Dr. Jeremy Berg called the meeting to order. He introduced one new member of Council: Dr. Jeffrey Mason, chairman, department of biophysics, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Dr. Berg also welcomed the guests and introduced the two ad hoc consultants: Dr. Mitchell P. Fink, chairman and professor, Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine; and Dr. Valerie P. Wilson, executive director, The Leadership Alliance, Brown University Medical School.
The minutes of the May 13-14, 2004 meeting were approved as submitted.
The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:
Dr. Berg announced staffing changes at NIH. Colleen Barros was named NIH deputy director for management and chief financial officer. Dr. Mireille Kanda was appointed as the new deputy director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. David Elizalde was appointed deputy director for management and executive officer of the National Cancer Institute. Gahan Breithaupt was appointed associate director for management and operations at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Diane Bernal is the new executive officer for the National Institute of Nursing Research. Fred Walker, the executive officer at the National Human Genome Research Institute, is now also serving as the acting executive officer for the NIH Office of the Director. Dr. Berg also announced the following new NIGMS staff members: Dr. Phil LoGrasso has joined the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry; Dr. Peter Lyster has joined the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology; Dr. Ravi Bassavappa has joined the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics; Dr. Craig Hyde has joined the Office of Scientific Review, and Ms. Emily Carlson has joined the Office of Communications and Public Liaison.
Dr. Berg described topics of discussion at the recent NIH Leadership retreat including new tools for analyzing the grant portfolios across NIH. He also discussed continuing progress regarding the conflict of issues at NIH that have been raised in the media and by Congress. He also highlighted the recently released proposal from NIH regarding public access to publications involving research supported by NIH funds. He noted that this proposal is open for comment until mid-November.
Dr. Berg discussed the current status of the fiscal year 2005 budget as well as publicly available information regarding planning for the fiscal year 2006 budget. He noted two upcoming meetings of relevance to NIGMS, the third meeting of the working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH on Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research and the Interagency Conference of Research at the Interface of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences, both to be held in early November.
Finally, Dr. Berg noted that two NIGMS grants are receiving Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers at the White House later in the day. NIGMS grantees have done very well over the history of these awards.
The first large set of initiatives from the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research will be funded by the end of this fiscal year. NIGMS is the lead institute on three initiatives for this Council meeting, namely the National Centers for Biomedical Computing (RM-04-003), the Centers for Innovation in Membrane Protein Production (RM-04-009), and the Curriculum Development Award in Interdisciplinary Research (RM-04-007), in addition to the Development of High Resolution Probes for Cellular Imaging program (RM-04-001) that was presented t o the Council in May. The status of these initiatives, as well as the guiding principles for the Roadmap for fiscal years FY05, FY06, and beyond, were discussed. For more information on the NIH Roadmap, see https://commonfund.nih.gov/.
Over the past 2 years, NIGMS has received a large, unanticipated increase in the number of new grant applications. NIGMS has analyzed the applicant pool responsible for this increase, and the majority of these applications are from new investigators (those individuals who have not previously received significant NIH funding). A significant fraction of these are from fields (as judged by departmental affiliation) such as engineering and physics that have not traditionally constituted a large portion of the NIGMS portfolio. The Institute has also analyzed the likelihood of success for these new applicants. Applications from new investigators have a larger likelihood of success due to Institute policies that have favored such applications, even in light of less favorable priority scores.
The NAGMS Council Large Grants Working Group was formed to guide the assessment of large NIGMS grant mechanisms and to develop recommendations to the full Council for their use in considering future initiatives. The group's charge was to review the original rationales and goals of existing large grant programs that distinguish them from other grant mechanisms, suggest the types of information required to assess these rationales and the extent to which goals are being met, and recommend an appropriate assessment process. This group had its first meeting just prior to the May 2004 Council meeting and came up with several recommendations. The group recommends program assessment for each large grant program, based on representative annual reports summarizing progress and original goals, site visits and annual workshops/symposia, and annual meetings at NIH. The group recommends that the process for assessment could take the form of evaluation teams including members of NAGMS Council, experts from within the respective field, and scientists from slightly outside the disciplinary area. Together with NIGMS staff, the evaluation teams will offer recommendations on whether the current programs are successful and will develop a process to help decide whether particular grant mechanisms should be continued and how they should be modified. Such information may also guide whether new programs might be launched.
Dr. Eric Jakobsson reported on progress toward creation of the National Centers for Biomedical Computing as part of the NIH Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Roadmap. The awardees from the first round of competition will be announced by the NIH Office of the Director in late September. At approximately the same time, a funding announcement will be released for the second round of competition and for smaller projects to collaborate with the national centers. Dr. Jakobsson noted that after the establishment of the second round of centers and the first round of collaborating projects, the major components of the National Program of Excellence in Biomedical Computing will be in place. This program will comprise a web of collaborating large and small projects directed toward the goal of providing all the stakeholders in biomedicine—researchers, teachers, students, policymakers, practitioners, and administrators—with a computing environment sufficiently powerful such that computing inefficiencies, defects, or gaps will not be a rate-limiting step to progress. Dr. Jakobsson stressed the importance of evaluating the outcomes of this Roadmap initiative in the context of national biomedical computing needs.
The NAGMS Council discussed a proposed initiative to provide support for the development, continuous upgrading, curation, and maintenance of an integrated data resource for Escherichia coli K-12. Justification for the initiative was provided in a white paper prepared by a representative committee of E. coli researchers. Dr. James Anderson pointed out that E. coli K-12 is the best understood organism; the source for much of our information on molecular biology, metabolic pathways, regulation, and biochemistry; and an organism that continues to provide new insights on cell function. Because of the central role of E. coli K-12 in providing both historical and ongoing understanding of basic biological processes, there is a pressing need to bring together the large amount of existing knowledge and rapidly accumulating genome-wide data, and to make this information usable by the larger biomedical community. Although a number of databases currently focus on or include E. coli K-12 data and bioinformatics tools, significant gaps exist in what they cover, the databases are generally not well integrated, and there is no single point of user entry. The goal of the proposed resource is to address these problems and to provide usability and credibility across the broadest possible spectrum of user communities. Dr. Anderson requested, and received, Council approval for developing the described resource in order to leverage the large Federal investment in E. coli K-12.
Dr. Alfred G. Gilman, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Alliance for Cellular Signaling (AfCS) glue grant, provided a general summary and progress report of the multidisciplinary, multi-institutional AfCS program. The AfCS hopes to answer overarching questions about cell signaling and to catalyze research in this area. All AfCS data are posted and disseminated promptly and publicly on the project's Web site http://www.signaling-gateway.org/ . Dr. Gilman described the AfCS structure and noted accomplishments over the past year, emphasizing the ligand screen project and the "Focus on X Modules" (FXM) project. Focused on a small section of a cell's signaling network, the FXM project serves as a test bed to explore the best strategies for dissecting and modeling complex cellular signaling. Dr. Gilman also discussed interactions between AfCS and the signaling research community and plans for the future.
The availability of human embryonic stem cells (HESC) for federally funded research affords a unique opportunity for investigators to use these cells to address research questions of interest to the mission of the NIH. Although HESC have great potential to yield important information on the fundamental properties of cells and disease processes, remarkably little is known about the properties of HESC that distinguish them from more differentiated cells. Furthermore, few scientists have had the opportunity to be trained in the use of HESC or to explore the questions that can be addressed using these cells. Indeed, the NIH Stem Cell Task Force has identified the paucity of skilled researchers and lack of training environments for career enrichment as one of the rate-limiting steps in the advancement of HESC research. Dr. Marion Zatz presented a proposed announcement that would encourage applications for F32 individual postdoctoral fellowships from promising candidates with the potential to become productive, independent investigators in HESC-related research, as well as applications for F33 senior fellowships from experienced scientists who wish to make major changes in the direction of their research or who wish to broaden their scientific background by acquiring new capabilities in HESC research. Several NIH funding components plan to participate in this announcement. Dr. Zatz requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting proposals for fellowships in HESC research.
A summary of applications reviewed by Council is available from NIGMS.
The meeting adjourned at 10:20 a.m. on Friday, September 10, 2004.
I hereby certify that to my knowledge the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.
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