To help students develop a rich understanding of evolution, NIH has just published a new high school curriculum supplement, Evolution and Medicine, that includes two weeks of lessons.
I particularly like the supplement because it shows through clear, scientifically-valid examples that evolutionary biology is fundamental to understanding health and disease. For instance, a unit on lactase persistence demonstrates how variation is distributed geographically and how it’s associated with the environment. There’s a unit on influenza that focuses on the evolutionary principles underlying vaccine development, and another that explains the evolutionary rationale for using model organisms.
The supplement was produced by the NIH Office of Science Education, but many of us at NIGMS were involved in developing and reviewing it. You can see an outline and order a copy for your own use or to share with others. A version of the supplement that you can review online and a downloadable teacher’s guide are coming soon. Descriptions of and links to other curriculum supplements are also available.
Our interest in quantitative and systems pharmacology (QSP) began in 2007 as a question about why we were seeing so little integration between two fields we fund: systems biology and pharmacology. We recognized that connecting them could improve our understanding of drug action and speed drug discovery and development while also increasing our scientific understanding of biology.
To examine the potential of quantitative, systems approaches to pharmacology research, we sponsored two workshops in this area, one in 2008 and the other in 2010. After the second meeting, a committee of external scientists who were also workshop participants began drafting a white paper to assess the state of the science and enumerate the opportunities, needs and challenges for QSP as an emerging discipline.
The committee recently issued the white paper.
The paper makes the case that this post-genomic era is the right time to develop and employ quantitative, systems approaches to understand drug action more predictively, and that the need and excitement for doing so is building. Already we are starting to see evidence of this field emerging—the University of California, San Francisco, has started a Center for Quantitative Pharmacology , and Harvard Medical School just announced an Initiative in Systems Pharmacology . Also, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences annual meeting this month will include a session called, “Achieving the Quantitative and Systems Pharmacology Vision.”
The overall recommendation of the workshop committee is for pharmacology to move beyond characterizing drug/target interactions to a holistic quantitative understanding of drug action across many levels—from drug-receptor interactions to drug response in humans. As stated in the paper, this will require the participation of scientists from academia and industry who work in diverse areas, including traditional pharmacology, clinical pharmacology, pharmacodynamics/pharmacokinetic modeling, systems biology, chemistry, bioinformatics, multiscale modeling and computer science. Training new and established investigators also will be a critical element.
We encourage you to read the paper and let us know what you think about its recommendations for research and training in QSP.
As we begin the new fiscal year, I’ve received questions about whether NIGMS plans to continue its diversity supplement program. The answer is a definite yes. We remain committed to this program, which addresses the important goal of increasing the diversity of the biomedical and behavioral workforce by providing supplemental support for research experiences and mentorship for students and fellows at a range of levels, from high school through postdoctoral training.
Diversity supplement requests may be submitted throughout the year and are reviewed within NIGMS on a rolling basis. Applicants should be aware that the program is competitive and we only fund meritorious applications that meet the program’s goals.
For more information, visit our diversity supplement Web site, which we have recently updated to reinforce the NIGMS philosophy for the program and to clarify eligibility and application requirements. In addition, we have added frequently asked questions and answers. Before submitting an application, I suggest that you contact either your program director or me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-594-3833.
Great news for biochemists, biologists and structural biologists—more than 50,000 protein expression plasmids and almost 100 empty vectors are now available through the PSI:Biology-Materials Repository . This includes about 900 membrane protein plasmids, and we expect this number—plus that for human proteins—to grow in the coming months.
The repository has carefully collected, maintained and annotated these materials generated by scientists involved in the Protein Structure Initiative. In addition, it has developed and optimized the empty vectors for producing proteins in bacteria, yeast and cell-free systems. For a modest charge, you can order the plasmids and vectors from the online catalog .
Many of the plasmids represent proteins whose crystal structures have been determined but whose biological functions are not yet known. Search the repository or use the Functional Sleuth to find out if the structure of your favorite protein or a similar one has already been determined.
If you can’t locate the plasmids you need in the PSI collection, you might search the larger DNASU plasmid repository , which houses the PSI:Biology Materials Repository. This central repository offers plasmids from hundreds of organisms and special collections, including human kinases, the Thermotoga maritime genome and a new set of 180 glycoenzymes.
You may be interested in the following funding opportunities that were recently published in the NIH Guide:
Collaborations with National Centers for Biomedical Computing (R01)
Purpose: Use computational tools and biological and behavioral application drivers of the funded National Centers for Biomedical Computing as a foundation for building a biomedical computing environment
Application due date: Standard dates apply
NIGMS contact: Peter Lyster, 301-451-6446
More info: National Centers for Biomedical Computing Web site (no longer available)
Dynamics of Host-Associated Microbial Communities (R01)
Purpose: Reveal basic principles and mechanisms that govern the symbiotic systems dynamics of host-associated microbial communities through genetic, physiological and ecological studies
Letter of intent due date: December 13, 2011
Application due date: January 13, 2012
NIGMS contact: Shiva Singh, 301-594-3900
Short Courses on Mathematical, Statistical, and Computational Tools for Studying Biological Systems (R25)
Purpose: Conduct workshops and short courses to improve integration of mathematical, statistical and computational approaches into biological and/or behavioral research
Letter of intent due date: 30 days before application due date
Application due date: Standard dates apply
NIGMS contact: Irene Eckstrand, 301-594-0943