Advisory Council Minutes, September 10-11, 2007

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The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred thirty-fifth meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, September 10, 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 3:50 p.m. on September 10, the meeting was open to the public on September 11 from 8:35 a.m. to 11:20 a.m.

Council Members Present:

Francine D. Berman, Ph.D.
Edwin S. Flores, Ph.D., J.D.
Kathleen M. Giacomini, Ph.D. – attended via telephone
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
Eric N. Jacobsen, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Brian W. Matthews, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Richard I. Morimoto, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Timothy O'Leary, M.D., Ph.D.
Gregory R. Reyes, M.D., Ph.D.
Lisa Staiano-Coico, Ph.D.
Virginia A. Zakian, Ph.D.

Members Absent:

Stanley Fields, Ph.D.
Paula Stephan, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Frederick R. Cross, Ph.D.
Department of Yeast Molecular Genetics
Rockefeller University
New York, NY 10021

Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman
Department of Biochemistry
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, TX 75390-9152

Roy R. Parker, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Tucson, AZ 85721

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Mr. Jim Bernstein, American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Dr. Nancy Claiborne, University of Albany, SUNY
Dr. Perry Kirkham, Purdue University
Ms. Rachel E. Levinson, Arizona State University, Biodesign Institute
Dr. Amy Pollick, Association for Psychological Sciences
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Mr. Ted Shoneck, Tunnell Government Services
Ms. Barbara Wanchisen, 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 regular members of the Council who were present and introduced the special consultants: Frederick R. Cross, Ph.D., professor, department of yeast molecular genetics, Rockefeller University; Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D., professor and chairman, department of biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; and Roy R. Parker, Ph.D., department of molecular and cellular biology, University of Arizona, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the May 17-18, 2007, meeting were approved as submitted.

III. Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

January 24-25, 2008 Thursday-Friday
May 15-16, 2008 Thursday-Friday
September 18-19, 2008 Thursday-Friday

IV. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by announcing that NIH is convening a panel to review the management and leadership of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. He noted that during the review period, Dr. David Schwartz has temporarily stepped aside as the institute and program director, but he will continue to serve as chief of a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute laboratory and as a senior advisor on environmental health sciences to Dr. Zerhouni. NIEHS Deputy Director Samuel Wilson is serving as acting director of NIEHS.

Dr. Berg announced that NIGMS was anticipating funding approximately 1,100 new and competing Research Project Grants, primarily R01s with a very modest increase in average grant size. He noted that the number of applications had dropped relative to last year by a few percent, leading to a projected overall RPG success rate of 32 percent.

Dr. Berg then turned to activities related to promotion of highly innovative research. He noted that the NIH Director's Pioneer Award Symposium will occur on September 19 and that Dr. Zerhouni will announce the 2007 Pioneer Award winners at that time. Dr. Zerhouni will also announce the first winners of the NIH Director's New Innovator Awards. He thanked Dr. Judith Greenberg and the entire NIGMS team that facilitated the successful launch of the NIH Director's New Innovator program on a very short timeline. He also noted that the EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) R01 award program has been announced and that applications are due on October 24.

Dr. Berg reported that Dr. Zerhouni has announced a process to examine the NIH peer review system. He described this process that includes a working group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH, co-chaired by Dr. Larry Tabak, director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; and Dr. Keith Yamamoto from the University of California at San Francisco; and a working group of the NIH Steering Committee, co-chaired by Drs. Tabak and Berg. He noted that pilot projects and other changes are likely to be initiated in 2008.

VI. Response to the MORE Council Working Group Report

The NAGMS Council MORE Division Working Group presented its final report in September 2006. NIGMS Director Dr. Jeremy Berg then convened an NIGMS staff committee to consider and respond to the report's recommendations. The committee unanimously endorsed several recommendations as well as the general spirit of the report. Dr. Berg discussed NIGMS' progress and plans to move forward with next steps in implementing selected recommendations. He highlighted the launching of a new Web-based tool (the Community for Advanced Graduate Training) aimed at facilitating interactions between students in the MARC undergraduate training programs and the T32 graduate training programs.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg,, 301-594-2172

VII. Update: Peer Review Process

In September 2006, NIH leadership resolved that enhancing the NIH peer review system would be a top agency priority. Dr. Berg explained that subsequent NIH staff brainstorming sessions laid the foundation for the current examination process, Enhancing Peer Review at NIH, that is a partnership between the NIH and the scientific community. This involves both an external working group (co-chaired by Drs. Keith Yamamoto and Larry Tabak) and an internal working group (co-chaired by Drs. Berg and Tabak). The peer review self-study process will dovetail with ongoing efforts being conducted by the Center for Scientific Review.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg,, 301-594-2172

VIII. NIGMS 2008-2012 Strategic Plan

NIGMS developed the 2008-2012 draft Strategic Plan as a result of a comprehensive consultation process that gathered perspectives and opinions and began in the Fall of 2006. Dr. Berg described the process that solicited input from scientists, policymakers, professional scientific societies, the general public, and NIGMS staff. A strategic planning committee, composed of NIGMS staff and broadly representing the Institute, developed the procedures, format, and timetable for the overall strategic planning process and helped define some of the key issues. Following Council approval, the current draft plan will be posted on the NIGMS Web site for public comment in the Fall of 2007. The plan will be finalized and printed in early 2008.

Contact: Dr. Jeremy Berg,, 301-594-2172

IX. Update: Short Courses in Integrative and Organ Systems Pharmacology

The majority of current graduate students receive relatively little training in physiology and integrative pharmacology, and hands-on experience is particularly lacking in the appropriate selection and use of in vivo and intact organ models. Moreover, relatively few institutions have sufficient faculty expertise and infrastructure to provide this training. Yet, the need for scientists with training in this area continues to be high in industry, government, and academia, where further attrition of experienced faculty is expected due to retirement trends. NIGMS solicited proposals for Short Courses in Integrative and Organ Systems Pharmacology to address this training need, and four programs were funded beginning in the Summer of 2005. Dr. Peter Preusch provided an update on the program including NIGMS' plans to solicit a new round of proposals to continue it.

Contact: Dr. Peter Preusch,, 301-594-3827

X. Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Analysis

The NIH Reform Act of 2006, the first omnibus reauthorization of the NIH in 14 years, established a Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives (DPCPSI), a common fund to support trans-NIH research, and a Council of Councils to guide trans-NIH initiatives. Dr. Alan Krensky, NIH Deputy Director for the Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Analysis (OPASI), discussed the new component that exists within the Office of the Director. OPASI is designed to coordinate and make more effective portfolio analysis, strategic planning, and evaluation procedures for trans-NIH initiatives, including the Roadmap for Medical Research. Dr. Krensky discussed rules for Roadmap initiatives, processes for project development, new topics under discussion, and expected outcomes.

Contact: Dr. Alan Krensky,, 301-496-4145

XI. The Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization Project

Dr. Timothy Hays described the Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) Project, a new electronic system that will sort NIH research investments into nearly 360 categories. RCDC uses the text-mining application Collexis to search for science-related concepts in research descriptions (titles, abstracts, and specific aims) of funded projects and compare them to "category fingerprints," a list of concepts developed by NIH experts to define the disease and research categories. RCDC will not change the grant application or review process, nor will it affect how NIH spends or budgets its money, but it will offer the following benefits: a complete list of funded research projects that sufficiently match a category fingerprint/definition; consistent and reliable categorization of spending; and a transparent and efficient coding process. RCDC system results will be available on a public Web site in early 2009 for FY 2008 funded research. Visit OPASI for more information.

Contact: Timothy Hays, Ph.D.,, 301-435-3060


XIII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 11:20 p.m. on September 11, 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