Pharmacogenomics Research Network Transition Update

As I wrote in a previous post on the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN), we have been transitioning our support of pharmacogenomics research from set-aside funding to regular competition with other scientific areas. This is part of the Institute’s efforts to bolster support for investigator-initiated research. We’ll now fund pharmacogenomics research primarily through regular research grant mechanisms, such as R01s or well-justified P01s.

To learn more about how pharmacogenomics-related applications fare in review, our Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation conducted an analysis of NIH-wide pharmacogenomics-related applications assigned to Center for Scientific Review study sections. The analysis showed that these applications have comparable success in the review and award processes as applications in other scientific fields. Even so, I still recommend that applicants include a cover letter describing the kinds of expertise they believe are needed for an appropriate review. This can be particularly beneficial for a multidisciplinary research area like pharmacogenomics.

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Alison Gammie to Lead Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity Division

Alison Gammie, Ph.D.I’m very pleased to announce that Alison Gammie will be joining us in the late summer as the new director of our Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD). She’s currently a senior lecturer in molecular biology at Princeton as well as an innovator and leader in teaching, mentoring, diversity-building and recruitment programs there. Through collaborations and other approaches, she has also contributed in many ways to improving undergraduate STEM training on a national level.

Alison has a strong record of recognizing needs, identifying gaps and developing successful strategies to address and overcome these challenges.

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Establishment of Our Center for Research Capacity Building

I am pleased to announce that we have established a new Center for Research Capacity Building (CRCB). It will serve as the hub for our capacity-building programs, which include the Institutional Development Award (IDeA), Support of Competitive Research (SCORE) and Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH).

We appreciate the comments we received in response to our requests for public input on the proposed organizational change. They reflected strong support for creating the center.

The new center’s activities are focused in states that historically have not received significant levels of NIH research funding and at institutions that have a historical mission focused on serving students from underrepresented groups.

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Division Director Mike Rogers Retires

Mike Rogers, Ph.D.Mike Rogers, who has directed the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry for the past 22 years, retired today. Throughout his NIH career, Mike has been a champion for chemistry and its important role in biomedical research.

Before joining NIGMS 26 years ago, Mike worked for more than a decade in what is now the Center for Scientific Review, where he oversaw the Bioorganic and Natural Products study section.

Between these two positions, Mike completed a detail assignment on Capitol Hill working for Senator Ted Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, an experience that he says allowed him to see NIH from a different perspective.

Throughout his time at NIGMS, Mike has sought to build scientific bridges. He created the chemistry-biology interface predoctoral training program, which aims to cross-train students in both disciplines. He was instrumental in developing the large-scale collaborative project awards program that “glued” together scientists with diverse expertise to tackle big, unanswered questions in biology. More recently, he forged a link between two fields to help form the new field of quantitative and systems pharmacology. Along the way, he mentored and encouraged others to develop major NIGMS and trans-NIH initiatives, such as those in glycoscience, pharmacogenomics and synthetic organic chemistry.

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New Biosketch Formats for Applications Due May 25 and Later

Sample biosketch

See sample biosketches: predoctoral, postdoctoral, general.

With several training and other grant application receipt dates right around the corner, I want to be sure you know that all competing and noncompeting applications submitted for due dates on or after May 25 must use a new biosketch format.

There are two versions of the biosketch:

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Wanted: Genetics and Developmental Biology Division Director

Search Committee Members:

William Gelbart, Harvard University

Susan Gregurick, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Chair

Carole Heilman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Pamela Oliver, Office of the Director, NIH

Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Stowers Institute for Medical Research

Jeffery Schloss, National Human Genome Research Institute

Belinda Seto, National Eye Institute

Dinah Singer, National Cancer Institute

Laura Stanek, Office of Human Resources, NIH

UPDATE: This vacancy announcement has been extended and will now be open for 90 days from April 13, 2015.

With the selection of Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB) division director Judith Greenberg as NIGMS deputy director, the search is now open for an outstanding individual to serve as the GDB director.

GDB has supported many of the exciting fundamental discoveries that have led to deeper knowledge of how cells and organisms function as well as to new technologies and approaches. The division is organized into two branches, one focused on genetic mechanisms and one on developmental and cellular processes, and has 11 scientific staff members who serve as program officers.

While concentrating on general principles of genetics, gene expression and developmental biology, often using model organisms, research supported by GDB underpins studies on human health and disease. This position offers important opportunities to set scientific priorities, lead change and improve the research enterprise.

The division director reports to the NIGMS director and is a member of the NIGMS senior leadership team, which helps set policies and priorities for the Institute. There are also opportunities to participate in and advise on NIH-wide activities and collaborations with other federal agencies.

Candidates must have an M.D., Ph.D. or equivalent degree in a field relevant to the position. The ideal candidate will have considerable research experience demonstrating a strong understanding of genetics, gene expression, and/or developmental biology. In addition, candidates should possess recognized research management and leadership abilities. Broad knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms of inheritance, development and cell function is desired.

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Funding Opportunities for Predoctoral Training

You may be interested in these recent funding opportunity announcements:

Jointly Sponsored Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Institutional Predoctoral Training Program in the Neurosciences (T32)
(PAR-15-178)

Purpose: Prepare predoctoral students for independent research careers in the neurosciences
Letter of intent due dates: 30 days prior to the application due date
Application due dates: June 10, 2015; May 25, 2016; May 25, 2017
NIGMS contact: Stephen Korn, 301-496-4188

Availability of Administrative Supplements to NIGMS Predoctoral Training Grants (Admin Supp)
(PA-15-136)

Purpose: Request supplemental funds to existing predoctoral training grants to develop and implement curricular activities to enhance rigor and reproducibility in research and broaden training activities to better prepare students for a variety of scientific career paths
Application due date: April 30, 2015
NIGMS contact: Shiva Singh, 301-594-3900

Comment on Potential New Resources for Protein Expression

We support a variety of resources for biomedical research, and we’re considering a new addition: one or more facilities for protein expression. These resources would offer protein expression expertise and high-throughput expression capability for the benefit of the entire research community.

We just issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on the needs within the biomedical research community for such resources and the types of protein expression services that would be most beneficial. Examples might include the expression of proteins from a large number of sequences, orthologs and homologs; prokaryotic and eukaryotic protein expression; and expression for special needs, such as for large numbers of mutants, proteins requiring anaerobic expression, and the incorporation of nonproteogenic amino acids like seleno-methionine.

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Give Input on Strategies for Optimizing the Impact and Sustainability of Biomedical Research

An important, recurring discussion topic on our blogs is ways to maximize the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research. In 2011, a Rock Talk post on managing NIH’s budget in fiscally challenging times solicited many comments and led, in part, to an NIH-wide policy on special council review for applications from PIs who have more than $1 million in NIH funding. We have also implemented new programs that provide more stable support for investigators over longer time periods. A more recent example of the “maximizing impact and sustainability” theme is an NIGMS Feedback Loop post that discussed ideas for how to optimize the biomedical research ecosystem.

We’re each leading an NIH-wide working group focused on topics key to this important theme. One group (chaired by Sally) is exploring ways to decrease the time it takes investigators to reach research independence, and the other (chaired by Jon) is looking to develop more efficient and sustainable funding policies and other strategies.

Recently, NIH solicited your comments on an “emeritus award” concept as part of activities of the group chaired by Sally. The group is now in the midst of analyzing all of the comments it received to see what the next steps will be in regard to this type of award.

To inform the efforts of Jon’s group, NIH has just issued a new request for information (RFI) seeking your:

  • Input on key issues that currently limit the impact of NIH’s funding for biomedical research and challenge the sustainability of the scientific enterprise.
  • Ideas about adjusting current funding policies to ensure both continued impact and sustainability of the NIH research enterprise. 
  • Ideas for new policies, strategies and other approaches that would increase the impact and sustainability of NIH-funded biomedical research.
  • Comments on any other issues that you feel are relevant.

While we read and consider comments responding to our blog posts, in order to make your input part of our formal analysis of RFI responses, it needs to be submitted via the RFI by May 17.

Clearinghouse for Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility

NIH and NIH-funded Training Modules to Enhance Data ReproducibilityAs part of a series of NIH-wide initiatives to enhance rigor and reproducibility in research, we recently launched a Web page that will serve as a clearinghouse for NIH and NIH-funded training modules to enhance data reproducibility. Among other things, the site will house the products of grants we’ll be making over the next few months for training module development, piloting and dissemination.

Currently, the page hosts a series of four training modules developed by the NIH Office of the Director. These modules, which are being incorporated into NIH intramural program training activities, cover some of the important factors that contribute to rigor and reproducibility in the research endeavor, including blinding, selection of exclusion criteria and awareness of bias. The videos and accompanying discussion materials are not meant to provide specific instructions on how to conduct reproducible research, but rather to stimulate conversations among trainees as well as between trainees and their mentors. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and early stage investigators are the primary audiences for the training modules.

Also included on the page are links to previously recorded reproducibility workshops held here at NIH that detail the potentials and pitfalls of cutting-edge technologies in cell and structural biology.

Training is an important element of the NIGMS mission and a major focus of NIH’s overall efforts to enhance data reproducibility. In addition to the training modules we’ll be funding, we recently announced the availability of administrative supplements to our T32 training grants to support the development and implementation of curricular activities in this arena.

I hope you find the resources on this site useful, both now and as we add more in the future.