Dr. Douglas Sheeley

About Dr. Douglas Sheeley

Doug, a biochemist with a background in technology development, co-leads the Biomedical Technology Research Resources program and serves as the program director for the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study . He also is the project team leader for the NIH Common Fund Technology Centers for Networks and Pathways program.

New Program Announcements for Biomedical Technology Research Resources

I would like to call your attention to two program announcements recently published in the NIH Guide:

These announcements provide updated instructions for both pre-applications and full applications for Biomedical Technology Research Resource (BTRR) grants. The BTRR program supports development and dissemination of advanced technologies that enable biomedical research The BTRR centers create a wide range of technologies and work with thousands of NIH-supported investigators each year.

The X02 pre-application is strongly recommended. The pre-application provides an opportunity for prospective applicants to receive feedback from both peer reviewers and NIGMS program staff as they formulate their plans for a complex, lengthy proposal for a P41 grant.

Following an evaluation in 2016, we have revised the BTRR program, while preserving the fundamental mission of developing and providing access to advanced technologies. Susan Gregurick, director of our Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology Division, presented on the evaluation and proposed program changes at the September 2016 NIGMS Advisory Council meeting.

Revisions to the program have changed the structure of a BTRR to give the investigators who run the centers more flexibility in how technologies are shared with the community. A new feature, “Technology Development Partnerships,” will enable centers to rapidly adopt and incorporate emerging technologies developed elsewhere that advance a BTRR’s overall mission, rather than focus entirely on technologies developed “in-house.”

The program also will provide investigators with greater flexibility to tailor a center’s approach to technology innovation, user access and training, and dissemination according to the specific technologies being developed and communities being served. At the same time, the program will place a greater emphasis on actively moving technologies out of the BTRR and into the wider community as quickly as possible. We anticipate that most BTRR centers will not be funded beyond three cycles (15 years), and we will require investigators involved with this program to formulate a sustainability plan for their research resources.

The submission date for the first round of X02 pre-applications is August 15, 2017. Future submission dates will follow a regular schedule, occurring twice per year in March and July. That timing allows nine months from submission of the X02 until the anticipated submission of a resulting full application in January or May, respectively.

The next submission date for full applications for a P41 BTRR is September 25, 2017. This is the only submission date for funding in Fiscal Year 2018. In future years, applications will be accepted twice per year, in January and May, with no September submission. To improve consistency in the review of competing applications, the NIH Center for Scientific Review will convene a special study section to review all NIGMS P41 BTRR applications together. There will be no site visits.

NIGMS also supports technology development through several other programs. To help investigators determine which technology development program is right for their project, we’ve posted a decision tree on the NIGMS website. It includes descriptions of the programs designed to support specific stages of technology development.

I welcome questions or comments about these FOAs or our technology development programs in general.

New NIGMS Technology Development Program Announcements

We would like to tell you about two new technology development funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) recently published in the NIH Guide. We previously wrote about the approval of these programs by our Advisory Council. They are part of an ongoing effort to facilitate early stage, investigator-initiated work to create or improve tools for biomedical research. We think the two FOAs briefly described below will stimulate early stage technology research and development by allowing scientists to focus on making the technology work before they begin to apply those tools to biomedical research questions.

Exploratory Research for Technology Development (PAR-17-046): This program will support modest 2-year R21 grants to develop a new technology or radically improve an existing one. Projects will be high-risk and have no preliminary data. The proposed technology should be justified by a significant biomedical research need, but the proposal should not include the application of the technology to a biomedical problem—it should focus on technology development.

Focused Technology Research and Development (PAR-17-045): This program will support R01 grants that are entirely focused on the development of an emerging technology with a strong potential to impact biomedical research. The program will not allow inclusion of a significant biomedical research problem because the technology will not be ready for that until the project is over. These grants will be renewable only once.

The deadline for the first round of applications is February 16, 2017.

To help investigators determine which technology development program is right for their project, we’ve posted a decision tree on the NIGMS website. It includes descriptions of the programs designed to support all stages of technology development.

We welcome questions or comments about these FOAs or our technology development programs in general.

Upcoming NIGMS Job Vacancy for a Biomedical Technology Program Director

UPDATE: The two vacancy announcements for this position are now available on USAJOBS: one is for candidates with current and former federal employment status and the other is for candidates without such status.

We’re looking for a program director with expertise in the development and application of advanced technologies for biomedical research. This individual will manage grant programs that support technology development, as well as access to research resources.

The position is located in the Biomedical Technology Branch of our Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology. Expertise in the following areas is of particular interest: structural biology technologies covering X-ray methods, including macromolecular crystallography, scattering, and spectroscopy and cryo-electron microscopy methods, including single particle, tomographic and micro-electron diffraction applications; and bioanalytical technologies, including mass spectrometry, separations and protein chemistry.

Candidates should have strong oral and written communication skills. Familiarity with NIH extramural funding as a grant applicant, reviewer or NIH scientific administrator is a plus.

The vacancy, which is part of an NIH-wide global announcement, will be available on USAJOBS Exit icon on October 3 and will close on October 12. In the meantime, a description of the position is posted on the NIGMS Job Vacancies page. Previous blog posts on Applying for Scientific Administration Jobs at NIGMS and Scientific Careers in the Federal Government offer additional background and tips.

If you have any questions about the position, please contact me. If you have questions about NIGMS or this hiring process, contact Claudia Gonzalez. I’d appreciate it if you would share this upcoming job announcement with individuals who may be interested in this opportunity.

Give Input on the Support of Biomedical Research Resources

NIGMS is 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 closely related, but there are aspects of each that should be explored independently.

Last summer, the Institute issued a request for information (RFI) on the support of biomedical technology development. The responses we received contributed significantly to initiatives for exploratory and focused technology development to be launched later this year. We now request your input in response to a new RFI on the need for and support of research resources (NOT-GM-16-103).

We’d like to know your thoughts on a number of topics, including:

  • The appropriateness and usefulness of existing research resources to the biomedical research community.
  • Examples of unmet needs for research resources.
  • The relative value of resources that serve many investigators versus specialized resources used by fewer investigators.
  • The value and manner of coupling technology development to research resources.
  • The review of research resource applications and the evaluation of funded projects.
  • The role of academia, other biomedical institutions and industry in developing and providing access to research resources.
  • The role of investigators and user fees in supporting institutional, regional and national resources.
  • The role of NIGMS in supporting research resources and technology development at various levels.

We also welcome any other comments that you feel are relevant to supporting research resources.

To respond to this RFI, send an email to nigmsresource@mail.nih.gov by June 3, 2016.

If you have any questions about the RFI, please let us know.

New NIGMS Initiatives for Supporting Technology Development

The January 2016 Advisory Council meeting presentation on the initiatives begins at 1:14:43

The January 2016 Advisory Council meeting presentation on the initiatives begins at 1:14:43.

We would like to tell you about two new technology development initiatives recently approved by our Advisory Council. These programs are part of an ongoing effort that we’ve previously described to facilitate early stage, investigator-initiated work to create or improve tools for biomedical research.

Developing and providing access to technologies that enable biomedical research is a high priority for NIGMS, as expressed in our 2015 strategic plan. Historically, support for technology development has generally been coupled to using the technology to answer a biomedical research question. Although in the later stages of technology development this coupling is often useful, in the early stages it can hinder exploration of innovative ideas that could ultimately have a big impact on research.

We think the two initiatives briefly described below will stimulate early stage technology research and development by allowing scientists to focus on making the technology work before they begin to apply those tools to biomedical research questions.

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NIH Common Fund Glycoscience Program Seeks Fresh Approaches for Developing Tools and Technologies

As we enter the second year of the NIH Common Fund Glycoscience program to develop accessible tools for carbohydrate research, we encourage those who are new to carbohydrate chemistry and biology to bring their fresh perspectives to bear on difficult challenges in this field by applying through one of the following funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). While we continue to welcome applications from carbohydrate scientists, we hope to see new ideas from synthetic chemists and technology developers from other fields. Our goal is to enable researchers in all biomedical fields to study the roles of carbohydrates in health and disease, so approaches from outside the established glycoscience community are of particular interest.

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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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Report and Recommendations from the Future of Structural Biology Committees

NIGMS Advisory Council Meeting: Report of the NIGMS Future of Structural Biology Committees
Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor’s presentation of the report begins at 00:36:22 on the archived videocast of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council meeting.

I previously told you about the formation of two committees focused on Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) transition planning. These committees were charged with identifying high priorities for future NIGMS investments in structural biology and determining what unique resources and capabilities developed during the PSI should be preserved to address the needs of the scientific community. Dr. Leemor Joshua-Tor, one of the committee co-chairs, presented the groups’ report at the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council meeting on January 23.

The committees’ recommendations for preserving PSI resources that the committees felt will be important for the community in the future include:

  • Support for a modest number of protein expression resources to serve the needs of the community.
  • Continued support for a materials repository Exit icon similar to the one that has been supported through PSI.
  • Possible continued support for a structural biology knowledgebase Exit icon.

The committees identified these areas as high priorities for the future of structural biology:

  • Continued support for synchrotron beamlines for crystallography.
  • Support for modern cryo-EM resource centers.
  • Continued support for NMR resources for structural biology.
  • Support for the integration of structural biology methods.
  • Support for collaborative, multi-investigator efforts in membrane protein and large macromolecular assembly structure determination.

We’re now developing plans for implementing the report’s recommendations.

Funding Opportunities to Develop Glycoscience Tools and Technologies

NIGMS and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research are leading the new NIH Common Fund glycoscience program that is focused on the development of accessible and affordable tools and technologies for studying carbohydrates and their functions. The overall objective is to enable researchers in all biomedical fields to dramatically advance understanding of the roles of these complex molecules in health and disease.

The NIH Common Fund recently issued four funding opportunity announcements from this program:

The application deadline for each announcement is December 10, with optional letters of intent due by November 10. For more information about the glycoscience program, view the technical assistance Webinar or contact either one of us at sheeleyd@mail.nih.gov or marinop@nigms.nih.gov.

Give Input on Structural Biology Resource and Infrastructure Needs

Earlier this year, I told you about the formation of two committees focused on Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) transition planning. These committees are charged with determining what unique resources and capabilities developed during the PSI should be preserved after the initiative ends and how this preservation should be done.

An important part of this process is getting input from the community, so we have just issued a request for information (RFI), NOT-GM-14-115, seeking comments about structural biology resources that have a high impact on the community, whether those resources have been supported through the PSI or by other means. We also want to hear what you think about the future of structural biology-related technology development, which has been an important feature of the PSI.

While the RFI invites comments on these specific topics, you should not feel limited to them—we welcome any comments that you feel are relevant.

To respond to the RFI, send an e-mail to nigmspsirfi@mail.nih.gov by May 23, 2014. When we compile the responses, we’ll remove any personal identifiers like names and e-mail addresses and only use de-identified comments.

If you have any questions about the RFI or the transition committees, please let me know.