Advisory Council Minutes, January 21-22, 2010

The National Advisory General Medical Sciences (NAGMS) Council was convened in closed session for its one hundred forty-second meeting at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 21, 2010.

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 5:45 p.m. on January 21, the meeting was open to the public on January 22 from 8:35 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Council Members Present:

Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Ph.D.
Michael D. Caldwell, M.D., Ph.D.
Mariano Garcia-Blanco, M.D., Ph.D.
Howard H. Garrison, Ph.D.
Clifford W. Houston, Ph.D.
John E. Johnson, Ph.D.
Jeffrey Mason, Ph.D.
Steven L. McKnight, Ph.D.
Robert F. Murphy, Ph.D.
W. James Nelson, Ph.D.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado, Ph.D.
James L. Stevens, Ph.D.

Special Consultants Present:

Ann Hochschild, Ph.D.
Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA 02115

Richard B. Kim, M.D., FRCPC
Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Pharmacology
Department of Medicine
University of Western Ontario
London, ON N6A 5A5 Canada

Christopher V. Wright, D. Phil.
Department of Cell and Developmental Biology
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, TN 37232

Council roster (available from NIGMS).

Members of the Public Present:

Dr. Pat Kobor, American Psychological Association
Dr. Sherry Marts, Genetics Society of America
Dr. Yi Ning, Virginia Commonwealth University
Ms. Angela Sharpe, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Dr. Alison Trepold, SRI

Federal Employees Present:

Dr. Caesar Jackson, National Science Foundation
Dr. Mark Leddy, National Science Foundation
Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, Indian Health Service
Dr. Richard Rodewald, National Science Foundation

NIGMS 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 then introduced the special consultants: Ann Hochschild, Ph.D., professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Richard B. Kim, M.D., FRCPC, professor, Department of Medicine, University of Western Ontario and Christopher V. Wright, D. Phil., professor, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Berg then introduced and welcomed the guests in attendance.

II. Consideration of Minutes

The minutes of the September 10-11, 2009, meeting were approved as submitted.

III.  Future Meeting Dates

The following dates for future Council meetings were confirmed:

May 20-21, 2010
September 20-21, 2010
January 27-28, 2011

IV. Council Operating Procedures

As is required each year, the Council approved its operating procedures. There were no substantial changes from previous years.

V. Report from the Director, NIGMS

Dr. Berg began by noting the recent death of Dr. Ruth Kirschstein, a long-time director of NIGMS and a leading figure across NIH. He highlighted some of her most noted contributions to the Institute and to NIH, including her great influence on many current NIGMS staff members. She is well acknowledged for her ardent articulation of the importance of basic research to many groups including Congress. He mentioned that several activities are being planned in her memory.

Dr. Berg noted the appointment of Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. He also noted the departures of Elizabeth Nabel, M.D., as director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Duane Alexander, M.D., as director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and John Bartrum as NIH associate director for budget.

Within the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Berg noted the confirmations of Regina Benjamin, M.D., as surgeon general and Pamela Hyde, J.D., as administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Within NIGMS, Dr. Berg mentioned the selection of Ward Smith, Ph.D., as chief of the Structural Genomics and Proteomics Technology Branch within the Division of Cell Biology and Biophysics.

Dr. Berg commented on the successes of long-time NIGMS grantees with the announcement of the Nobel Prizes in October. The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., Carol Greider, Ph.D., and Jack Szostak, Ph.D., for "the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Venki Ramakrishnan, Ph.D., Tom Steitz, Ph.D., and Ada Yonath, Ph.D., for "studies of the structure and function of the ribosome." He noted that this brings the total number of Nobel Prize winners supported by NIGMS to 73.

Dr. Berg presented funding results for fiscal year 2009 including funding curves for R01 grants and the distribution of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) committed by NIGMS. He then discussed the budget for fiscal year 2010 indicating that it includes a 2.4% increase for NIH overall and a 2.7% increase for NIGMS. He also highlighted the funding of awards from programs explicitly directed toward transformative research including 18 NIH Director's Pioneer Awards, 55 NIH Director's New Innovator Awards and 42 awards from the new NIH Transformative R01 program.

Dr. Berg noted that NIGMS had awarded a contract of the Coriell Institute for Medical Research for the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository. The new contract calls for the addition of capabilities for the generation of and handling of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell lines.

Dr. Berg discussed the recent launching of the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network or OppNet. He noted that this is a new trans-NIH structure directed toward developing initiatives in basic behavioral research and that he co-chairs the steering committee for OppNet with Richard Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging.

Dr. Berg discussed recent advances in NIGMS communications efforts with the scientific community including the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog, as well as a presence on Facebook and Twitter. He welcomed input of how best to take advantage of these new communications tools.

Dr. Berg briefly discussed an effort within NIGMS to examine the various resources, both physical and computational, that are funded by the Institute with the goal of determining what mechanisms are most appropriate for supporting such resources in the future. He indicated that he or other Institute staff members would be reporting back to the advisory council at a future meeting.

He closed his report by discussing the five themes that NIH Director Francis Collins had been using to articulate his priorities for NIH. These themes are: high-throughput technologies, translational medicine, benefitting health care reform, global health and reinvigorating and empowering the biomedical research community.

VI. Report: The National Synchrotron Light Source-II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory

The National Institutes of Health supports experimental beam lines at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) (run by the U.S. Department of Energy) for use by life science researchers. Dr. Ward Smith reported that in mid-2015, a new synchrotron (NSLS-II) will replace NSLS at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. As a result of a series of workshops over the past 2 years, the research community recommends that NIH should take advantage of exciting and unprecedented new opportunities for life sciences research provided by the use of NSLS-II, which will be a world-leading resource. Together with the National Center for Research Resources, NIGMS is planning for NIH investments in this area.

Contact: Ward Smith,, 301-594-0828

VII. Report: Scientific Advisory Board for NIGMS-Supported X-ray Synchrotron Activities and Associated Structural Biology

NIGMS has a substantial investment in synchrotron beamlines for structural biology studies, supporting an annual supplement program to four regional facilities across the country. Together with the National Cancer Institute, NIGMS also provides support for the GM/CA sector at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. Dr. Jack Johnson of the Scripps Research Institute reported on the September 2009 review of these programs by the Synchrotron Advisory Board, a working group of the NIGMS Council.

Contact: Dr. Jack Johnson,, 858-784-9705

VIII. Broadening the Participation of People with Disabilities in Health-Related Research

Creating and expanding opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for people with disabilities is important for preparing a diverse, globally-engaged research workforce. Dr. Mark Leddy of the National Science Foundation (NSF) discussed the unique opportunities and challenges federal agencies face in broadening the participation of people with disabilities in health-related research. He described selected NSF programs and noted that NSF program staff recently consulted with NIGMS to consider additional approaches to expand opportunities in biomedical research for people with disabilities.

Contact: Dr. Mark Leddy,, 703-292-4655

IX. Update: New Investigators

In 1998, NIGMS established procedures and funding policies to ensure support for adequate numbers of new investigators and considers an applicant's status as a New Investigator (NI) as one of the criteria used in funding decisions. The number of NIs supported by NIGMS in recent years suggests that these policies have been effective in maintaining an influx of NIs supported the Institute. Dr. Juliana Blome explained that NIH remains concerned, however, about the entry rate of NIs into the research enterprise, and in fiscal year 2009 announced a new policy that defines Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) as NIs who are within 10 years of completing either their terminal research degree or their medical residency (whichever is later) at the time they apply for R01 grants.

Contact: Dr. Juliana Blome,, 301-594-2762

X. Concept Clearance: Multivalent Agents as Therapeutics

In 2008, NIGMS convened a workshop in which investigators explored opportunities and challenges with developing multivalent agents as therapeutics. Workshop participants concluded that there is a compelling need to further develop our basic understanding of multivalency in a physiologically relevant context, particularly in instances where small molecule therapeutics have fallen short. Dr. Miles Fabian requested, but did not receive, Council approval to encourage the submission of research proposals in this area. Ensuing discussion requested clarification on the intent of the solicitation, and Council members recommended that NIGMS staff narrow the solicitation's focus, perhaps toward in vivo modeling and drug delivery.

Contact: Dr. Miles Fabian,, 301-594-3827

XI. Planning Process for NIGMS Strategic Plan for Training and Career Development

NIGMS has a long-standing commitment to research training and biomedical workforce development. As science, the conduct of research and biomedical workforce needs evolve, the Institute wants to ensure that current training activities most effectively meet current needs and anticipate emerging opportunities. Dr. Jeremy Berg described the strategic planning process that will culminate in the "NIGMS Strategic Plan for Training and Career Development" designed to articulate a clear, multi-year approach to help the Institute build and sustain a workforce that improves the nation's health and maintains global competitiveness.

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


XIII. Review of Applications

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


The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m. on January 22, 2010.


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