Dr. Rochelle Long

About Dr. Rochelle Long

Rochelle directs the NIGMS division that funds a broad range of research from basic studies in synthetic chemistry, enzymology, biotechnology, chemical biology and glycosciences to clinical areas that include pharmacology, anesthesia, sepsis, traumatic injury and wound healing. She is a pharmacologist who has played leading roles in fostering research in pharmacogenomics through national and international collaborations.

Multiple Principal Investigator (MPI) Application – When Is it the Right Choice?

For some time now, NIH has offered the Multiple Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) Award, also known as the MPI award, as an option for investigators seeking support for research projects. At NIGMS, we’ve been thinking about collaborative research, and we want to share some of our observations so you can choose the grant mechanism that best fits your research goals.

An MPI application is a commitment by two or more investigators. Both/all have the authority to direct the research project, should agree on how they are going to accomplish this, and will describe their project leadership plan in the grant application. If awarded, both/all have the shared responsibility to direct the research and ensure that it remains on track both intellectually and logistically. Some examples of these shared tasks include experimental design, resource allocation, supervision of staff, financial management, data sharing, and submission of publications. The responsibilities can be rotated over time. If both/all investigators are not full and equal partners in the award, it isn’t really an MPI project.

The MPI award was developed to share credit among equals on research teams. In contrast, some applicants want to use MPI awards to accomplish unintended goals, for example, to elevate a junior scientist, to entice a luminary colleague who might not otherwise get involved, to add a new technical approach to the research, or to support a collaborator at another institution. However, there can be costs associated with such strategies:

  • A young scientist PD/PI will lose her/his early stage investigator (ESI) status, which offers the advantage of having an application grouped with other ESIs at the initial review group meeting, a higher priority funding consideration, and sometimes a fifth year of an award.
  • All PD/PIs will be considered under NIGMS’ policy for Support of Research in Well-Funded Laboratories, so that if any investigator has greater than $750,000 in direct costs awarded annually, then the entire application will receive extra scrutiny by our National Advisory Council.
  • Furthermore, any PDs/PIs who fall under NIGMS’ policy for funding Investigators with Substantial, Unrestricted Research Support may hold no more than one NIGMS research grant.

Other types of awards, including a single PD/PI regular research grant (R01), may be better alternatives to an MPI award for supporting collaborative research. Here are a few points that investigators should consider:

  • Collaborators often play an important role in a project and may commit specific effort and receive funds from an award. If at another institution, funds essential to accomplish the research can be delivered through a subcontract.
  • Another viable way to enable an individual to participate in a research project is to name a consultant in the necessary area of expertise. Consultants can receive a fee for their work, if appropriate.
  • Almost any relationship can be well-documented in a letter of support, so that the initial review group recognizes an established and committed scientific relationship.

The MPI award fills an important niche. But the mechanism can be misunderstood and may even be misused to the detriment of one or more of the PD/PIs. Always look carefully at the continuum of opportunities to support multidisciplinary research programs and collaborative research.

Starting this fall, NIGMS anticipates offering a new award called the Collaborative Program Grant for Multidisciplinary Teams (RM1), which is designed to support highly integrated teams of researchers working to achieve a shared objective. Watch the Feedback Loop posts and talk to your NIGMS program director to learn more.

Pharmacogenomics Research Network Transition Update

As I wrote in a previous post on the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN), we have been transitioning our support of pharmacogenomics research from set-aside funding to regular competition with other scientific areas. This is part of the Institute’s efforts to bolster support for investigator-initiated research. We’ll now fund pharmacogenomics research primarily through regular research grant mechanisms, such as R01s or well-justified P01s.

To learn more about how pharmacogenomics-related applications fare in review, our Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation conducted an analysis of NIH-wide pharmacogenomics-related applications assigned to Center for Scientific Review study sections. The analysis showed that these applications have comparable success in the review and award processes as applications in other scientific fields. Even so, I still recommend that applicants include a cover letter describing the kinds of expertise they believe are needed for an appropriate review. This can be particularly beneficial for a multidisciplinary research area like pharmacogenomics.

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Division Director Mike Rogers Retires

Mike Rogers, Ph.D.Mike Rogers, who has directed the NIGMS Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry for the past 22 years, retired today. Throughout his NIH career, Mike has been a champion for chemistry and its important role in biomedical research.

Before joining NIGMS 26 years ago, Mike worked for more than a decade in what is now the Center for Scientific Review, where he oversaw the Bioorganic and Natural Products study section.

Between these two positions, Mike completed a detail assignment on Capitol Hill working for Senator Ted Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, an experience that he says allowed him to see NIH from a different perspective.

Throughout his time at NIGMS, Mike has sought to build scientific bridges. He created the chemistry-biology interface predoctoral training program, which aims to cross-train students in both disciplines. He was instrumental in developing the large-scale collaborative project awards program that “glued” together scientists with diverse expertise to tackle big, unanswered questions in biology. More recently, he forged a link between two fields to help form the new field of quantitative and systems pharmacology. Along the way, he mentored and encouraged others to develop major NIGMS and trans-NIH initiatives, such as those in glycoscience, pharmacogenomics and synthetic organic chemistry.

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Transitioning the Pharmacogenomics Network

PGRN LogoAt our September Advisory Council meeting, I presented plans for transitioning the Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) from set-aside funding into the regular, competitive research pool. Council approved the plans, so we are now moving forward on them. The reshaped program will continue to fund research and network activities designed to propel discovery and implementation. We will also continue to coordinate our support of pharmacogenomics and precision medicine with other NIH institutes and offices.

Our transition plans include soliciting applications for a limited number of research centers (P50) and network resources (R24) as well as the PharmGKB knowledgebase (R24) and a coordinating center to support network functions (U01). New funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) will be published in early 2014, with application due dates beginning in the late spring. These FOAs will be program announcements with multiple receipt dates that are open for several years and will not have set-aside funds.

All investigators with an interest in pharmacogenomics who are funded through these and other mechanisms may indicate a desire to participate in the network beginning in July 2015. Many network activities will be based on the PGRN and other successful models.

I welcome your input on these changes.

Provide Input on Challenges and Opportunities in Pharmacogenomics

We are seeking input from the scientific community on challenges, opportunities and gaps in pharmacogenomics. Please help us shape future programs in pharmacogenomics by responding to the recently published request for information (RFI). The RFI asks for your input on several topics, such as:

  • Critical technological advances that can be applied to pharmacogenomics problems;
  • Specific tools, resources, methods and approaches needed to enhance our molecular, genetic and biological mechanistic understanding;
  • Ways to advance clinical implementation for improving health care outcomes, including safety, effectiveness, time and costs;
  • Synergies that might come from a research network;
  • Types of scientific endeavors that would best be funded by R01 grants in the field; and
  • Additional interfaces and interactions that should be developed by NIH with other funders or organizations.

Please take the time to comment on any or all of the above topics between now and the May 17 deadline. You may respond as individuals or groups. Working together, we can help advance this research area of great scientific interest and immediate health relevance.

Planning Grants Now Available for Clinical Trials of High Relevance to the NIGMS Mission

NIGMS supports a limited number of investigator-initiated clinical trials in selected areas related to its mission, including trauma, burn and peri-operative injury; wound healing; sepsis; and anesthesiology and peri-operative pain.

We will now offer planning grants (see PAR-11-287) to enable the assembly of the organizational elements and documentation needed for a clinical trial R01 application. This will also permit early peer review of the scientific rationale of a proposed trial.

Before applying for a planning grant, we strongly recommend consulting with the appropriate NIGMS program staff listed in the funding opportunity announcement to determine whether the goal of the proposed trial aligns with the NIGMS mission and scientific priorities.

Letters of intent for the planning grants are due by September 24, 2011, and applications are due by October 24, 2011. We will accept subsequent submissions on the same dates in 2012 and 2013.

As this planning grant program proceeds, we will assess its value to applicants, and we welcome your feedback at any time. For more information, please see the NIGMS Web site on Clinical Studies and Trials.

Maintaining “Legacy” Scientific Resources

Our research programs often produce valuable scientific resources. But if one of these initiatives ends, then what becomes of the resource it generated?

To address this issue, we formed a committee of NIGMS staff to explore options for maintaining scientific resources resulting from NIGMS-supported research. We defined a resource as a non-hypothesis-driven activity to provide data, materials, tools or services that are essential to making the most timely, high-quality and cost-efficient progress in a field. We proposed principles for continuing support of “legacy” resources that are of great benefit to researchers working within the Institute’s mission areas.

Based on our discussions, we recommended that NIGMS pilot a limited program to fund the maintenance of existing, high-value resources. The NIGMS Council approved the concept in May, and the funding opportunity announcement just appeared in the NIH Guide. Applications are due once per year in October.

If you are interested in applying, read the announcement for details, including the special eligibility requirements. And before you apply, be sure to contact the appropriate NIGMS division director to discuss your ideas.

We hope that the results of this limited pilot program will help guide future decisions about maintaining important research-generated resources.