Advisory Council Minutes, May 19-20, 2011

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred forty-sixth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 19, 2011.

Dr. Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Principal Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH), presided over the discussions of applications during the closed session. After a closed session from 8:35a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 19, the meeting was open to the public on May 20 from 8:31 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D. (via telephone conference)
Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D.
Luisa DiPietro, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Karolin Luger, Ph.D.
Denise J. Montell, Ph.D. (via telephone conference)
Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
James L. Stevens, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

David O. Meltzer, M.D., Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

David A. Agard, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics
University of California, San Francisco
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
San Francisco, CA 94158-2517

Jorge A. Goldstein, Ph.D., J.D.
Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox, P.L.L.C.
Washington, DC 20005

Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director
Hauptman-Woodward Institute
Medical Research Institute
Professor of Structural Biology
University of Buffalo, SUNY
Buffalo, NY 14203-1102

Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D.
Professor and Ruth Merns Chair
Department of Biochemistry
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Yeshiva University
Bronx, NY 10461

Antoinette Torres, B.A.
Associate Vice Provost
Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Norma Allwell, University of Maryland
Dr. Caroline Trupp Gil, American Chemical Society

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Mary Ann Horn, National Science Foundation

NIGMS 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 introduced the special consultants: David A. Agard, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco; Jorge A. Goldstein, Ph.D., director, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein and Fox, P.L.L.C.; Eaton E. Lattman, Ph.D., chief executive officer and executive director, Hauptman-Woodward Institute, and Medical Research Institute, University of Buffalo; Vern L. Schramm, Ph.D., professor and Ruth Merns chair, Department of Biochemistry, Yeshiva University; and Antoinette Torres, B.A., associate vice provost, Drexel University. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the January 27-28, 2011, meeting were approved as submitted.

Please note that the January minutes incorrectly listed Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco as absent; he participated via telephone conference.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

September 15-16, 2011
January 19-20, 2012
May 24-25, 2012

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced the appointment of Sally Howard as Chief of Staff of the Department of Health and Human Services and the selection of Martha Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D., as the Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.  He noted the departures of Jack Jones, Ph.D., from the positions of NIH Chief Information Officer and Director of the Center of Information Technology (effective February 2011) and Larry Self from the position of Director of the NIH Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Management (effective July 2011).  He noted the NIGMS appointments of Michael Sakalian, Ph.D., as program director in the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics, Sarawathy Seetharam, Ph.D., as scientific review officer in the Office of Scientific Review and Jill Bradshaw as a grants management specialist in the Grants Administration Branch.  Finally, he noted the NIGMS departures of Annie Aung from the Financial Management Branch (effective May 2011), John Schwab, Ph.D., from the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry (effective May 2011) and Bert Shapiro, Ph.D., from the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics (effective July 2011).

V. Update from the NIGMS Director

NIGMS Director Dr. Jeremy Berg provided an update on staff and policy-related issues pertaining to NIGMS, NIH and HHS. He presented information about the planned dissolution of the National Center for Research Resources, and the expected impact on NIGMS. The two main programs scheduled to migrate to NIGMS include the Institutional Development Award program and a large portion of the Biomedical Technology program. Dr. Berg also noted the recent issuance of the NIGMS Strategic Plan for Training, and reported that implementation activities are under way. Finally, Dr. Berg presented results of a study he has conducted that measure productivity as a function of peer review. The key findings include that while the very top group of scored applications showed the highest level of  productivity (as assessed by carefully chosen and parsed citation metrics), substantial productivity remains even past the 20th percentile of application scores. Dr. Berg expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve the scientific community in his role as NIGMS director for the past seven years.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg,, 412-648-3333

VI. Council Tribute to Dr. Jeremy Berg

On behalf of the entire NIGMS Council, Dr. Howard Garrison offered the following statement in recognition of Dr. Berg's tenure at NIGMS:

"In appreciation of your 7 years of leadership at NIGMS, the members of the Council express their profound gratitude to you for your distinguished service to science and the nation. We recognize your outstanding work in the pursuit of excellence in research and education, mentoring and advocacy for basic research. Your willingness to deal directly with challenging issues has earned you our respect and admiration. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with you, and we will miss you. We wish you continued success in your new endeavors."

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

VII. Presentation: Origins of Epithelia and Multicellularity

A fundamental characteristic of animals is a simple, polarized epithelium that lines organs and tissues. Epithelia separate biological compartments and control the movement of ions and proteins. In higher animals, the polarization of simple epithelia requires a cell-cell adhesion complex containing a classical cadherin, the Wnt-signaling protein ß-catenin and the actin-binding protein a-catenin, which together organize the secretory pathway and cytoskeleton. Dr. W. James Nelson of Stanford University shared his recent findings in this area, in which he has used the non-metazoan Dictyostelium discoideum as a model. Dr. Nelson also pointed to the value of PSI:Biology in advancing these research efforts.

Contact: Dr. James Nelson,, 650-725-7596

VIII. Report: Workshop on Next Generation Approaches to Understanding Human Phenotypes and Genetic Diseases

Next-generation sequencing of human DNA has transformed the field of human genetics by revealing the presence of countless, rare sequence differences, even among related, healthy individuals. Determining the role of these genetic variants in defining human biologic traits and diseases is an important and complex task. NIGMS convened a workshop in February 2011, with the goal of identifying both the barriers to, and novel strategies for, studying the biologic consequences of these genetic variants. Dr. Donna Krasnewich reported that workshop participants recommended the development of assays, model organism studies, statistical methods and cross-disciplinary communication to enhance the emergence of this field.

Contact: Dr. Donna Krasnewich,, 301-594-0943

IX. Update: Glue Grants Outcome Assessment

The NIGMS large-scale, collaborative project awards, or "glue grant," program has provided resources for scientists to form teams to tackle complex problems that are beyond the means of any one research group. Over the past 11 years, NIGMS has invested $368 million in this program. Recently, NIGMS conducted an assessment of the glue grant program, led by an external panel, to determine whether the outcomes of the five awards that have ended or are nearing an end have been in line with their individual scopes and the Institute's investment in the program. Dr. Peter Preusch summarized the evaluation process and its results, and Dr. Norma Allewell, chairperson of the evaluation panel, presented key findings of the panel's report. The conclusions point to the need for a more tailored "suite" of approaches for designing funding strategies for future large-scale studies.

Contacts: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-0828; Dr. Norma Allewell,, 301-405-6892

X. Report: Expanding Chemical Space Workshop

Although carbohydrates conduct the bulk of information transfer in biological systems, progress in defining, sequencing and deciphering the "glycome" has been slow. This is in part due to the paucity of glycans available for both tool development and for use as standards for structural analysis. Building upon its previous efforts to facilitate the development of chemistry methods to advance the field of glycomics, NIGMS hosted a workshop to consider ways of automating glycan production. Dr. Pamela Marino presented a summary of workshop discussion and recommended next steps for addressing the issue.

Contact: Dr. Pamela Marino,, 301-594-3827

XI. Update: Diversity Supplements Program

Dr. Meredith Temple-O'Connor presented an update on the NIGMS Diversity Supplements Program, which provides administrative supplements to grants to support the addition of an eligible individual to an individual research project. Points of discussion included an overview of the NIGMS philosophy for this program (in particular, its key focus on personalized mentoring and trainee development), details on how it is administered at NIGMS and a recent summary of data on awards made during FY2010.

Contact: Dr. Meredith Temple-O'Connor,, 301-435-7124

XII. Update: NIGMS HIV/AIDS Program

This year marks the 25th anniversary of NIGMS' research program on HIV/AIDS, which has focused on the high-resolution structures of viral protein components and upon structure-based drug design. More recently, NIGMS-funded centers in this program have supported research on structure determination of host-viral protein complexes. NIGMS hosted a meeting in March 2011 to celebrate the achievements of this program as well as to determine next steps. Dr. Peter Preusch and Dr. Michael Sakalian gave an overview of the meeting and described their plan to reissue a research solicitation to fund one or two new centers, as well as program project grants, to help fill gaps in this area of research.

Contacts: Dr. Michael Sakalian,, 301-594-0828; Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-0828


XIV. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m. on May 20, 2011.


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
Ann A. Hagan, Ph.D
Executive Secretary National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council