Author: Dr. Rochelle Long

Headshot of 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.

Posts by Dr. Rochelle Long

Wanted: Program Director, Biochemistry and Bio-related Chemistry Branch

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UPDATE: The vacancy announcement for this position is now open and will close January 30, 2020.

We’re recruiting for an accomplished scientist with experience in the biochemical sciences to join the Biochemistry and Bio-related Chemistry (BBC) Branch of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC). The BBC Branch supports research studies in synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, and bio-related chemistry. Research in this Branch is related to enzymology, bioenergetics, carbohydrate chemistry and recognition, synthetic methodology development, natural product synthesis and biosynthesis, peptide and protein chemistry, and synthetic biology. 

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Request for Information on Human Biospecimens for Research on Sepsis

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NIGMS wants to advance our understanding of sepsis in order to accelerate improved diagnosis and treatment strategies. Based on the recommendations of our National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council Working Group on Sepsis, we intend to continue our support of fundamental discovery and mechanistic science relevant to sepsis. We recently identified the Institute’s specific priorities for sepsis research in an NIH Guide notice (NOT-GM-19-054). Additionally, the Working Group recommended that NIGMS encourage the use of human clinical materials to facilitate more rapid progress toward better identification, staging, and endotyping of the disease.

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Seeking Two Branch Chiefs for the Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry Division at NIGMS

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UPDATE: The vacancy announcements for these positions are now closed.

We’re recruiting for two accomplished individuals with interest and experience in the scientific areas that comprise the Biochemistry and Bio-related Chemistry (BBC) and the Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences (PPS) Branches of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry. Successful applicants will be responsible for scientific and administrative planning, evaluation, and management of one of the branches, along with supervision of program directors with portfolios of funded research and small business grants. Each Chief will additionally handle a portfolio of research grants consistent with his/her own scientific background.

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Does your application fit the scientific mission of NIGMS?

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Prospective applicants frequently ask us whether their application ideas fit within our mission. NIGMS supports basic research that increases our understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. We also support research in some specific clinical areas that affect multiple organ systems, including anesthesia, sepsis, wound healing, and trauma. In addition, we’re committed to training the next generation of scientists, enhancing the diversity of the scientific workforce, and developing research capacity throughout the country.

Not all applications for fundamental biomedical research projects will ultimately be assigned to NIGMS.  Other NIH institutes and centers (ICs) also have strong commitments to basic research that underlie an understanding of their own particular organ systems, diseases, or treatments. Each NIH IC is different and supports distinct research areas, so it’s wise to seek advice from the program where your science best fits. Before submitting an application to NIGMS, we strongly recommend that you contact the program director whose portfolio most closely matches your area of research.

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Wanted: Program Director, Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences Branch

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UPDATE: The vacancy announcement for this position is now available and is open through May 29.

We’re recruiting for an accomplished scientist with interest and experience in inflammation, innate immunity, and the physiological responses to injury, to join the Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences (PPS) Branch of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC). The successful applicant will have responsibility for scientific and administrative management of a portfolio of research, career development, and training grants.

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Wanted: Program Director, Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences Branch

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We’re recruiting for an accomplished scientist with experience in the pharmacological sciences to join the Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences (PPS) Branch of the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry. The successful applicant will have responsibility for scientific and administrative management of a portfolio of grants, both research and training, in the Division.

The PPS Branch supports research studies ranging from the molecular to cellular to organismal, which can be basic or clinical in nature. This position offers stewardship of grant awards related to modern approaches to examining the effects of drugs on the body and the body’s effects on drugs, as well as how these effects vary from individual to individual. This includes investigations of the absorption, transport, distribution, metabolism, biotransformation, toxicity, and excretion of drugs, as well as determinants and models of pharmacokinetics. The portfolio also includes investigation of drug delivery strategies and the packaging and delivery of molecules and biologics, with an emphasis on drug release and kinetics.

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

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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

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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

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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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