Dr. Jean Chin

About Dr. Jean Chin

Jean manages research grants in membrane biochemistry and biophysics, transport and lipid metabolism, and she serves as the NIGMS contact for Academic Research Enhancement Awards (R15). Her other activities include supporting the development and maintenance of research resources, such as the Lipidomics Gateway Exit icon and the PSI:Biology Materials Repository Exit icon.

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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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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Addressing Additional Review Criteria Questions for AREA Applications

Of all the institutes and centers at NIH, NIGMS receives the most Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA, R15) applications and funds the most AREA grants. This is probably because the faculty and students at eligible institutions, which have not been major recipients of NIH research grant funds, typically focus on basic research using model organisms and systems.

As Sally Rockey of the NIH Office of Extramural Research has noted, the new AREA funding opportunity announcement includes additional questions reviewers are expected to address that are related to the program’s goals of supporting meritorious research, strengthening the research environment of eligible institutions and exposing students to significant research.

With the next AREA application deadline coming up on February 25, I’d like to point out how and where applicants might address the new review considerations.

SIGNIFICANCE: If funded, will the AREA award have a substantial effect on the school/academic component in terms of strengthening the research environment and exposing students to research? Include a summary discussion at the end of the Research Plan, but provide most of the information on lab space, required equipment and facilities, and the availability of students to participate in the proposed research in the Resource page of the application. You and your institution should also include a description of the current research environment and of students who have continued in the biomedical sciences. In the Significance section as well as at the end of the Research Plan, discuss how the potential R15 support would enhance the research environment and increase the number of students exposed to meritorious research. Please remember that the research proposed should be significant, have an impact on the field and be well justified.

INVESTIGATOR: Do the investigators have suitable experience in supervising students in research? Take advantage of the Biosketch Personal Statement to provide specific information about current and former students participating in your research projects. Highlight publications with student co-authors in the Biosketch, and describe the role of students to be supported on the research project and which aim they will help with in the Budget/Personnel Justification and in the timeline at the end of the Research Plan.

APPROACH: Does the application provide sufficient evidence that the project can stimulate the interests of students so that they consider a career in the biomedical or behavioral sciences? As noted above, address this question in the Resource page and the Biosketch Personal Statement with a discussion of students who have previously worked on aspects of the research and who plan to pursue scientific careers. At the end of the Research Plan, I highly recommend including a list of students and a timeline for what each of them would be doing and what research question or approaches they would be exposed to during the R15 support period.

ENVIRONMENT: Does the application demonstrate the likely availability of well-qualified students to participate in the research project? Address this question in both the Resource page and the Biosketch Personal Statement by discussing your record of recruiting interested students who are excited about doing research and helping you accomplish your specific aims. Does the application provide sufficient evidence that students have in the past or are likely to pursue careers in the biomedical or behavioral sciences? As indicated above, with assistance from your institution, use the Resource page to provide a description of students who have majored in the biomedical sciences and who have gone on to graduate or medical school or other biomedical science careers. Use the Biosketch Personal Statement to describe students you have supervised.

Expression Plasmids and Empty Vectors Available

PSI:Biology-Materials Repository bannerGreat 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 Exit icon. 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 Exit icon.

Many of the plasmids represent proteins whose crystal structures have been determined but whose biological functions are not yet known. Search the repository Exit icon or use the Functional Sleuth Exit icon 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 Exit icon, 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.