Category: News

NIGMS to Co-Host ARPA-H Listening Session

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UPDATE: The videocast of the ARPA-H session on August 4 is now available.

President Biden recently called for the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to improve our capabilities to speed research that can improve the health of all Americans. The proposed mission of ARPA-H could include investments in breakthrough technologies and broadly applicable platforms, resources, and solutions that can’t be readily accomplished through traditional research or commercial activity. Such innovations could transform important areas of medicine and health for the benefit of all patients.

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NIGMS Strategic Plan 2021-2025 Now Available

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I’m pleased to announce the release of the NIGMS 2021-2025 Strategic Plan [PDF]. Like its predecessor [PDF], this plan sets the direction and priorities that the Institute will pursue over the next 5 years. It enumerates a series of goals, objectives, and implementation strategies that build upon the successful outcomes [PDF] of our prior plan, and it reflects key organizational values of the Institute. The plan also contains representative targets for each implementation strategy that promote both transparency and accountability to ensure that progress is tracked and periodically reported, and that any necessary course corrections can be implemented.

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Richard Aragon to Direct Division of Data Integration, Modeling, and Analytics

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Headshot of Dr. Richard Aragon.

I’m pleased to announce that Richard Aragon is the new director of the Institute’s Division of Data Integration, Modeling, and Analytics (DIMA). He has been acting director of DIMA since January 2020.

Richard has ably led NIGMS’ strategic planning and evaluation activities and has served as our Congressional liaison since joining us in 2014 as chief of what was then our Office of Program Planning, Analysis, and Evaluation. In this role, he has evolved and expanded our capabilities to include predictive analytics, budget and fiscal modeling, and the use of artificial intelligence to enhance business processes. As we prepare to the launch the NIGMS 2021-2025 Strategic Plan this spring, Richard’s extensive expertise in spearheading these activities makes him the ideal candidate to lead this critical component of the Institute.

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It Takes Courage: Re-Emphasizing Our Institutional and Societal Commitment to Diversity, Respect, and Inclusion

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Recent events have highlighted the unfortunate, discriminatory, and, at times, violent or criminal actions taken against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. These events, including attacks on women and the elderly, constitute a threat to the health and well-being of not only the AAPI community, but also to the principles of diversity, inclusivity, respect, and civility. Data recently released [PDF] by California State University, San Bernardino, indicate a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes reported to law enforcement between 2019 and 2020, including staggering increases in some of the most demographically diverse cities in the country. These events, and the perspectives or attitudes that underlie them, damage the social fabric and mutual bonds that hold us together. Elements of hate and discrimination anywhere act as a barrier to equity and respect everywhere.

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NIGMS Supports UNITE, the Trans-NIH Initiative to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Biomedical Research

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UNITE logo. UNITE is an NIH initiative to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in biomedical research.

On March 1, NIH Director Francis Collins announced UNITE, a new effort to end structural racism and racial inequities in the biomedical research enterprise. NIGMS fully supports this initiative and is actively reviewing our own policies, practices, procedures, and priorities. We’re also intensifying our current efforts to undo the impacts of structural racism and all other forms of structural bias and discrimination in the biomedical research enterprise. Upcoming NIGMS communications and activities will identify structural and cultural elements in biomedical research that are contributing to racism and what we’re currently doing and plan to do to address them. New initiatives include, but are not limited to:

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Dorit Zuk Named NIGMS Acting Deputy Director

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Headshot of Dr. Dorit Zuk.

I’m pleased to tell you that Dorit Zuk has agreed to serve as acting deputy director of NIGMS upon Judith Greenberg’s retirement at the end of the month.

Dorit has served in several leadership roles at both NIGMS and NIH. She’s been the director of our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (GMCDB) since early 2016. Before joining NIGMS, she was director of the former Office of Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Prior to that, she was the science policy advisor to the NIH deputy director for extramural research.

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NIGMS Deputy Director Judith Greenberg to Retire

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Headshot of Dr. Judith Greenberg.

I’d like to share with you the bittersweet news that our deputy director, Judith H. Greenberg, is retiring at the end of the month after 45 years of service to NIH, most of which was spent right here at NIGMS. Judith has been a vital part of the NIGMS leadership team and an invaluable advisor to me since I came on board as NIGMS director.

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Developing a Culture of Safety in Biomedical Research Training

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NIGMS is committed to supporting safety in the nation’s biomedical research and training environments. Last April, we shared with you resources for enhancing lab safety in biomedical research training environments. Now, in a perspective in the current issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), we focus on strategies for improving laboratory safety. Some of these strategies are also applicable to other forms of safety including the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination. We frame the problem of laboratory safety using a number of recent examples of tragic accidents, highlight some of the lessons that have been learned from these and other events, discuss what NIGMS is doing to address problems related to laboratory safety, and outline steps that institutions can take to improve their safety cultures.

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Remembering Former NIGMS Director Marvin Cassman

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Headshot of Dr. Marvin Cassman. Credit: NIGMS.

We in the NIGMS family are deeply saddened by the loss of our former director Marvin Cassman, Ph.D., on August 6. Dr. Cassman joined NIGMS in 1975 as a health scientist administrator in what was then the Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease Program, advancing through the ranks to become NIGMS’ deputy director, acting director, and from 1996 to 2002, director. Dr. Cassman’s tenure as director coincided with the period of NIH’s budget doubling, and he ably led NIGMS’ establishment of key initiatives that have had a worldwide impact. These included the Protein Structure Initiative, the goal of which was to make the three-dimensional, atomic-level structures of most proteins easily obtainable from knowledge of their corresponding DNA sequences. This enabled investigators to apply the new paradigm of high-throughput structure determination to study important biological and biomedical problems.

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