Advisory Council Minutes, January 25-26, 2007

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-third meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 25, 2007. 

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 4:00 p.m. on January 25, the meeting was open to the public on January 26 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Stanley Fields, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Richard Armstrong, Ph.D.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Department of Biochemistry
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37232

Marlene Belfort, Ph.D.
Wadsworth Center
New York State Department of Health
Center for Medical Science
150 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208

W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences and Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, CA 94305

Michael Summers, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Baltimore, MD 21250

Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.
Physiology Department
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Worcester, MA 01605

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. Jim Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Ms. Mary Leary, American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Ms. Michelle Rodrigues, SRI International
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Ms. Barbara Wanchisen, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Helen Hansma, National Science Foundation
Dr. Lucy Robinson, National Science Foundation
Dr. John Rogers, National Science Foundation
Dr. Loverine Taylor, 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 introduced the special consultants:  Richard Armstrong, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; Marlene Belfort, Ph.D., New York State Department of Health; Michael Summers, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and Yu-li Wang, Ph.D., professor of physiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School.  W. James Nelson, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences and molecular and cellular physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine attended via telephone.  Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests.

II.  Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 14-15, 2006, meeting were approved as submitted.

III.  Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 17-18, 2007 — Thursday-Friday

September 10-11, 2007 — Monday-Tuesday

January 24-25, 2008 — Thursday-Friday

May 15-16, 2008 — Thursday-Friday

IV.  Council Operating Procedures

As is required each year, the Council approved its operating procedures.  There are no substantial changes from previous years.  A section was added describing possible procedures that might be taken should a crisis or emergency prevent the Council meeting from being held as usual.

V.   Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced that John Niederhuber, M.D., was appointed director of the National Cancer Institute.

He noted that Stephen Straus, M.D., has stepped down from his position as director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for health reasons. Dr. Straus is now senior advisor to the NIH director, and former NIGMS director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein is the Center's acting director.

Dr. Berg announced that John Bartrum has been appointed as the new NIH associate director for budget. Previously, he served as a senior examiner in the National Security Division of the Office of Management and Budget.

Finally, Dr. Berg announced that Alan Krensky, M.D., had been named the previous day as the first NIH deputy director of the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI).  Dr. Krensky will start his new role on July 8, 2007.  He is currently professor of pediatrics, chief of the Division of Immunology and Transplantation Biology, associate chair for research in the Department of Pediatrics, and associate dean for Children's Health at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Berg noted that the Senate had confirmed Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and Terry Cline, Ph.D., as administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Dr. Berg noted that Margaret "Peggy" Weidman, Ph.D., has joined that NIGMS Office of Scientific Review.

Dr. Berg noted that this year's Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine and chemistry--Andrew Fire, Craig Mello, and Roger Kornberg--were all long-time NIGMS grantees.  He commented that the awards bring the total number of Nobel laureates supported by NIGMS to 64 over the Institute's 45-year history.  He mentioned that he did 21 newspaper interviews and two radio interviews over the span of one-week and that this resulted in success in making the connection between NIH funding and Nobel prize-winning research. 

Dr. Berg also reported that other NIGMS-funded scientists had recently received prestigious awards: Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider, Jack Szostak, and Joseph Gall won Lasker awards; Dr. Jay Keasling received Discover magazine's inaugural Scientist of the Year award; Drs. Ada Yonath and George Feher shared the Wolf Prize; and 25 other NIGMS grantees won American Chemical Society 2007 national awards.

Dr. Berg commented on the status of the Fiscal Year 2007 budget.  He noted that Congressional leaders had expressed the intent to support most government programs through a year-long continuing resolution that would provide essentially the same level of funding for NIH for Fiscal Year 2007 as for Fiscal Year 2006.  He mentioned that NIH had announced a policy of not making inflationary adjustments to non-competing awards, and that modular awards might be reduced by 3%.  He said that this policy is based on a strategy of trying to manage the overall NIH portfolio to ensure a more constant number (approximately 9,600) of competing research project grant awards would be awarded each year.  This is the number of awards made in Fiscal Year 2005.  He noted that NIH leadership appreciates that these reductions do cut into the ability of investigators to make progress on their research and do strain institutional resources.

Dr. Berg discussed the status of the planning for the next phase of the NIH Roadmap (commonly known as Roadmap 1.5).  He noted that more than 300 ideas were submitted for consideration by the scientific community through a series of meetings during the summer and through a broad Request for Information.  These ideas had been clustered, examined for their responsiveness to the Roadmap objectives (trans-NIH, potentially transforming, suitable for "incubator" support over a 5-10 year period), and subjected to preliminary portfolio analyses.  The concepts were then prioritized by Institute and Center directors, and 5-10 areas were selected for continued development.  These initiatives will compete for approximately $30M in funding (taken from the existing Roadmap envelope) for Fiscal Year 2008.  These activities are supported by the new Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI) in NIH Office of the Director.

Dr. Berg noted that President Bush signed the NIH Reform Act of 2006, a reauthorization bill for NIH that had been passed unanimously by the last Congress in December.  He noted key points in the legislation including the formation of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives and the Common fund; changes in reporting requirements and processes; and authorization of future appropriations with significant increases for the overall NIH budget.

VI.  Concept Clearance: Collaborative Studies on Systems Biology of Complex Phenotypes

Our expanded knowledge of human genomic variation has made it clear that virtually all traits observed in individuals arise from the interactions of networks of genetic and metabolic factors acting under the influence of environmental constraints.  Data-intensive modeling approaches are necessary to study not only complex disease phenotypes, but also to more fully understand conditions mapped to a single gene.  In September 2006, NIGMS sponsored the workshop, "Systems Biology and Complex Phenotypes," in which researchers with expertise in molecular, human, and statistical genetics convened with computational biologists, engineers, and clinical researchers to offer perspective on how the Institute can advance this important area of biomedicine.  The report can be found at Dr. Richard Anderson presented a proposed initiative designed to foster collaborative efforts between newly trained systems biologists and geneticists studying complex phenotypes in human and animal systems.  Dr. Anderson requested, and received, Council approval to solicit proposals for collaborative R01 projects that require the active participation of both a geneticist and systems biologist.

Contact: Dr. Richard Anderson,, 301-594-0943; Dr. Matthew Portnoy,, 301-594-0943.

VII.  Concept Clearance: EIRA (Exceptionally Innovative Research Award)*

NIGMS recognizes the need for investigators to have opportunities to test unconventional, potentially paradigm-shifting hypotheses, and to attempt to use novel, innovative approaches to solve difficult technical and conceptual problems that impede scientific progress.  A newly proposed initiative, tentatively titled the Exceptionally Innovative Research Award (EIRA), is aimed at R01 applicants who wish to pursue ideas and approaches with potential for an unusually high impact on a broad scientific community.  The EIRA program, which excludes pilot projects, replaces the Institute's high risk, high impact R21 initiative, which was terminated because it was frequently confused with the exploratory/pilot project R21 initiative common to many other NIH components.  EIRA projects will not be renewable.  Drs. Laurie Tompkins and Ravi Basavappa described several features of the EIRA program, including the application format and instructions, as well as the locus, format, and criteria for review.  EIRA applications will differ from traditional R01s in that reviewers will have substantial latitude to make funding decisions based primarily on innovation and potential impact. Drs. Tompkins and Basavappa requested, and received, Council approval for the initiative. 
*Note:  The name of the award was changed subsequently to EUREKA — "Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration."

Contacts: Dr. Laurie Tompkins,, 301-594-0943; Dr. Ravi Basavappa,, 301-594-0828.

VIII.  PGRN Annual Report

The Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN) is an ongoing effort led by NIGMS and supported by nine NIH components.  The PGRN has updated and refined its vision and mission statements, and it has developed action plans reflecting interests and commitments in the areas of cardiovascular/pulmonary and cancer-related research; the science of studying adverse drug reactions; scientific public outreach through publications, workshops, and meetings; and planned interactions with other existing research networks.  The PGRN is required to meet annually with an external scientific panel of advisors, and Dr. Rochelle Long presented the most recent panel recommendations along with the PGRN's responses and plans.  More information about the PGRN can be found at:

Contact: Dr. Rochelle Long,, 301-594-3827.

IX.  NIGMS Strategic Planning Process

NIGMS has initiated efforts to create a 5-year strategic plan that will identify Institute priorities and guide decision-making for 2008 through 2012.  Dr. Berg and Dr. Judith Greenberg, chair of the NIGMS Strategic Planning Committee, described the multi-component process.  NIGMS will convene a strategic planning conference on April 12-13, 2007, in which invited participants representing all NIGMS-supported areas (including all NAGMS Council members) will help the Institute identify new and emerging research areas, approaches, and technologies and provide input on priority-setting.  In addition, the group will consider how to encourage promising areas of innovative or high-risk research, improve communications with the scientific community, balance support for training programs between existing and new areas, and promote greater diversity in the biomedical workforce.  NIGMS will also solicit input from the broader scientific community, the general public, and other stakeholders through a well-publicized Web site.  NIGMS program directors will analyze their research portfolios, and all Institute staff will have an opportunity to provide comment.  A strategic plan, informed by input from all these sources, will be completed by the Fall of 2007.

Contact: Dr. Judith Greenberg,, 301-594-0943.

X.  MORE Overview

The NIGMS Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) Division uses more than 20 different programs to accomplish its mission of increasing the numbers of biomedical researchers from groups that have been historically underrepresented in science.  Some of these programs support research and student development at minority-serving institutions only. Other programs support student development at both minority and non-minority institutions.  Dr. Clifton Poodry presented to the NAGMS Council the history, objectives, and features of the many different MORE programs.

Contact: Dr. Clifton Poodry,, 301-594-3900.

XI.  Report:  PSI Annual Meeting

The NIGMS-supported Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) consists of 14 centers:  4 large-scale centers, 6 specialized centers, 2 computational modeling centers, a materials repository, and a forthcoming knowledgebase.  Dr. Brian Matthews, chair of the PSI Advisory Committee (PSIAC) and NAGMS Council member, summarized the seventh annual PSI meeting held on the NIH campus on December 7-8, 2006.  On the first day, PSI center directors presented their centers' accomplishments to date and future plans, and the Steering Committee discussed plans to develop many activities that will benefit the broad scientific community.  The PSIAC met the following day in closed session to evaluate progress and next steps for the PSI effort.  More information about the PSI can be found at:

Contacts: Dr. John Norvell,, 301-594-0533; Dr. Brian Matthews,, 541-346-2572.


XIII.  Review of Applications

A summary of applications reviewed by Council is attached (Attachment II).


The meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, January 26, 2007.


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