Dr. Barbara Gerratana

About Dr. Barbara Gerratana

Before transferring to NIH’s Office of the Director in January 2017, Barbara handled research grants in enzymology and biotechnology, including natural products biosynthesis, as well as institutional predoctoral training grants in biotechnology and NIH Pathway to Independence Awards in pharmacology, physiology and biological chemistry. Barbara played an active role in the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group program, which is co-funded by NIH.

New Funding Opportunity: Advancing Mechanistic Probiotic/Prebiotic and Human Microbiome Research

While it is well recognized that an individual’s microbiome has a substantial influence on health, fundamental knowledge gaps remain regarding host-microbial interactions, especially those involving the effects of probiotic and prebiotic products. To stimulate research in this area, NIGMS is participating with a number of other NIH institutes and centers in a new funding opportunity announcement (FOA), Advancing Mechanistic Probiotic/Prebiotic and Human Microbiome Research (R01).

We are looking for biochemists, chemists, bioengineers, systems biologists and others to define biochemical pathways, small molecules and biologics in host-microbial interactions. We are particularly interested in applications from interdisciplinary teams that propose to provide a functional and mechanistic picture of host-microbial ecosystems. This includes an understanding of host-probiotic-microbial interactions and the effect of exogenous molecules such as prebiotics on these interactions. We also encourage the development of computational models, tools and technologies that enable the prediction, identification, quantification and characterization of host-microbial dynamics as well as the development of tractable host-microbial systems.

This FOA is a program announcement with no set-aside funds. Standard R01 due dates apply, so the first receipt date is June 5. Although a letter of intent is not required, we recommend that you contact us (e-mail Barbara in the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry or e-mail Darren in the Division of Genetics and Developmental Biology) to discuss your potential proposal and NIGMS-specific FOA guidelines.

Final Funding Opportunity Announcement for “Genomes to Natural Products” Research

Natural products are a prolific source of therapeutic drugs because they have been selected through evolution to be biologically active. New opportunities for natural products development made possible by genomic discoveries are poised to rapidly expand the utility of this critically important resource.

To further stimulate studies in this area, we have just issued the final funding opportunity announcement for Genomes to Natural Products (U01) research. Applications are due by June 10, 2014.

We’re looking for multidisciplinary teams of experts in natural products, synthetic biology, bioinformatics, genomics and analytical chemistry to develop high-throughput natural products discovery platforms based on a synthetic biology approach that leverages genomics and metagenomics data. The goal is to deliver broadly applicable, context-independent (i.e., independent of organism and/or natural products class) and game-changing tools, methods and resources in natural products discovery. The funded research also should lead to a deeper understanding of the regulation of natural products biosynthesis.

In addition to talking with potential collaborators, I encourage you to discuss your application with me.

Genomes to Natural Products RFA

Last September, I described a concept clearance for an initiative to develop new approaches in natural products discovery that had just been approved by the NIGMS Advisory Council. The resulting request for applications on Genomes to Natural Products (U01) has now been published in the NIH Guide.

NIGMS, along with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), will support multidisciplinary research to develop high-throughput, broadly applicable approaches to natural products discovery that integrate genomics, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. We anticipate that up to four awards will be made through the cooperative agreement mechanism, totaling up to $9 million in Fiscal Year 2014. For NCCAM-specific interest areas and application requirements, see NOT-AT-13-005.

Applications are due by July 17. Potential applicants are invited to participate in an optional online Q&A session on April 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. Access this event at https://webmeeting.nih.gov/rfa-gnpn/ and sign in as a “guest” to be able to submit questions.

Letters of intent are not needed, but depending on which funding component’s areas of interest are more relevant to the proposal, I strongly recommend that potential applicants e-mail me or my counterpart at NCCAM, Craig Hopp to discuss submission plans.

Early Notice: Genomes to Natural Products FOA

Natural products have been a prolific source of therapeutic drugs because they have been selected through evolution to be biologically active.  New opportunities for natural products development are being made by genomic discoveries and are poised to reinvigorate this critically important area.

At its September meeting, the NIGMS Advisory Council approved a new initiative that will use the cooperative agreement (U01) mechanism to support collaborative and multidisciplinary research aimed at developing high-throughput, broadly applicable approaches for natural products discovery that integrate genomics, synthetic biology and bioinformatics. Research under this initiative will provide the scientific community with tools and knowledge for inferring the basic structure of natural products and for producing natural products, regardless of whether the source is cultivable or the biosynthetic operon is expressed in cultures.

We expect the funding opportunity announcement to be published in the NIH Guide early in 2013. In the meantime, I encourage you to start talking with potential collaborators and thinking about applying.

For more on the current challenges of natural products discovery, read a Nature Chemistry article Exit icon written by NIGMS Advisory Council member Scott Miller of Yale University and Jon Clardy of Harvard Medical School that summarizes discussions during our 2009 Natural Products and Biomedical Science symposium.