60th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Promises to Be a ‘Dynamite’ Event

This year, I’m the lucky NIGMS program director attending the 60th Annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany. Like John Schwab, who traveled with last year’s group, my main job is to help the 16 super-energetic, really smart graduate students we sponsored interact with each other, hundreds of their peers from all over the world and, of course, dozens of Nobel laureates.

60th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

The Lindau meeting, which started in 1951, is designed to “educate, inspire and connect” generations of scientists by bringing together Nobel laureates with young researchers. Unlike last year’s meeting, which focused on chemistry, this year’s is more interdisciplinary. It showcases all three of the Nobel Prize natural science fields: chemistry, physics and physiology or medicine.

As you might imagine, the competition for student slots is fierce, with more than 40,000 applying for 650 slots this year. The U.S. contingent consists of 75 students supported by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Mars (the company, not the planet!) and NIGMS/NIH.

It’s quite appropriate that NIGMS is involved in this program again this year. Our portfolio of funded research is extremely diverse, including a lot in chemistry and physics. After all, an interdisciplinary approach can help us better address problems relevant to human health. And around NIH, NIGMS is also widely called the “Nobel Prize Institute”—we’ve funded the Nobel Prize-winning of research of 73 laureates, and some of them are here in Lindau.

So far, the trip is going pretty well. We’re surrounded by World Cup fever! We haven’t had much of a chance to meet the laureates yet, since the opening ceremony was just on Sunday. I know that much of the close laureate-student interactions will take place through small group discussion sessions set up for this purpose.

I truly feel fortunate to be here—for the interactions, the interdisciplinary science and what I anticipate will be really inspiring lectures by the laureates. But even if you can’t be here, you can still watch the scientific proceedings online and follow the meeting using a variety of social media Exit icon.

Post submitted from Lindau, Germany, on Monday, Jun 28, 2010 6:25 PM CEST

New Funding Opportunity for Biologists to Collaborate on Structure Studies

PSI Logo

We have just issued a new “partnership” program announcement for researchers interested in a biological problem of significant scope to collaborate with structural biology researchers.

The announcement is a part of the PSI:Biology initiative, which will apply high-throughput structure determination to a broad range of biological problems. Successful applicants will partner with researchers within the PSI:Biology network.

Applicants should propose projects for which the determination of many protein structures will be important. The projects should also involve proteins amenable to high-throughput structure determination or targets that motivate new technology development for determining more difficult structures.

Beyond Bio2010

Beyond Bio2010Last month, I attended the “Beyond Bio2010” conference held at the National Academy of Sciences. The meeting highlighted the progress made in implementing the Bio2010 Exit icon recommendations, chiefly to transform undergraduate biology education by using the quantitative sciences (mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering and computer sciences) to study biology and vice versa.

The 2-day meeting, which was held in the same room that the Bio2010 report was publically released in 2002, primarily consisted of teams of biology, math and computer sciences faculty discussing strategies used by their institutions to reform science curricula. Among the efforts that really caught my attention were those that:

  • Assessed student learning outcomes and showed improvement as a result of integrating math, physics, chemistry and computer science into biology;
  • Established new interdisciplinary majors or minors in areas like bioinformatics;
  • Described efforts to break down “departmental silos” through collaborations among biology, math, chemistry and other faculty;
  • Trained faculty for an integrated pedagogical approach (for a resource, see The National Academies Summer  Institutes on Undergraduate Education in Biology); and
  • Discussed the need for the administration to formally recognize faculty who reformed the curricula.

In addition, I presented a summary of NIGMS-supported efforts, namely the MARC Curricular Improvement grant, a competitive mechanism for eligible institutions to implement Bio2010 recommendations. The inclusion of all undergraduate students, with a focus on historically unrepresented populations, was a significant theme of the conference. In fact, I was delighted to see one of our MARC Curricular Improvement grantees from the University of Puerto Rico talk about her institution’s efforts on this front.

A unique feature of the conference was that several undergraduate students also presented posters on their interdisciplinary biology and mathematics research. Their posters showed math majors collecting samples in a stream and biology majors performing mathematical modeling. A faculty attendee at the conference noted that when he walked around and listened to the student presenters, he really could not figure out who was a math major and who was a biology major—a desired outcome of Bio2010!

If you are interested in finding more details about “Beyond Bio2010,” a report of the conference is slated to be published in the Fall 2010 issue of CBE—Life Sciences Education Exit icon.

Job Opportunity in Enzymology/Biochemistry

We’re looking for a program director (or “health scientist administrator”) to oversee grants and other activities related to enzymology and other aspects of biochemistry. The job is within the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry. We hope to find someone who can work effectively in a team setting and who already has some independent research experience in this area or a closely related area of biochemistry.

For details, see the job announcement. Please forward this information to anyone who might be interested in the position and feel free to send me questions about the job.

The listing closes July 12, 2010.

Presenting NIGMS to the NIH Director’s Advisory Committee

Presentation to the Advisory Committee to the DirectorThe Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH (ACD) is a group knowledgeable in the fields of research pertinent to the NIH mission. It includes individuals from the academic and private sector research communities as well as representatives of the general public.

The ACD meets in person twice a year to provide advice on a range of NIH activities. At almost every meeting, the NIH Director invites an institute or center director to present information about his or her organization, including his or her vision of its key features.

I was delighted when Dr. Collins invited me to present at the most recent ACD meeting. In my talk, I highlighted the Institute’s focus on investigator-initiated research and aspects of our role in training and workforce development. I also described some advances in five areas across NIGMS, including structural biology and the Protein Structure Initiative, RNA biology, pharmacogenomics, the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) postdoctoral program and the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program.

A video of my talk and a question-and-answer session is now available. It begins at minute 138:45 with an introduction by Dr. Collins.

My NCBI Tool to Replace eRA Commons for Bibliography Management

My NCBI screenshotNIH has announced a significant upgrade to the citation management capability of investigators’ personal profiles in the eRA Commons.

With the integration of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) “My Bibliography” portal, direct database queries will replace manual citation entry in the Commons. This will have many benefits, most immediately for your eSNAP progress reports due to more accurate data and automated evaluation of each citation’s Public Access Policy compliance status.

You must now enter citations via My Bibliography accounts. Users (investigators or delegates) will need to have a My NCBI account and link it to their Commons account. Instructions are available on the Commons Web site at https://era.nih.gov/.

Please note that beginning July 23, you will not be able to manually enter a citation directly into the Commons. You will still be able to manually enter citations of publications and other items not indexed in PubMed (book chapters, meeting abstracts, etc.), but this must be done using My Bibliography. Also note that beginning on October 22, all citations that had been manually entered into the Commons will no longer be displayed. Publications abstracted in PubMed will automatically appear in My Bibliography; other citations must be added to My Bibliography to appear.

Early Notice: Program Projects for Collaborative Research on the Basic Biology of Pluripotency and Reprogramming

It’s safe to say that the discovery that human non-embryonic cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state has created a lot of excitement in the scientific community. These cells provide a wonderful opportunity to investigate the fundamental molecular and genetic properties of pluripotent cells.

Last month, the NIGMS Council approved a new grant program that will focus on studying the basic biology of pluripotency and reprogramming, with an emphasis on human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. This initiative will use the program project (P01) mechanism to support collaborative research that advances a comprehensive understanding of the basic biology of pluripotency, the molecular events and mechanisms of reprogramming, and the epigenetics and epigenomics of the pluripotent and reprogrammed states.

Once the funding opportunity announcement has been published in the NIH Guide later this summer, we will post it on the Feedback Loop site. In the meantime, I encourage you to start talking with potential collaborators and thinking about applying.

NIGMS Grantee and Council Member Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize

Congratulations to Carolyn Bertozzi!

We were delighted to learn that this longtime NIGMS grantee, current NIGMS Advisory Council member and former Stetten lecturer has been awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize Exit icon. The prize honors technological invention and innovation.

Carolyn is a clear leader in chemical biology and glycobiology whose work extends from very basic studies of chemical reactivity through a variety of applications in biology. In addition, she is a committed teacher and mentor.

Please join me in congratulating her for this award in recognition of her many significant contributions.

Opportunity to Comment on Proposed Changes to Financial Conflict of Interest Regulations

One of my activities is representing NIGMS on the NIH Financial Conflict of Interest Panel. This group has put substantial time and effort into updating the financial conflict of interest regulations that apply to NIH grant applicants. The proposed changes to the regulations are reflected in a recently released notice of proposed rulemaking (link no longer available) that is now open for comment. You may submit comments electronically or by mail as long as they are received by July 20, 2010.

Although responsibility for reporting and managing financial conflicts of interest would remain with the grantee institution, several of the proposed changes would affect individual investigators. For example, investigator disclosure requirements would be expanded to include all significant financial interests related to the investigator’s institutional responsibilities. In addition, the dollar threshold for disclosure of significant financial interests would be $5,000 (it’s currently $10,000), and this amount would apply to both payments and equity interests. Equity interest of any amount in non-publicly traded entities is considered a significant financial interest and would have to be disclosed.

Investigators would also be required to complete financial conflict of interest training before engaging in NIH-funded research and every 2 years thereafter.

I encourage you to look over the proposed rulemaking document as well as to learn how your institution will be implementing the new financial conflict of interest policy.

UPDATE: The comment period on the proposed changes to financial conflict of interest regulations has been extended to August 19. For more details, see the NIH Guide.