Advisory Council Minutes, September 18-19, 2008

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-eighth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 18, 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 5:05 p.m. on September 18, the meeting was open to the public on September 19 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.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.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Gerald W. Hart, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
Department of Biological Chemistry
Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD 21205

Gary A. Sulikowski, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37235-1822

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Douglas Eaton, Emory University
Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University
Ms. Meghan McGowan, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences

Federal Employees Present:

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 members of the Council who were present and then he introduced the special consultants: Gerald W. Hart, Ph.D., professor, Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University; and Gary A. Sulikowski, Ph.D., professor, Department of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 15-16, 2008, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 22-23, 2009  Thursday-Friday
May 21-22, 2009  Thursday-Friday
September 10-11, 2009  Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing the appointment of Elizabeth L. Wilder, Ph.D., as director of the Division of Strategic Coordination in the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI). Dr. Wilder had served as division director in an acting capacity for the last year and a half, and officially assumed the post in August. Dr. Berg noted that Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., has resigned as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and that T.K. Li, M.D., announced that he will step down as director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), effective October 31, 2008. Alan Guttmacher, M.D., will serve as acting director of NHGRI and Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., will serve as acting director of NIAAA.

Dr. Berg also announced personnel changes within NIGMS. He noted that Jose Lopez was appointed the chief information officer of NIGMS, having previously served as head of the information systems development section of the NIGMS IT branch. He also noted that Jerry Li, Ph.D., left the NIGMS Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology to take a position in the National Cancer Institute; that Marcus Rhoades, Ph.D., retired from the Institute's Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology; that Gail Grosman retired from her position as NIGMS administrative officer; and that Richard Rodewald, Ph.D., recently announced that he is leaving NIGMS to return to the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Berg noted that the first awards were made under the EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) program initiated by NIGMS with three additional institutes (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute on Drug Abuse) participating. He noted that the program has been reannounced for 2009 with a total of nine institutes participating.

Dr. Berg noted that several long-time grantees have shared important prizes and awards. These included Victor R. Ambros, Ph.D., and Gary B. Ruvkun, Ph.D., who shared the 2008 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research with David C. Baulcombe, Ph.D., of the United Kingdom; and Joan Steitz, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., who became the first women to win the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research.

Dr. Berg reminded the Council that Dr. Zerhouni would announce the 2008 NIH Director's Pioneer and New Innovator Award recipients at the fourth annual NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium.

Dr. Berg commented that NIH had recently announced a new Transformative R01 program. This program is anticipated to involve more than $250 million over the next five years to foster bold and creative investigator-initiated research.

Dr. Berg noted that Dr. Zerhouni recently nominated individuals to serve on the NIH Science Management Review Board (SMRB). The SMRB will examine NIH's organizational structure as well as provide recommendations for enhancing the agency's mission through greater agency flexibility and responsiveness. Dr. Berg was among the 21 individuals nominated along with Norm Augustine, chairman of the executive committee of Lockheed Martin Corporation, who was nominated to serve as chair.

Dr. Berg noted that the NIH budget for Fiscal Year 2009 had not yet been appropriated by Congress and that NIH is operating under a continuing resolution that is in place through March 2009. He noted that economic stimulus packages are being discussed that might include supplemental funding for NIH.

Finally, Dr. Berg discussed the current status of the NIH "Enhancing Peer Review" efforts. He reminded the Council of the proposed actions and presented an anticipated timeline. He discussed recently announced policy changes, including refined definitions of new investigators and early stage investigators as well as the discontinuation of the acceptance of second amended (A2) applications.

V. Update: Evaluation of Large Scale Collaborative Project Awards

NIGMS has begun a process evaluation of its Large-Scale Collaborative Project Awards, or "glue grants." This program funded its first consortia in FY 2000, and four are still active. Dr. Juliana Blome provided an update on the evaluation, which will examine program design, management and implementation. The project will be supported through NIH evaluation set-aside funds by a contractor, the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) of the Rand Corporation. After employing a logic model to collect and analyze data, STPI will issue a final report in May 2009.

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

VI. Advancing Research and Education in the Information Age

"Cyberinfrastructure" is the organized aggregate of information technologies (computers, storage, data, networks, scientific instruments and expertise) coordinated to address problems in science and society. It has enabled important new discoveries and advances in virtually every area of research and education. Dr. Francine Berman, director, San Diego Supercomputer Center, noted that building, targeting, maintaining, evolving and supporting today's cyber infrastructure is critical for achieving the potential of research, education and practice. She described cyberinfrastructure as a key driver for discovery and discussed challenges and opportunities in its development and implementation.

Contact: Dr. Francine Berman, San Diego Supercomputer Center, University of California, San Diego,, 858-534-6195

VII. Concept Clearance: Joint NIH/NSF Program for Instrument Development

To promote the development of innovative instruments and tools for chemical and biomedical research, NIGMS and the Division of Chemistry at the National Science Foundation (CHE/NSF) co-sponsored a workshop in June 2008. Dr. Charles Edmonds stated that the workshop sought to identify fundamental gaps in knowledge and engineering that need to be addressed. As a result of the discussion and findings, NIGMS and CHE/NSF staff plan to design a joint program to promote research in this area modeled after the Joint DMS/NIGMS Initiative to Support Research in the Area of Mathematical Biology. Dr. Edmonds requested, and received, Council approval to solicit proposals in this area.

Contact: Dr. Charles Edmonds,, 301-594-0828

VIII. Concept Clearance: Administrative Supplements for Induced Pluripotent (iPS) Stem Cell Research

Dr. Marion Zatz presented a proposal to issue administrative supplements to NIGMS-funded grants that would provide a flexible and rapid mechanism to support research related to the parent grant on induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS). Potential research foci include mechanisms for reprogramming somatic cells to an embryonic stem cell state, novel methods to derive iPS, the basic biology of iPS and their use as a model human cell system. The Institute plans to fund up to eight one-year awards in FY 2009, each with maximum direct costs of $75,000. Applications will be reviewed by NIGMS staff. Dr. Zatz requested, and received, Council approval to issue the iPS solicitation.

Contact: Dr. Marion Zatz,, 301-594-0943

IX. Progress Report: Institutional Research and Academic Career Development (IRACDA) Awards

NIGMS' Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) combine a traditional mentored postdoctoral research experience with an opportunity to develop teaching skills through mentored assignments at a minority-serving institution (MSI). Dr. Douglas Eaton of Emory University School of Medicine provided an overview of a study comparing IRACDA fellows to a large comparison group of fellows supported by Institutional Training Grants (T32s). Dr. Eaton also discussed various features and benefits of the IRACDA program.

Contact: Dr. Douglas Eaton, Emory University School of Medicine,, 404-727-4533

X. Update: NIGMS Diversity Supplements Program

As part of an NIH-wide program to promote diversity in health research, NIGMS grantees may request supplemental funds to improve the diversity of the research workforce by supporting and recruiting students, postdoctorates and investigators from eligible groups. Dr. John Whitmarsh described Institute activities and progress in reviewing the goals and implementation of the diversity supplements program. He noted that ongoing discussions have been focused on program goals, implementation and outcomes and that an external evaluation organization has begun a needs assessment of the program.

Contact: Dr. John Whitmarsh,, 301-451-6446

XI. Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) Progress and Outlook: the PSI Materials Repository and PSI Structural Genomics Knowledgebase

The PSI Materials Repository (PSI MR) was established at the Harvard Institute of Proteomics with the mission of providing centralized validation, storage and distribution of information and samples for over 100,000 plasmids created during the first two PSI phases. PSI MR director, Dr. Joshua LaBaer, presented a progress report and future plans for the resource, which aims to collect, curate, annotate and store PSI clone information in an Oracle-based plasmid information database.

Contact: Dr. Joshua LaBaer,, 617-324-0827

The PSI Structural Genomics Knowledge Base (SGKB) was developed to transform PSI products into knowledge important for understanding living systems and disease. The SGKB aims to be a key resource for the advancement of biology, biochemistry, functional genomics, pharmacology, bioinformatics, education and clinical medicine. Dr. Helen Berman of Rutgers University, director of SGKB, presented a progress report and described future plans for the resource. She noted that the SGKB connects protein sequence information to structures and homology models, enhances functional annotations and provides access to new experimental protocols and materials.

Contact: Dr. Helen Berman, Rutgers University,, 732-445-4667


XIII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:40 p.m. on September 19, 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