Author: Peter Lyster

Headshot of Peter Lyster.

Before his retirement in 2022, Peter managed grants in biological modeling and bioinformatics, and he played an active role in the NIH Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative.

Posts by Peter Lyster

Update on the National Centers for Systems Biology Program


As part of the ongoing examination of our large-scale research initiatives and centers, we’re in the process of evaluating the NIGMS National Centers for Systems Biology program. This includes conducting quantitative analyses of the program’s contributions to systems biology research, training and outreach as well as gathering qualitative input from a panel of external scientific experts.

We expect the evaluation to be complete by early 2015. The results and recommendations will help us determine a future path for supporting this field in the most effective and efficient way and in the context of competing research funding priorities and opportunities. In the meantime, we’re only accepting renewal applications for projects seeking their second, and final, 5 years of funding.

Over the 10-year course of the program, we’ve funded 21 centers covering a broad range of areas, from structural and cell biology to physiology and pharmacology. To learn more about the current and past centers, visit the Centers Web site.

Give Input on Public Access to Publications and Data

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The Office of Science and Technology Policy has issued two requests for information (RFIs) on public access to scholarly publications and to digital data resulting from federally funded research. This input will inform working groups of the National Science and Technology Council that are developing policies on these topics.

The first RFI, Public Access to Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Publications Resulting from Federally Funded Research, deals with questions related to managing public access, protecting intellectual property interests, embargoing publications and identifying other types of peer-reviewed publications (beyond scholarly journal articles) that should be covered by public access policies. Responses will be accepted through January 2, 2012.

The second RFI, Public Access to Digital Data Resulting from Federally Funded Scientific Research, seeks input on public access to data as well as actions to ensure the long-term usefulness and preservation of the data, protect intellectual property interests and harmonize different types and sources of data. Responses will be accepted through January 12, 2012.

If you want to know more about NIH’s existing policies on these topics, a good resource is the NIH Sharing Policies and Related Guidance on NIH-Funded Research Resources Web site. The site includes information on the data sharing policy, which requires all NIH investigator-initiated applications with direct costs greater than $500,000 in any single year to provide a data sharing plan. It also links to the NIH Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit an electronic version of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to PubMed Central within 12 months of the official date of publication.

New Funding Initiatives at the Interface of Physics and Biology


NIGMS has joined two other NIH institutes and the National Science Foundation in issuing new funding opportunity announcements at the interface of the life and physical sciences. These new interagency initiatives offer an excellent opportunity for biomedical scientists to partner with colleagues in physics, engineering and computation to conduct innovative research with important health implications.

The first new announcement, Transforming Biomedicine at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences, targets translational research. It encourages quantitative scientists to team up with biomedical scientists (and potentially a commercial partner) to propose innovative ways to translate technological advances and basic knowledge into important new or improved clinical applications.

The second announcement, New Biomedical Frontiers at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences, targets discovery research. By bridging these scientific disciplines, this program aims to support cutting-edge science that has the potential to open up entirely new avenues for biomedical studies. We strongly encourage applications with multiple PIs who represent the physical, computational or engineering and life or behavioral sciences.

Deadlines to apply for both opportunities are May 18, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

I encourage you to take a look at the announcements and identify the types of projects that the participating organizations are seeking based on their research missions. NIGMS, for example, will consider projects that encompass cell biology, biomolecular modeling, nanotechnology, genetics, developmental biology, pharmacology, physiology or biological chemistry.

If you have any questions about the programs, feel free to e-mail me.

Join a Discussion on the Impact of Modeling


Using computers to model basic processes is becoming more prevalent across all areas of scientific research. Modeling can predict information about systems—weather forecasts have been based on computer models for decades—or simulate interactions that increase our understanding of fundamental processes like those within cells.

Give us your input on the impact of modeling in biomedical research during a meeting at NIH on December 15 and 16. You can join the discussion remotely through the NIH Videocast Web site. For videocast details, see the Day 1 and Day 2 videocast pages.

The meeting is hosted by the Interagency Modeling and Analysis Group (IMAG), which includes program directors from eight government agencies in the United States and Canada.

Participants in this year’s meeting, called “IMAG Futures,” will address modeling efforts at five biological scales: population, whole-body, cell-tissue-organ, pathways and networks, and atomic and molecular. For more information, see the meeting agenda.

Innovate Biomedical Computing!

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Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative

The trans-NIH Biomedical Information Science and Technology Initiative (BISTI) funds a range of projects that advance computer science and technology to address problems in biology and medicine. BISTI, which is led by NIGMS, has just reissued four broad-based program announcements to support “innovations in biomedical computing.” In the past, BISTI has awarded 198 of these grants ranging from $200,000 to $3 million.

The announcements cover traditional research projects; exploratory, high-risk/high-impact projects; small business innovation research; and small business technology transfer grants. They apply to most areas of NIH research, from basic to clinical, and require that more than 50 percent of the proposed research involve computing. For example, investigators can request funds for scientists and software personnel to develop models to analyze a disease, and they can also request funds to obtain data or perform experiments to validate the models. Again, in all cases the majority of effort should be on the computing side.

If you want to significantly expand your computing efforts and capabilities, these funding announcements are a really great opportunity!