Jon R. Lorsch Named NIGMS Director

Photo of Jon R. Lorsch, Ph.D. Credit: Mike Ciesielski.
                                   Credit: Mike Ciesielski

I am delighted to tell you that NIH Director Francis Collins today announced his selection of Jon R. Lorsch as the new director of NIGMS. Dr. Lorsch expects to begin his appointment here in the summer of 2013.

Dr. Lorsch comes to NIH from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he is a professor in the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry. He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard University with Jack Szostak and was a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at Stanford University with Daniel Herschlag. His research, which NIGMS has funded since 2000, focuses on translation initiation in eukaryotes. During his tenure at Hopkins, Dr. Lorsch was also involved in graduate and medical education, including curriculum reform, mentoring and spearheading new biomedical education initiatives.

In meeting with Dr. Lorsch, I have been most impressed by his understanding of NIH and the issues that are central to the NIGMS mission of supporting basic research, research training and workforce diversity. He brings a passion for science, a commitment to education and demonstrated leadership. We very much look forward to welcoming and working with him.

Funding Opportunities: Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network, Highly Innovative Tools and Technology for Analysis of Single Cells

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

Limited Competition: Revision Applications for Basic Social and Behavioral Research on the Social, Cultural, Biological, and Psychological Mechanisms of Stigma (R01)
(RFA-MD-13-005)

Purpose: Revise applications to incorporate basic research on behavioral and social mechanisms underlying stigma into active R01 research projects
Letter of intent due date: July 2, 2013
Application due date: August 2, 2013
NIH contacts:
Jennifer Alvidrez, NIMHD, 301-594-9567
Rebecca Ferrer, NCI, 301-594-0437
Enid Light, NIMH, 301-443-3599
Kathleen Michels, FIC, 301-435-6031

Development of Highly Innovative Tools and Technology for Analysis of Single Cells (SBIR) (R43/R44)
(PA-13-140)

Purpose: Develop next-generation tools that distinguish heterogeneous states among cells and have commercial potential
Application due date: Standard dates apply
NIGMS contact: Stefan Maas, 301-594-0943

Provide Input on Challenges and Opportunities in Pharmacogenomics

We are seeking input from the scientific community on challenges, opportunities and gaps in pharmacogenomics. Please help us shape future programs in pharmacogenomics by responding to the recently published request for information (RFI). The RFI asks for your input on several topics, such as:

  • Critical technological advances that can be applied to pharmacogenomics problems;
  • Specific tools, resources, methods and approaches needed to enhance our molecular, genetic and biological mechanistic understanding;
  • Ways to advance clinical implementation for improving health care outcomes, including safety, effectiveness, time and costs;
  • Synergies that might come from a research network;
  • Types of scientific endeavors that would best be funded by R01 grants in the field; and
  • Additional interfaces and interactions that should be developed by NIH with other funders or organizations.

Please take the time to comment on any or all of the above topics between now and the May 17 deadline. You may respond as individuals or groups. Working together, we can help advance this research area of great scientific interest and immediate health relevance.

Genomes to Natural Products RFA

Last September, I described a concept clearance for an initiative to develop new approaches in natural products discovery that had just been approved by the NIGMS Advisory Council. The resulting request for applications on Genomes to Natural Products (U01) has now been published in the NIH Guide.

NIGMS, along with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), will support multidisciplinary research to develop high-throughput, broadly applicable approaches to natural products discovery that integrate genomics, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. We anticipate that up to four awards will be made through the cooperative agreement mechanism, totaling up to $9 million in Fiscal Year 2014. For NCCAM-specific interest areas and application requirements, see NOT-AT-13-005.

Applications are due by July 17. Potential applicants are invited to participate in an optional online Q&A session on April 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. Access this event at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/rfa-gnpn/ and sign in as a “guest” to be able to submit questions.

Letters of intent are not needed, but depending on which funding component’s areas of interest are more relevant to the proposal, I strongly recommend that potential applicants e-mail me or my counterpart at NCCAM, Craig Hopp to discuss submission plans.

Macromolecular Interactions in Cells, Bioengineering Research Funding Opportunities

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

These two announcements are based on a broader initiative for research on macromolecular interactions in cells in vivo. The initiative also includes an additional funding opportunity, Revisions for Macromolecular Interactions in Cells (R01).

  • Collaborations for Macromolecular Interactions in Cells (R01)
    (RFA-GM-14-004)

Purpose: Establish interdisciplinary collaborative projects to advance studies of macromolecular interactions and their relationship to function in cells, tissues and organisms

  • Research Networks for Macromolecular Interactions in Cells (U54)
    (RFA-GM-14-005)

Purpose: Establish interdisciplinary collaborative research networks to advance studies of macromolecular interactions and their relationship to function in cells, tissues and organisms

Letter of intent due date: April 30, 2013
Application due date: May 30, 2013
NIGMS contacts:
Alexandra Ainsztein, 301-594-0828
Daniel Janes, 301-594-0943
Vernon Anderson, 301-594-3827
Paul Brazhnik, 301-451-6446

Bioengineering Research Grants (BRG) (R01)
(PAR-13-137)

Purpose: Develop an innovative technology, model, technique, design or method that infuses principles and concepts from the quantitative sciences to increase our understanding of and solve problems in biological, clinical or translational science
Application due date: Standard dates apply
NIGMS contact: Pamela Marino, 301-594-3827

In addition, several new NIH Common Fund funding opportunities related to workforce development and diversity are listed at http://commonfund.nih.gov

Operating Under a Continuing Resolution and Sequestration

At this time, we are continuing to fund noncompeting grants at 90%, which is consistent with our practice during the continuing resolutions of fiscal years 2006-2012. We are taking a conservative approach to funding competing awards until we have a budget for the rest of the year. This may occur through another continuing resolution or an appropriations bill.

When we have more information about the budgetary outlook for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, I will share our funding plans. I want to assure you that we are working very hard to minimize the impact on our ability to fund grants.

For more information about NIH operations under the sequester, see the blog post from NIH’s Sally Rockey and a letter to grantee institutions about the potential impact of this budget reduction.

CSR’s Percentiling Recalibration

The Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has recently adjusted the base that a number of permanent study sections and special emphasis panels (SEPs) use to calculate percentiles for certain application types. Applications that were reviewed in a SEP meeting for the May 2013 Council round will be assigned a percentile ranking calculated from the new base. In some cases, revised summary statements will be issued for those applications missing percentile scores or with an incorrect percentile. The percentile ranking will also appear in the eRA Commons account of the principal investigator(s).

We here at NIGMS are often asked to explain how percentile rankings factor into determining which awards to make. We do not rely solely on a percentile cutoff; we consider a number of additional factors, including an investigator’s career stage, a laboratory’s other research funding, NIGMS research portfolio balance, and other programmatic priorities. For more information, see http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Research/Application/Pages/SuccessRateFAQs.aspx.

‘OXIDE-izing’ Diversity in Chemistry—and Beyond

We are constantly seeking new ways to foster the development of a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce. One notable example is our partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to support a series of workshops on increasing diversity in chemistry departments.

The workshops focused on disability equity Exit icon, racial and ethnic equity Exit icon and gender equity Exit icon. The organizing committees and workshop participants, mostly chemistry department chairs, felt that progress was made during each workshop. However, the insights and good intentions engendered by such meetings can have an all too high vapor pressure and gains can be lost. Enter OXIDE.

OXIDE, which stands for the Open Chemistry Collaborative in Diversity Equity Exit icon, is a 5-year grant effort co-funded by NIGMS, NSF and DOE to address multiple areas of diversity, including gender, race-ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation. With the desire to keep the momentum gained from the previous workshops, OXIDE seeks to maintain a connection among the chairs of chemistry departments and partner with social scientists to take advantage of their findings.

OXIDE’s recurring National Diversity Equity Workshops facilitate discussion among these groups on the latest diversity research and its implications for chemistry departments. The next workshop Exit icon, which is open primarily to chairs or thought leaders of the leading research-active chemistry departments, will be held April 15-16, 2013, in Arlington, Virginia. Presentation slides will be archived on the Oxide Web site.

OXIDE also partners with the American Chemical Society’s Chemical & Engineering News to conduct and publish annual faculty demographic assessments Exit icon of more than 75 research-active chemistry departments, allowing for longitudinal examination of data trends.

Perhaps most importantly, OXIDE embodies the commitment of the chemistry community, NIGMS and other federal agencies to advancing diversity and inclusion. Its approaches—and findings—might be useful to other scientific communities.

Networking Theme for 2013 Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Program Directors’ Meeting

TWD Program Directors' MeetingA goal of our Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD) is to create a community of trainers and educators dedicated to developing a well-prepared, diverse biomedical research workforce.

Toward that end, the focus of this year’s TWD Program Directors’ Meeting Exit icon is on networking. The meeting, to be held on June 12-14 in Chicago, will address the value of sustained networking among the grantees, students and other communities served by these programs. The meeting will enable program directors to learn more about other TWD programs; establish connections with potential new partners, especially regional “neighbors”; and collectively address the Institute’s research training objectives.

Plenary sessions and keynote talks will cover the diversity of the U.S. research workforce, STEM training in the context of NIH-funded biomedical and behavioral research, and innovative approaches for evaluating and assessing our training programs. NIGMS and NIH leaders will give overviews of the Institute’s training strategic plan and the implementation of the report from the Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH.

The meeting is primarily intended for program directors and associate deans (or the equivalent) at institutions with these TWD student and predoctoral training programs: Bridges to the Baccalaureate, Bridges to the Doctorate, IMSD, IRACDA, MARC T36, MARC U-STAR, RISE, PREP, NIGMS T32 predoctoral programs and IDeA INBRE.

Online registration is open now at www.TWDNIGMS.org Exit icon and closes May 10, 2013.