Virtual IDeA Program Meeting

The Division for Research Capacity Building (DRCB) at NIGMS hosted a virtual meeting on September 22, 2:00-5:30 p.m., for investigators and students supported by the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program to introduce strategic initiatives from NIH leaders in response to COVID-19, and to highlight scientific progress by IDeA researchers. We were pleased to see an overwhelming response from the IDeA community with approximately 750 attendees and more than 180 abstracts submitted. A recording of the meeting, along with the meeting agenda, abstract book, and a transcript of the Q&A session at the end of the meeting, are available here.

Dr. Ming Lei, DRCB division director, welcomed attendees who were from IDeA programs including the COBREs, INBREs, IDeA-CTRs Regional Accelerator hubs, and IDeA-co-funded R01 and R15 PIs.

Dr. Tara Schwetz, NIH associate deputy director, gave an overview of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Initiative and the various opportunities it provides to accelerate research, development, and implementation of point of care and scale-up testing for the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. She emphasized that the goal of this program is to create accurate, reliable, user-friendly, and widely accessible testing on a massive scale in a variety of settings and locations to detect people who are asymptomatic.

Dr. Jon Lorsch, NIGMS director, provided Institute updates relevant to the IDeA community. He shared information on the IDeA-CTR COVID-19 Registry recently funded by NIGMS, the NIH Office of the Director, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The Registry is a consortium of CTRs that deposits COVID-19 patient data from rural and under-represented (UP) populations into the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) database and makes it available to researchers. Dr. Lorsch also highlighted recent NIGMS webinars on a range of biomedical and career development topics where experts shared their expertise and answered questions from attendees. All webinars are now available on YouTube for students, postdocs, and faculty. In his remarks, Dr. Lorsch emphasized the role of basic science as the foundation on which all applied scientific advances are built. He encouraged the IDeA states to have a healthy and vibrant basic research enterprise. He urged them to innovate and break new scientific ground as the synergies among basic, translational, and clinical research are very strong.

Dr. Ming Lei provided updates on new initiatives in IDeA programs. He announced new awards that were made in FY 2020: 12 COBRE Phase I, one CTR in Puerto Rico, and many IDeA co-funded RO1/R15/S10 grants. He shared DRCB’s recently created IDeA Interactive Portfolio Dashboard that provides information on current awards and the Inventory of active IDeA-supported cores and facilities. Dr. Lei also discussed initiatives that promote and support intra-IDeA and trans-NIH collaborations. He spoke about administrative supplements to enhance collaborations and expand research and research capabilities in the IDeA states. He emphasized that the administrative supplements to INBREs have been effective in facilitating interactions and collaborations among INBRE investigators and COBRE, IDeA-CTR, CTSA, and ISPCTN investigators. These intra-program collaborations have used creative strategies to bring people together and encourage expansion beyond their “comfort zones.” This joint effort leverages the IDeA investment by involving undergraduate students and providing them with a continuum of research opportunities.

The trans-NIH collaborations Dr. Lei discussed included initiatives that expand research on Women’s Health and Alzheimer’s disease, and address the COVID challenge through RADx-UP. Collaboration with non-IDeA programs is a win-win for all as it builds connections between NIH institutes/centers (ICs) and IDeA investigators whose work lies in those institutes’ mission areas. These efforts also showcase the strength of IDeA-supported programs and provide all NIH ICs a platform to support research in IDeA states.

The session on COVID-19 research, moderated by Dr. Michele McGuirl, chief of the DRCB Research Advancement Programs Branch, focused on recently funded supplemental awards for COVID-19 research. The session on non-COVID research moderated by Dr. Krishan Arora, chief of the DRCB Networks and Development Programs Branch addressed a wide variety of research topics. Eighteen investigators were invited to present their research discoveries or proposals. Presentations given by those who agreed to share the contents of their talks are available here (link to webinar recording once available).

Two presentations in the non-COVID session highlighted resources that are available to the IDeA community: 1) The newly funded IDeA National Resource for Quantitative Proteomics, described by Dr. Alan Tackett at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, provides services for state-of-the-art, quantitative proteomics; and 2) the IDeA Regional Accelerator hubs, presented by Dr. A.J. Mellott at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who shared his experiences as an entrepreneur and highlighted how SHARPHub resources have helped him successfully spinout the biotech company Ronawk to accelerate discovery research for a new technology and raise funds from private investors.​