Advisory Council Minutes, January 26-27, 2006

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirtieth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January  26, 2006.

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 9:30 a.m., the meeting was open to the public on January 26 from 10:07 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.  The closed session resumed and continued until 5:15 p.m. It was followed by another closed session from 8:30 a.m. on January 27 until adjournment for consideration of grant applications.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Shelagh M. Ferguson-Miller, Ph.D.
Stanley Fields, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Corey Largman, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
Theodora E. Joan Robinson, Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.
Yu-li Wang, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacy Practice
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32610

Robert S. Pozos, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-4616

Paul Sternberg, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
HHMI and Division of Biology
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA 91125

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Ms. Joan Goldberg, American Society for Cell Biology
Dr. Richard Martinez, aDoReMe Productions
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Ms. Barbara Wanchisen, Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Eve Ida Barak, National Science Foundation
Dr. Ione Hunt von Herbing, National Science Foundation
Dr. John C. Rogers, National Science Foundation
Ms. Patricia Page, 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 welcomed the new Council members: Dr. Edwin Flores, managing partner in Chalker Flores, LLP, in Dallas, Texas; and Dr. Paula Stephan, professor of economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University. Then he introduced the special consultants: Dr. Corey Largman, professor of medicine and dermatology, University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Julie Johnson, professor and chair of pharmacy practice, professor of pharmaceutics and medicine, University of Florida Colleges of Pharmacology and Medicine; and Dr. Robert Pozos, professor of biology, San Diego State University. Then he introduced and welcomed the guests.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 22-23, 2005 meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 18-19, 2006                 Thursday-Friday
September 14-15, 2006    Thursday-Friday
January 25-26, 2007          Thursday-Friday
May 17-18, 2007                 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.

V. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg announced the appointments of LaVerne Stringfield as executive officer for the NIH Office of the Director and John "Jack" Jones, Ph.D., as acting Chief Information Officer of NIH and acting director of the Center for Information Technology. He also announced the appointments of Grace Olascoaga as NIGMS Chief Grant Management Officer and Catherine Lewis, Ph.D., as acting director of the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics.

Dr. Berg noted that Carlos Guttierez, Ph.D., who heads the MARC and MBRS programs at California State University, Los Angeles, had been named one of four "U.S. Professors of the Year" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He also noted that two long-time NIGMS grantees, Robert Grubbs from the California Institute of Technology and Richard Schrock from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ives Chauvin for the discovery of catalysts for olefin metathesis reactions.

Dr. Berg commented on the activities related to the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) programs related to preparations for a potential influenza pandemic. He noted that models addressing potential outbreaks in the United States had been developed and manuscripts describing the results had been submitted for publication. In addition, the MIDAS researchers and program staff had been working closely with leaders in the Department of Health and Human Services as well as others in the government on influenza preparedness issues.

Dr. Berg indicated that Dr. Zerhouni had asked him and Dr. John Ruffin, director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, to chair a trans-NIH committee to examine the recommendation of a recent National Research Council report on minority training programs across the NIH. He noted that the efforts of this committee should be linked to those of the NAGMS Council working group examining such programs with NIGMS.

Dr. Berg discussed a recent town hall meeting held to discuss possible responses to the growth in tuition costs on NIH training grants in the context of the present overall budget situation. He noted that NIH was developing changes in the tuition policy for release in the Spring of 2006.

Finally, Dr. Berg commented on the fiscal year 2006 budget and noted that an NIH-wide policy for adjustments to non-competing awards had been adopted with adjustments to 97.65% of previously committed levels for research project grants. He noted that institute financial management plan is posted on the NIGMS Web site.

VI. Update: New Investigators

Dr. James Onken presented to the Council an annual report on NIGMS' support of new investigators, noting that Institute practices adopted several years ago have been effective in maintaining support for new NIGMS investigators. Dr. Onken stated that the end of the NIH budget doubling and the lower success rates that have accompanied the end of this period make it important that NIGMS continue to give special consideration to the funding of new investigators.

Contact: Dr. James Onken,, 301-594-2762

VII. Update: High-Accuracy Protein Structure Modeling Program

The High-Accuracy Protein Structure Modeling program was approved by the NAGMS Council in January 2004, and a Request for Applications (RFA) to fund P20 Exploratory Centers was released in July 2004. The goal of this solicitation was very specific: to encourage novel method development that would significantly improve the quality of high-accuracy protein structure prediction. Requirements for funding include collaboration between traditional protein-structure modelers and researchers from mathematics, physics, computer science, statistics, and other quantitative disciplines. Dr. Jerry Li provided an update on this program, which has progressed through one round of application and peer review, and proposed a plan to continue it by re-announcing the RFA with a change of mechanism to R01 Research Grant.

Contact: Dr. Jerry Li,, 301-594-0828

VIII. Update: MIDAS Mission and Vision

The Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) is a research partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the scientific community to develop computational models for policymakers, public health workers, and other researchers to assist them in making better informed decisions about emerging infectious diseases. As reported by Dr. Irene Eckstrand, the MIDAS network will soon welcome four new research groups, expanding its expertise in the study of diseases that can be transmitted between animals and people, molecular evolution, mathematical modeling, and disease surveillance. In the past year, the MIDAS network has worked with policymakers to develop guidance and response plans for the possibility of pandemic influenza. This has led NIGMS to refocus the MIDAS mission on modeling for preparedness and planning. Council concurred with the new MIDAS mission statement.

Contact: Dr. Irene Eckstrand,, 301-594-0943

IX. Concept Clearance: RFA for Program Projects for Basic Research on Human Embryonic Stem Cells

The availability of human embryonic stem cells (HESC) for federally funded research affords a unique opportunity for investigators to use these cells to address research questions of interest to the NIGMS mission. Based on recent progress in HESC research and feedback from NIGMS grantees attending an April 2005 workshop, the Institute recognizes the opportunity to continue to advance fundamental research in this important area. Dr. Marion Zatz proposed a request for applications to fund program project grants (P01) to support basic research on HESC. Each would include a core to provide an institutional infrastructure to grow, maintain, and further characterize federally approved HESC lines. The core would also serve to develop research tools and reagents to enhance the use of HESC as a model system, and to train investigators at the grantee institution to work with HESC and to use them in pilot experiments. Each awarded P01 would also support a minimum of three related, R01-like research projects that focus on a significant scientific problem relevant to the NIGMS mission. NIGMS has set aside $6 million in FY 2007 to fund up to three P01s in response to this RFA. Dr. Zatz requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting proposals to fund HESC P01 grants.

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

X. Concept Clearance: Ethical, Economic, Legal, Social Studies of Pharmacogenetics Research

Attention to ethical, economic, legal, and social issues should be an integral part of a balanced approach to pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics research. Translating basic research results into clinical practice remains challenging because of many contributing factors related to reimbursements, education, and habits of practice in routine medical caregiving settings, as well as those in personal and professional decision-making. Dr. Rochelle M. Long reported that NIGMS seeks to stimulate research on specialized aspects of the ethical, economic, legal, and social issues related to pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics research. The solicitation is designed to address implications of pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics research, specifically the hurdles of translating basic research results into clinical practice. Dr. Long requested, and received, Council approval for soliciting proposals to fund research in this area.

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

XI. Electronic Submission of Grant Applications

NIH's longstanding system of applying for grants is undergoing significant change, and it is likely that this shift will have a major impact on the applicant community. As announced in August 2005, NIH will require grantees to submit competing award applications electronically through the federal online portal using a new set of standard forms created by federal agencies involved in research. Dr. Paul Sheehy reported that the transition to a completely electronic submission system will proceed incrementally, with several grant mechanisms introduced approximately every 3 to 4 months until May 2007 when all grants will be submitted electronically using the new set of forms. Several registration steps and mandatory validations are expected to lead to improved accuracy and efficiency in the application receipt process. Dr. Sheehy reported that NIH's experience from the first two rounds of electronic grant receipt has provided several valuable lessons for both the agency and the extramural community during the process of transitioning to the electronic submission of larger and more complex grant applications.

Contact:  Dr. Paul Sheehy,, 301-594-4499

XII. Update: Shortened Review Cycle

Shortening of the review cycle is a priority for NIH and the extramural community. To address this need, Dr. Toni Scarpa (director, NIH Center for Scientific Review) formed a trans-NIH committee. The group's recommendations, published in the NIH Guide in November 2005, include implementing a pilot program focused on new investigators. The goal of the pilot is to develop a process to shorten the referral and review cycle in order to permit a new investigator to submit an amended application for the next submission date. Features include a special receipt date of July 20, 2006, for amended applications from new investigators. NIH review staff and reviewers will more fully utilize Internet-assisted review for posting pre-meeting critiques and preparation of expedited summary statements. Applicants' summary statements will indicate that they may resubmit on the new deadline but should contact NIH institute staff for guidance. The results of the pilot will be analyzed before determining whether the pilot should be expanded. For more information about the pilot, see

Contact:  Dr. Eileen Bradley,, 301-435-1179

XIII. Update: Report of the MORE Division Working Group

The Working Group of the NAGMS Council for Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) issued its report to NIGMS on January 13, 2006. Dr. Richard Morimoto of Northwestern University summarized the report, describing the resources available to the working group to prepare it. The report articulates four general goals to guide future use of MORE Division funds, emphasizes the need for evaluation of programs and tracking of participants, and lists examples of specific initiatives that would help the MORE Division reach these goals.
Contact: Dr. Richard Morimoto,, 847-491-3714; Dr. Virginia Zakian,, 609-258-6770

XIV. Overview of MORE Programs

Dr. Clifton Poodry presented a brief overview of the programs and mechanisms of the MORE Division. He described the populations each program is intended to serve as specified by Congressional mandates and outlined which activities support research development of faculty and which programs support student development. Dr. Poodry described the historic and current rationales for MORE programs and policies and urged that the challenge of achieving a reasonable representation of minorities in biomedical research requires a significant change in existing programs. He also discussed the importance of good evaluation and stressed that many factors influence final outcomes of the Institute's efforts. Dr. Poodry's comments augmented information provided in the report of the Working Group of the NAGMS Council for MORE, as discussed by Dr. Morimoto.
Contact: Dr. Clifton Poodry,, 301-594-3900


XVI. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 10:05 a.m. on Friday, January 27, 2006.


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