Outcomes Analysis of the NIGMS Diversity Supplement Program

We recently analyzed outcomes of the NIGMS Research Supplements to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research (referred to here as the Diversity Supplement Program or DSP), which provides investigators holding active NIGMS research grants with supplemental funds to support scholars from groups underrepresented in biomedical science. Using a public search approach, we could track a large proportion of participants—but not all—through doctoral training and into various careers. We assessed the educational and career outcomes for undergraduate, graduate student and postdoctoral participants supported by supplements between 1989 and 2006, and we encourage you to explore the report.

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MIRA Webinar, Other Resources for New and Early Stage Investigators

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties, the MIRA webinar was not recorded. We have posted the slides on the MIRA Web page, where we’ll also post a summary of the webinar questions and answers.

NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch and I will field questions about the recently announced Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) for New and Early Stage Investigators (R35) during a webinar on Tuesday, June 30, from 1-2 p.m. EDT. Participants will be able to submit questions using the chat feature. We’ll post the archived webinar and slides on the MIRA Web page.

The most common questions we’re getting about the new MIRA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) have concerned eligibility, so we created a new flowchart to help determine this. Another common question has related to research areas appropriate for support by a MIRA. These and other topics are covered in our answers to frequently asked questions about the second MIRA FOA.

If you have colleagues who may be eligible to apply but may not know about the FOA or may have questions about it, please share this post with them.

As with the first MIRA FOA, this competition is an experiment and is intentionally limited to a small group of eligible applicants. If the pilot is successful, we plan to issue future FOAs covering additional groups of investigators.

For more information about the MIRA program, e-mail me or call me at 301-594-0828.

Further Analysis of Renewal Rates for New and Established NIGMS Investigator Projects

In an earlier blog post, I presented data on the first competing renewal rates of R01 projects that NIGMS awarded to new and established investigators. The analysis showed that no renewal application was submitted for a substantial percentage of projects—30% of new projects from new investigators and 45% of new projects from established investigators. This raises questions, such as those suggested by Feedback Loop readers, including:

  • Do projects for which no renewal is submitted generally have less productivity or scientific impact?
  • Are new projects awarded to established investigators more likely to represent the second or third award to that investigator?

I’ve tried to explore these questions in a further analysis.

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Requesting Input on the Support of Biomedical Technology Development

NIGMS is in the process of considering how best to support two important activities: the development of biomedical technologies and access to those technologies as they become research resources. These topics are strongly related, but there are aspects of each that should be explored independently. An important part of this process is getting input from the community, so we’ve issued a request for information (RFI) focused on technology development. A subsequent RFI will extend the discussion to the support of research resources.

There are two main issues that we’re thinking hard about right now as we consider how our technology development programs should be structured:

  • The relationship between technology development and question-based biomedical research. We’re particularly interested in whether and how technology development and question-driven research should be coupled in different circumstances. Coupling technology development with addressing biomedical research problems can help ensure the relevance of the tools that emerge, but it may not always be necessary or appropriate.
  • Supporting the full range of biomedical technology development. We’re interested in the effective support of all aspects of technology development, from the exploration of emerging concepts to the conversion of fragile technologies into standard tools.

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PRAT Program Marks 50th Year with Scientific Symposium

PRAT Symposium Speakers

Steven Paul, Weill Cornell

Jacqueline Crawley, UCSD

Richard Weinshilboum, Mayo Clinic

Katherine Roche, NIH

James Stevens, Eli Lilly

Jennifer Elisseeff, Johns Hopkins

Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz, NIH

Elizabeth Grice, U Penn

Robert Ruffolo, Jr., Wyeth (retired)

Henry Bourne, USCF

In the years since the first cohort of postdoctoral fellows entered the NIGMS Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) program in 1965, the program’s alumni have become leaders in pharmacology, neuroscience, cell biology and related fields across multiple career sectors, including academia, government and industry. On November 6, we’ll mark the accomplishments of the more than 400 PRAT alumni in a full-day scientific symposium on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD.

The symposium will feature presentations by 10 alumni spanning the duration of the program and is free and open to the public, although we encourage you to register to attend. If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the event live or later. If you have comments, anecdotes, historical data or photos from the PRAT program, please let us know by writing a note in the comments box on the meeting registration site or by sending me an e-mail message.

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Comment on the Need for Support of Membrane Protein Structure Determination

Membrane proteins and large macromolecular assemblies are important targets for understanding cell function and for drug discovery, but their characterization presents unique technical challenges. We’re considering how best to help researchers meet these challenges.

To give the biomedical research community the opportunity to offer comments on this topic, we have just issued a request for information (RFI). We want your opinion on the most effective methods for the determination of membrane protein and large macromolecular assembly structures and/or the need for new tools to aid in structure determination of these proteins or protein complexes.

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Resource Spotlight: Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Program

If you use genetically modified mice or work on a gene in another model organism for which a homolog exists in mice, the Knockout Mouse Phenotyping Program (KOMP2) Exit icon may benefit your research. It’s a resource that generates mice carrying specific genetic mutations and systematically phenotypes them according to uniform, high quality-control standards.

KOMP2 targets a range of phenotypes in order to improve the chances of gaining preliminary insights into the function(s) of genes that influence multiple traits, including targeting genes for which no information is currently available. The resource also captures negative results and disseminates them broadly. It examines male and female mice and provides data down to the individual mouse level.

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MIRA Pilot Adds New and Early Stage Investigators

We have just expanded the pilot of our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) to include new and early stage investigators. The application due date is September 9, and we request—but do not require—letters of intent by August 9.

MIRA supports investigators’ overall research programs through a single, unified grant rather than individual project grants. The goals include increasing investigators’ funding stability, ability to take on ambitious challenges and approach problems creatively, and flexibility to follow important new research directions as opportunities arise.

Awards will provide all of the support from NIGMS for research related to its mission in an investigator’s laboratory. [Editor’s note: Awards will be for 5 years, similar to the current average length of an NIGMS R01 award to new investigators.]

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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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