The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in open session for its one hundred and seventy-sixth meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 20, 2021.
Dr. Jon R. Lorsch, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), presided as chair of the meeting. After an open session from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., the closed session was held from 1:15 p.m. to 4:24 p.m.
Darrin Akins, Ph.D.Celeste Berg, Ph.D.Squire J. Booker, Ph.D.Enrique M. De La Cruz, Ph.D.Peter J. Espenshade, Ph.D.Laura F. Gibson, Ph.D.Danielle Li, Ph.D.Guy Padbury, Ph.D.Ronald M. Przygodzki, M.D.Amy Rosenzweig, Ph.D.Melanie Sanford, Ph.D.Pamela Stacks, Ph.D.Cathy Wu, Ph.D.John Younger, M.D.
Anthony Fehr, Ph.D.Assistant ProfessorDepartment of Molecular BiosciencesThe University of KansasLawrence, KS 66045
Keolu Fox, Ph.D.Assistant ProfessorDepartment of AnthropologyEmmerson Collective FellowIndigenous Futures InstituteUniversity of California, San DiegoLa Jolla, CA 92093
Jani Ingram, Ph.D.ProfessorDepartments of Chemistry and BiochemistryDirector, Bridges to the Baccalaureate ProgramNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaff, AZ 86011
Natividad (Natacha) Ruiz, Ph.D.ProfessorThe Ohio State UniversityDepartment of MicrobiologyColumbus, OH 43210
Council roster (available from NIGMS)
Not tracked because this was a virtual conference.
Dr. Lorsch thanked the regular members of the Council who were attending remotely and introduced the special consultants. He then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.
The minutes of the February 3, 2021, meeting were approved as submitted.
The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:
NIGMS Director Dr. Jon R. Lorsch thanked the NAGMS Council and NIGMS staff for their continued service, welcomed new Council members and ad hoc participants, and recognized retiring members. He announced NIGMS and NIH staff changes, including the hiring of Dr. Richard Aragon as director of the NIGMS Division of Data Integration, Modeling, and Analytics, and the departure of Dr. Christopher Austin, former director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Dr. Lorsch alerted the Council to two upcoming events: the Judith H. Greenberg Early Career Investigator Lecture on September 29 and the NIGMS Stetten Lecture on October 20. He announced the May 2021 publication of the NIGMS Strategic Plan 2021-2025 [PDF], which sets the Institute’s direction and priorities for the next 5 years. Dr. Lorsch described NIH’s UNITE initiative, established to identify and address structural racism within the NIH-supported and greater scientific community, adding that he co-leads the UNITE committee, Extramural Research Ecosystem: Changing Policy, Culture, and Structure to Promote Workforce Diversity. As part of that work, this committee will develop strategies to address funding disparities and increase applications supporting individuals from underrepresented groups. NIGMS and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities also recently issued funding opportunities to address structural racism and discrimination. Dr. Lorsch announced several Institute efforts germane to trainees, including partial support for childcare costs, supplements for first-time grant recipients dealing with critical life events, and extensions for NIGMS F and K awards for grantees affected significantly by the pandemic. He also pointed to several supplement opportunities to augment NIGMS grantee funding for equipment, training grants, lab safety curriculum and a culture of safety, undergraduate summer research, data science, and COVID-19-related research. Dr. Lorsch concluded his report by announcing an NIGMS collaboration with the NIH STRIDES initiative that will provide cloud-computing training and cloud credits for research at under-resourced institutions through Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. He also noted that NIGMS maintained healthy success rates for funding investigators in fiscal year 2020 and that Institute success rates have been steadily increasing since 2013.
Contact: Dr. Jon Lorsch, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Darren Sledjeski provided an overview and explanation of proposed updates to the NIGMS Council Review and Oversight Policy for Well-Funded Laboratories, informally known as the Institute’s $750K policy.
In May 1998, the Council adopted operating procedures regarding support of research in well-funded laboratories. Initially, this was defined as laboratories with $500,000 or more in other direct research support. This threshold increased to $750,000 in 1999. In considering whether to fund an application with a principal investigator who would cross that threshold, NIGMS required a special Council review and approval.
A recent change in the NIH Other Support Format page has required updates to the policy. Starting May 25, 2021, applications and progress reports are expected to present other support as total costs (direct plus indirect costs) rather than direct costs for the full term of the award. This change in other support reporting will be required as of January 25, 2022. The current NIGMS Council review policy is based on annual direct costs. Therefore, an updated policy was proposed to replace the $750,000 annual direct cost threshold with a $1.5 million annual total costs threshold. On average, this is the equivalent of $1 million annual direct cost plus $500,000 (50%) indirect cost recovery.
NIGMS received Council approval to implement the proposed updates. The new policy goes into effect for applications going to the September Advisory Council.
Contact: Dr. Darren Sledjeski, email@example.com
The goal of the previous NIGMS-sponsored Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) program was to increase research competitiveness of under-resourced institutions that serve students of underrepresented groups through supporting investigator-initiated research. After an evaluation of this program, in September 2020 Council recommended modifications, which led to development of the Support for Research Excellence (SuRE) program. Dr. Ming Lei gave an overview of the new program and described three funding opportunities, highlighting their unique features and expected co-funding from other NIH institutes and centers. The SuRE program provides support for investigators with no other NIH research funding, for investigators with no prior research funding, and for infrastructure and training development.
Contact: Dr. Ming Lei, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Alison Gammie built on Dr. Lorsch’s opening remarks about the NIH and NIGMS response to structural racism. She contrasted current and future Institute-led and -partnered activities to address structural barriers contributing to underrepresentation in the biomedical research workforce. Topics that were covered focused on a host of issues, including systemic biases in education, financial burden and student debt, lack of role models, academic culture, and other stressors (including microaggressions) during training. At the postdoctoral and faculty levels, NIGMS encourages equitable hiring practices and resource allocation, as well as addressing unhealthy work environments and the publish-or-perish mentality of academic science. At the funding-agency level, the Institute employs practices such building capacity at under-resourced institutions, supporting research to combat structural barriers to representation, and mitigating bias in funding announcements. NIGMS will add language to funding announcements to ensure diverse perspectives through a scorable review criterion for research grant applications submitted to NIGMS-specific funding announcements. This language was recently introduced by NIH’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.
Contact: Dr. Alison Gammie, email@example.com
The availability of advanced technologies enables and accelerates biomedical research, providing new ways to address important biomedical questions. NIGMS’ original funding announcement for Exploratory Research for Technology Development addressed the unmet need for explicit support of early-stage technology development before it is applied to untested biomedical research problems. NIGMS received Council approval to revise funding solicitations for both R01 and R21 applications to attract applications that do not conform to the traditional hypothesis-driven model and/or attract investigators with innovative technologies who would not otherwise apply for NIH funding based upon three barriers: 1) a concept that is not yet tested by feasibility studies; 2) early-stage technology that is not ready to address biological questions; and 3) the applicant’s unfamiliarity with the structure of NIH grants and review panels.
Contact: Dr. Fei Wang, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Dr. Kadir Aslan, email@example.com
NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing the next generation of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and diversity-enhancing programs. One is the Bridges to the Baccalaureate research training program, which provides structured activities to prepare a diverse cohort of community college students to complete a bachelor's degree in biomedical research fields. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue this funding announcement to continue effectively enhancing diversity and catalyzing changes in research training with some program modifications. These include emphasizing safety in the research training environment, such that 1) environments are free from harassment and intimidation, and everyone participating is treated in a respectful and supportive manner; 2) individuals in laboratory and clinical settings exercise the highest standards of practice for chemical, biological, and physical safety; and 3) institutional practices safeguard the community by demonstrating core values and behaviors of leadership that emphasize safety over competing goals.
Contact: Dr. Shakira Nelson, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Dr. Laurie Stepanek, email@example.com
NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to training the next generation of biomedical researchers and supporting the careers of students and postdoctoral scientists from diverse backgrounds through fellowships, career development awards, and institutional training and research education programs. The Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program is designed to facilitate the transition of talented postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds (for example, individuals from groups underrepresented in the biomedical research workforce) into independent faculty careers at research-intensive institutions. This program is part of NIGMS’ efforts to enhance diversity and equity within the academic basic science workforce at the postdoctoral and faculty levels. The program consists of both an institutionally focused research-education cooperative agreement (UE5) and a companion K99/R00 program. Most other NIH institutes and centers are participating in the program, thus enabling the support of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds across a range of scientific areas and types of research. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue the UE5 funding announcement. NIGMS will also reissue the MOSAIC K99 funding announcement with additional versions that allow independent clinical trials, and basic experimental studies involving humans.
Contact: Dr. Kenneth Gibbs, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since 2019, the NIGMS National and Regional Resources (R24) program has supported resources that provide access to state-of-the-art facilities, equipment, technologies, research tools, software, and service to a substantial number of users on a national or regional (multistate) basis. The primary goal of the original funding announcement was to support resources with mature technologies, previously supported through other NIGMS mechanisms, that added value and achieved economies of scale. NIGMS received Council approval to reissue this funding solicitation with modifications. New criteria, presented during Council by Dr. Christina Liu, include the following: 1) technologies used by researchers conducting studies must be consistent with the NIGMS mission but aren’t required to have previously been supported by NIGMS; 2) additional clarity about the expected scale of the facility userbase should be provided; 3) a majority of the instrumentation time devoted to the resource should be equal among internal and external users; 4) resources should not be staffed with trainees (unless there is a training component integral to scientific development); 5) there should be accountability for outreach and support for scientists from diverse backgrounds and underresourced institutions; and 6) there should be a renewal option.
Contact: Dr. Christina Liu, email@example.com
This portion of the meeting was closed to the public in accordance with the determination that it concerned matters exempt from mandatory disclosures under Sections 552b(c)(4) and 552b(c)(6), Title 5, U.S.C. and Section 10(d) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act as amended (5 U.S.C. Appendix 2).
Members absented themselves from the meeting during discussion of and voting on applications from their own institutions, or other applications in which there was a potential conflict of interest, real or apparent. Members were asked to sign a statement to this effect.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences considered 1,176 research and training applications requesting $505,987,811 in total costs. The Council recommended 1,176 applications with a total cost of $505,987,811.
The meeting adjourned at 4:24 p.m. on May 20, 2021.
I hereby certify that to my knowledge the foregoing minutes are accurate and complete.
Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D. Chair National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council
Erica Brown, Ph.D. Executive Secretary National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council
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