Advisory Council Minutes, May 15-16, 2008

NOTE: Hyperlinks within the text may have been deactivated because they no longer link to active sites and/or e-mail addresses.

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-seventh meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 15, 2008.

Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After a closed session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. on May 15, the meeting was open to the public on May 16 from 8:35 a.m. to 11:48 a.m.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D. - attended via telephone
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology
Department of Chemistry
University of California, Berkeley
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Berkeley, CA 94720-1460

Randall T. Moon, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Pharmacology
Director, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine
University of Washington
School of Medicine
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Seattle, WA 98195-7750

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University
Dr. Amy Pollick, Association for Psychological Sciences
Ms. Michelle Rodrigues, SRI International
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Elizabeth Sztul, National Science Foundation
Dr. Joann Wise, National Science Foundation

NIGMS employees and other NIH employees:

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


I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

Dr. Berg thanked the regular members of the Council who were present and then he introduced the special consultants: Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D., professor, Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; and Randall T. Moon, Ph.D., investigator, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 24-25, 2008, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 18-19, 2008 Thursday-Friday
January 22-23, 2009  Thursday-Friday
May 21-22, 2009  Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing new appointments within the Department of Health and Human Services and at NIH. He noted that Joxel Garcia is now the assistant secretary for health and the medical director of the U.S. Public Health Service, and that Bob McSwain was confirmed as the director of the Indian Health Service. He announced that Christine Bachrach had been appointed as the acting director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. He also noted several NIGMS appointments including Kimberly Allen as deputy executive officer, Elizabeth Elliott as a management analyst in the Office of the Director, and grants management specialists Brian Rabin and Irina Weinstein.

Dr. Berg also noted that the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has been renamed the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to recognize Eunice Kennedy Shriver's many contributions to the institute.

Dr. Berg commented that the NIH Council of Councils held its first meeting on March 31-April 1 with Edwin Flores serving as the NIGMS representative. The Council had a number of interesting discussions focused on defining its role within the NIH structure.

Dr. Berg announced that NIGMS; the National Cancer Institute; and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute signed a letter of intent with the RIKEN Center for Genomic Medicine in Japan to create the Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics. This alliance is intended to facilitate collaboration on genotypic samples obtained as part of ongoing pharmacogenomic studies.

Dr. Berg also announced the launch of the PSI Structural Genomics Knowledgebase, led by Dr. Helen Berman. This knowledgebase is being developed to facilitate engagement between the broad biomedical research community and the resources and information developed as part of structural genomics efforts including the Protein Structure Initiative.

Dr. Berg noted that NIGMS-funded researchers led by Dr. Ram Sasisekharan from MIT played a major role in elucidating the chemical structure and biological activities of a contaminant in heparin that had led to many adverse reactions including deaths. He noted how techniques developed for studies of complex carbohydrate structures were crucial to this important contribution to public health.

Dr. Berg indicated that new components of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research were under development and that more information should be available in the near future. He also noted that Congress was beginning work on the NIH appropriation for fiscal year 2009 and on a supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year 2008, but that much remains to be done.

Finally, Dr. Berg discussed the current status of the NIH "Enhancing Peer Review" efforts. He noted that a draft report of challenges and potential actions was presented to Dr. Zerhouni at the end of February and that an initial report on possible implementation plans was presented to Dr. Zerhouni in the middle of April. He indicated that decisions about what actions will be implemented were expected in June and that implementation would begin shortly thereafter with timelines that depended on the nature and complexity of the proposed actions.

V. Extension of NIH Roadmap National Centers for Biomedical Computing

The Bioinformatics and Computational Biology component of the NIH Roadmap has taken shape as the National Centers for Biomedical Computing program. As the centers begin to generate the software and data management tools to serve as fundamental building blocks for 21st century medical research, individual scientists are being funded to work together with the centers. The program currently consists of seven centers: four funded in 2004, and an additional three in 2005. Dr. Berg stated that in response to NIH and NIGMS recommendations, the four centers funded in 2004 will be extended for an additional year, and that NIH will issue a single solicitation for the next phase, to allow these centers and new applicants to compete for funding.

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

VI. Evaluation of the NIGMS Glue Grant Program

The NIGMS glue grant program was first announced in 1999 and subsequently re-announced (as a request for applications) in 2001 and 2002, and again (as a program announcement) in 2004 and 2007. Dr. Juliana Blome stated that NIGMS plans a process evaluation of the glue grant program to examine design, management, and implementation issues. The evaluation will be conducted by an independent contractor with funds requested from the NIH evaluation set-aside fund.

Contact: Dr. Juliana Blome, 301-594-2762,

VII. Concept Clearance: Administrative Revisions for Collaborative Science
Dr. Marion Zatz described a proposal to streamline the support of NIGMS-funded collaborative science. Under the plan, administrative supplements (revisions) would provide a flexible and rapid mechanism to support newly established and novel collaborative opportunities for NIGMS grantees. The administrative supplement awards would be non-renewable, and investigators would be expected to incorporate continuing collaborative efforts into grant renewals or new grant applications. Dr. Susan Haynes noted that the program would be evaluated after three years of funding. She requested, and received, Council approval to issue an NIH Guide notice regarding the administrative supplement proposal.

Contacts: Dr. Marion Zatz, 301-594-0943,; Dr. Susan Haynes, 301-594-0943,

VIII. Pharmacogenomics: From SNP Discovery to Drug Response

Pharmacogenomics is an emerging field of study focused on identifying genetic factors that contribute to variation in drug response. The goals of this research are both translational (to develop genetic tests that will help guide drug therapies) and mechanistic (to develop an understanding of human biology, disease, and the mechanisms of drug response). Dr. Kathleen Giacomini of the University of California, San Francisco, and immediate past chair of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN), highlighted recent pharmacogenomic advances and described how the PGRN is playing a critical role in driving research in this area.

Contact: Dr. Kathleen Giacomini, 415-476-1936,

IX. Concept Clearance: Short Courses on Mathematical, Statistical, and Computational Tools for Studying Biological Systems

The importance of mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches to today's complex biological problems cannot be overstated. Biologists frequently receive only cursory training in these areas, and quantitative scientists are often unfamiliar with biology. Cross-training of students and investigators is vital to advancing research on complex biological systems and phenotypes. Dr. Matthew Portnoy described a plan to support short courses and workshops that integrate mathematical, statistical, and computational approaches to biological systems research. Dr. Portnoy requested, and received, Council approval to solicit proposals in this area.

Contact: Dr. Matthew Portnoy, 301-594-0943

X. Concept Clearance: Women in Science and Engineering RFA

The NIH Women in Biomedical Careers Working Group is chaired by Dr. Zerhouni and Dr. Vivian W. Pinn, director of NIH's Office of Research on Women's Health. The working group's charge is to address many of the challenges outlined in the 2007 National Academies report, "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering." Dr. Juliana Blome described a proposed solicitation to support research on the causal factors and interventions that promote and support the careers of women in science and engineering. On behalf of the NIH Office of the Director, NIGMS will take the lead in this effort, in concert with enthusiastic support pledged by several other NIH institutes and centers. Dr. Blome requested, and received, Council approval for this activity.

Contact: Dr. Juliana Blome, 301-594-2762,

XI. Update from Council Working Group on Training and Faculty Development

Dr. Howard Garrison, representing the Working Group on Training and Faculty Development, a subgroup of the NAGMS Council, described efforts to date regarding Institute-wide diversity issues. He noted the working group's role in engendering dialogue with NIGMS staff and in being proactive with evaluation approaches and activities. The working group plans regular teleconferences to discuss NIGMS constituency workforce and evaluation issues.

Contact: Dr. Howard Garrison, 301-634-7650,


XIII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:48 a.m. on May 16, 2008.

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