecular to organismal picture for each of the consortium's null murine strains. Dr. Marino reported that the success of the CFG's approach is reflected in the growing number of investigators (both immunologists and glycobiologists) who are joining the consortium, and the rising number of requests for CFG resources and services. Consortium data are now available on the project Web site and it is also being downloaded into a flexible, three-tiered central database, soon to be accessible through uniquely designed molecule pages that integrate Consortium and public data for each GBP. The Consortium has made strides to develop additional relationships (government, public and commercial) to maximize the use and impact of its resources. The CFG is poised to make rapid progress in its third year of funding towards providing a detailed understanding of the structure and function of GBPs and their ligands. More information about the consortium's organization, goals, databases, members, immediate targets, progress, and reagents.

Dr. Scott Somers reported that the Inflammation and Host Response to Injury glue grant has developed a cohesive and functional analytic, clinical, and administrative infrastructure that has continuously evolved throughout the first two years of funding. Program activities during the first year reflected communication among and progress within individual program cores, while activities in the second year of funding led to developing and testing consensus-driven standards and protocols that will drive the entire research program in future years. To achieve success, the group focused on building a firm foundation dependent upon the development of (1) standard operating procedures describing the prerequisite immunological, inflammatory, and genomic measurements in patients and in model systems; (2) entry criteria and clinical treatment protocols; and (3) data storage systems that facilitate analysis and data sharing by all interested parties, both inside and outside the research program. Significant procedural and scientific progress in all of these fundamental areas will allow the study to proceed. More information (no longer available) about the Inflammation and Host Response to Injury glue grant.

Dr. James Deatherage reported on progress of the Cell Migration Consortium (CMC) glue grant. Key goals of the project include generating new reagents and information critical to understanding cell migration; recruiting chemists, bioengineers, physicists, mathematicians, and structural biologists to the field; developing new techniques and strategies for studying cell movement, signaling, and structure; and generating unique scientific outcomes unlikely to arise from other research efforts. Dr. Deatherage noted that the CMC reported steady progress in the Bioinformatics, Protein Discovery, Structure, Signaling, Transgenic and Knockout Mice, Modeling, Biomaterials, and Imaging & Photomanipulation initiatives. Two new investigators joined the Consortium, adding expertise in proteomics and bioinformatics. Dr. Deatherage predicted that key challenges for the coming year will be in the Bioinformatics initiative (to continue Knowledgebase development and develop bioinformatics infrastructure) and Protein Discovery initiative (to develop differential mass spectroscopy and other proteomic strategies for analyzing changes in the proteome). More information on the Cell Migration Consortium glue grant (link no longer available).

Dr. Rochelle Long summarized progress on The Alliance for Cellular Signaling (AfCS) glue grant. Key accomplishments in the last year include making vast amounts of biochemical and imaging data available to the scientific community on the project Web site, and providing resource databases for plasmids and antibodies to cellular signaling researchers. Of particular note, the double ligand screening in B cells identified many non-additive interactions, and yeast two-hybrid screens yielded a large number of newly identified protein-protein interactions. Dr. Long reported that the major change in AfCS operations over the last year was the selection of a RAW264.7 macrophage cell line for future experiments. More information about the AfCS glue grant.


X. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, September 12, 2003.


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

Judith H. Greenberg, Ph.D.
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council
Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council