Advisory Council Minutes, September 13, 2001

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one-hundred and seventeenth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 13, 2001. Because of the terrorist events of September 11, the Council meeting was held by teleconference. Dr. Marvin Cassman, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chairman of the meeting.

Council Members Present via Telephone Conference:

John N. Abelson, Ph.D.
Jay C. Dunlap, Ph.D.
Lila M. Gierasch, Ph.D.
George C. Hill, Ph.D.
Daniel J. Kevles, Ph.D.
Corey Largman, Ph.D.
Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
Douglas A. Lauffenburger, Ph.D.
Angeline A. Lazarus, M.D.
Leslie A. Leinwand, Ph.D.
Robert S. Pozos, Ph.D.
Debra A. Schwinn, M.D.
Susan S. Taylor, Ph.D.
D. Amy Trainor, Ph.D.
Isiah M. Warner, Ph.D.
Richard M. Weinshilboum, M.D.

Special Consultants Present via Telephone Conference:

Perry Frey, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry
University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI

Richard Lewontin, Ph.D.
Alexander Agassiz Research Professor
Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Museum of Comparative Zoology
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D.
Institute of Molecular Biology
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR

John K. Moffat, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

Basil Pruitt, M.D.
Department of Surgery
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
San Antonio, TX

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:


Federal Employees Present:

National Institute of General Medical Sciences employees and other NIH employees:

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


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Cassman called the meeting to order and indicated that because of the terrorist events of September 11, the meeting was being held by teleconference and would be much attenuated. He thanked Dr. Ann Hagan, deputy director of the Division of Extramural Activities, for her success in quickly coordinating the logistics enabling the Council meeting to be held, albeit in a much abbreviated fashion. He also thanked Drs. Lila Gierasch and Daniel Kevles who completed their terms of service with the September meeting. In addition, Dr. Cassman welcomed Dr. Corey Largman, professor, University of California, San Francisco, the new ex officio member from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and five ad hoc participants: Dr. Perry Frey, professor, University of Wisconsin; Dr. Richard Lewontin, professor, Harvard University; Dr. Brian Matthews, professor, University of Oregon; Dr. John Moffat, professor, University of Chicago; and Dr. Basil Pruitt, professor, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Dr. Cassman then updated the Council members on some of the staff changes at NIH: Dr. Maria Freire left the directorship of the NIH Office of Technology Transfer to become the chief executive officer of the Global Alliance for Drug Development, an organization that focuses on tuberculosis; Dr. Enoch Gordis, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, will be retiring early in 2002; and Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute, will be retiring on October 1 of this year.

Next, Dr. Cassman remarked that the stem cell issue continued to be active and that Dr. Judith Greenberg, director of the NIGMS Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology, had been detailed to the Office of the Director, NIH, to spearhead the effort to set up an NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry. He also mentioned that the search for a director for NIGMS' new Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) would begin soon, and that he would appreciate help in identifying suitable candidates.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 17-18, 2001 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 24-25, 2002
May 9-10, 2002
September 12-13, 2002
January 23-24, 2003

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS: Status of Appropriations and Other Matters

Dr. Cassman described the budget for FY 2002. He noted that the President's budget calls for an increase of 11.7 percent for NIGMS and somewhat more for NIH. He also pointed out, however, that although he remained optimistic, the terrorist events of September 11 make the size of the final budget rather uncertain. Dr. Cassman also noted that in addition to planning for the coming fiscal year, the institute needs to think about the years beyond the current budget projections and discuss the basic principles that it should use in planning. He intends to revisit this issue with Council at a later time.

Dr. Cassman discussed two additional items. First, he indicated that in response to the complexity and cost of the bioinformatics components of various NIGMS programs, the Institute had consulted with several experts and constructed a set of queries that in the future it would ask applicants of "glue" and other grants (as appropriate) to address. Next, he mentioned that the Institute is planning a retreat to examine programs established since 1995, in particular those established since 1998. The overall purpose of the retreat is to assess the scientific soundness of the Institute's choices of initiatives and the process by which these choices were made. Council members were invited to attend.

V. Discussion of Proposed Initiatives

Dr. Scott Somers of the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry, proposed to restructure and reannounce the Research Center Program for Trauma and Burn Injury. The proposed changes in the program include:

  • Increase the focus on translational research and require that applications include both laboratory and clinical studies;
  • Increase the budget cap to $5.5 million (direct costs) over 5 years;
  • When appropriate, allow the inclusion of a specific human subjects core and allow a maximum of $200,000 above the cap to cover these expenses;
  • Allow the proposal of strategies to make scientists in other fields aware of research opportunities in trauma and burn injury; and
  • Schedule a yearly meeting of grantees to promote and facilitate interactions.

Council members suggested changing the title of the program to more broadly cover changes in physiology following stress. They then unanimously approved the changes in the program.

Dr. Clifton Poodry, director of the NIGMS Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE), presented a series of proposed activities for the Division:

  • Equipment supplements to Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) grants;
  • Supplements to support postdoctoral students and faculty on Support of Continuous Research Excellence (SCORE) grants;
  • Expand the current definition of "evaluation" on SCORE grants to include inquiry into factors affecting faculty and institutional outcomes;
  • Supplements to Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) and MBRS grants to set up and/or upgrade their electronic communication infrastructure (e.g., Local Area Network, Intranet, access to the Internet, etc.);
  • Include as allowable under "evaluation" in all relevant MORE grants the inquiry into factors affecting student outcomes and provide supplements to ongoing (noncompeting) grants; and
  • National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) support for MARC trainees majoring in disciplines relevant to the mission of NHGRI.

Council members approved all of the MORE proposed activities with the exception of the supplements to support postdoctoral students and faculty on SCORE grants. They particularly questioned aspects of the proposed support for faculty, including whether the program would provide enough quality research time to ensure transition to independent investor status. Dr. Cassman deferred this proposal for reconsideration at a future Council meeting and asked that Council members forward their comments to Dr. Poodry.


VI. Procedure for Conduct of Meeting

Dr. Ruiz Bravo brought to the attention of the Council members the policies and procedures that govern the conduct of Council meetings.  Council members were reminded that all of the review materials furnished are privileged information. Although most conflicts of interest involving institutional affiliation had already been identified, members were asked to absent themselves during discussion of any application in which there was a personal conflict that was not readily apparent.

VII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, 2001.


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

Marvin Cassman, Ph.D.
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council
Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D.
Executive Secretary
National Advisory General
Medical Sciences Council