Author: Amy Swain

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Before leaving NIGMS in January 2016, Amy oversaw a portfolio of biomedical technology programs. With a background in crystallography, she specifically managed technology grants for structural biology and for informatics, and she was a key contact for NIH synchrotron activities.

Posts by Amy Swain

Early Notice: Mature Synchrotron-Based Resources Funding Opportunity Plan


At its September 2015 meeting, our Advisory Council endorsed a concept for funding existing NIGMS-supported synchrotron resources in which the technologies have become mature. This plan will align the funding mechanism used to support the beamlines with the goal of ensuring reliable access to these essential resources for structural biology.

In place of the variety of mechanisms we currently use, we intend to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) called Mature Synchrotron Resources (P30) for 5-year, renewable grants in the range of $1-3 million per year in direct costs. The Institute intends to maintain overall support for mature beamline facilities at the same level it has in the past, but to replace the previous constellation of funding mechanisms with a single, more coherent one.

The focus of the FOA will be on user access, training and support in data collection, processing and analysis. Peer review will assess the resources primarily on their ability to meet the research needs of the user community and on the impact the resources have on their users’ scientific productivity. To ensure that the beamlines maintain their state-of-the-art operations, the FOA will also include support for a limited amount of technology development and implementation.

Since the goal of the effort is to improve the stability of current NIGMS-supported synchrotron structural biology resources for community use, the initial funding opportunity will be open only to synchrotron-based resources already supported by NIGMS.

We welcome your input and feedback on these plans. You can email your comments to me or post them here.

Charles Edmonds, Susan Gregurick, Ward Smith and Mary Ann Wu contributed to this blog post.

Ensuring Synchrotron Beamline Access for Biomedical Researchers


The National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) closed earlier this week as a newer, more advanced facility, NSLS-II, began to come online.

Thousands of NIH researchers have used beamlines at NSLS over the last 30 years to collect data to characterize biological macromolecules including drug targets, ion pumps and enzymes. Because the beamlines for biological research at NSLS-II will not be available until 2016, other synchrotron facilities are temporarily expanding their capacity to address the beamline reduction.

Here are some sources that will help you identify and access beamlines at other U.S. synchrotrons:

  • BNL Transition Topics
  • Biosync: A Structural Biologist’s Guide to High Energy Data Collection Facilities
  • NIGMS Biomedical Technology Research Resources: Synchrotrons

If you have questions about NIH-funded synchrotron resources, please contact me or Ward Smith.

Biomedical Technology Research Resources: Funding and Access Opportunities


Our Biomedical Technology Research Resources (BTRRs)—until recently known as Biomedical Technology Research Centers—develop and disseminate cutting-edge technologies and methods that allow scientists nationwide to advance their projects beyond the levels that could be attained using commonly available laboratory resources.

If you’re a researcher who works collaboratively to create and integrate potentially transformative biomedical technologies and are interested in providing service and training to the scientific community, you may want to apply for a BTRR grant. The first step is to submit your concept in a pre-application. Feedback from its review can help you decide whether to submit a full application.

If you’re a biomedical researcher with a project in need of technology resources, you may be able to access them at an existing BTRR. The Biomedical Technology Resources Portal includes descriptions of the available resources, including those funded through NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and instructions for accessing them.

Before granting use of its technologies (whether remotely or in-person), the BTRR will evaluate your research project for demonstrated need as well as the level of engagement and assistance that would be required of resource staff. It’s also possible that, if your project has potential for advancing a newly emerging technology, you’ll be able to collaborate with BTRR investigators as they develop it. This close collaboration benefits your research and also furthers innovation at the BTRR.

For more details about the BTRR program, please contact me or Doug Sheeley.

Wanted: Informatics Program Director

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We’re recruiting for a program director (also known as a “health scientist administrator/program officer”) to manage research grants and other types of awards in the Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Candidates should have research experience in more than one of the following areas: computational biology, computer science, informatics, genomics data, data analytics, data integration.

Excellent oral and written communication skills are required, as well as the ability to integrate a formal area of expertise with other scientific fields.

More information about what a program director does, the position requirements and detailed application procedures are on the NIH HSA Web site. This is a global recruitment for program officer positions throughout NIH, so your application materials should emphasize aspects of your training, expertise and research interests that are relevant to this position.

The vacancy announcement closes on June 26.

Biomedical Technology Resources for the Research Community


Roughly two-thirds of the biomedical technology research and development programs formerly in the National Center for Research Resources are now part of NIGMS. Housed in the Biomedical Technology Branch of our Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology, the programs meet the needs of biomedical researchers by supporting cutting-edge research and development activities through a variety of award mechanisms.

In this post, I will focus on the Biomedical Technology Research Centers (BTRC) program, which supports the development and advancement of technologies needed to address today’s compelling biomedical research questions.

Find a BTRC:


The 65 national resource centers—34 are funded by NIGMS and 31 by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering—are available to scientists doing basic, translational and clinical biomedical research, providing them access to instruments, methods, software, expertise and hands-on training. With priority given to NIH-funded investigators, scientists have the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with experts at the centers to:

  • Adapt BTRC tools to further the specific aims of their projects.
  • Contribute to the generation of pioneering technologies that can open up new research paths.

The BTRC program has been developing and providing access to state-of-the-art resources for 50 years, and it is directly responsible for such milestone innovations as:

  • The introduction of the computer into the laboratory setting.
  • The evolution of magnetic spin resonance from an observed scientific phenomenon to an analytical research tool to a clinical imaging technique.
  • The development of technologies for harnessing synchrotron radiation for biomedical research.
  • The creation of informatics approaches that allow for secure access to and sharing of huge volumes of dissimilar data.

At the half-century mark, the BTRC program remains vital and responsive to the scientific community. Ongoing centers continue to evolve and create innovative technologies, while new centers form as needs emerge.

We encourage you to take advantage of these valuable research resources. For more information about the NIGMS-funded BTRCs or other biomedical technology programs, please feel free to call 301-435-0755 or e-mail one of the following program directors: