Category: Resources

NIGMS Cell Repository Will Expand Collection, Services



Coriell’s cryogenic tanks filled with liquid nitrogen and millions of vials of frozen cells. Credit: Coriell Institute for Medical Research

Good news—we just awarded a five-year contract to the Coriell Institute for Medical Research to continue and expand operation of the NIGMS Human Genetic Cell Repository (HGCR) Link to external web site.

A lot of NIGMS grantees who do basic research may not be familiar with the HGCR. It currently has more than 10,000 cell lines from individuals who have genetic disorders and those who do not. The cell lines, each of which has been comprehensively characterized and is contaminant-free, represent nearly 1,000 disorders. An equally important element of the HGCR is the human variation collection, which includes samples from populations around the world.

Under the new contract, the repository will continue to acquire, characterize and distribute cell cultures and DNA samples. In the coming months, it will add induced pluripotent stem cell lines that researchers can use to study inherited diseases and the regulation of normal cell differentiation. To respond to the changing needs within the genetics community, the repository will also start accepting custom orders.

One of the real advantages of ordering materials from the repository has been and certainly will continue to be the high level of characterization and quality control.

You can read more about the repository in the NIGMS news release. You can also go to the HGCR online catalog Link to external web site to see what cell lines are available.

If you’ve used the repository, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, keep it in mind for future studies—it’s a great resource for getting good quality human cell lines, especially ones that may otherwise be difficult to obtain.

Propose Research Using the World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer


How to Get Involved

Watch Videocast on
Dec. 17, 2-4 p.m.

The Blue Waters petascale computing system, under construction by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Link to external website at the University of Illinois, will be the most powerful computer in the world when it comes online in 2011. The National Science Foundation is currently soliciting proposals for computing time Link to external website to explore big questions that can’t be addressed with other existing computer systems.

We will be hosting a virtual workshop and applicant briefing on Blue Waters to encourage our grantees to develop high-impact community proposals for computing time on this very important new resource. Given the amount of NIGMS-supported biological and biomedical research that utilizes a variety of computing platforms, we think there are a lot of great research opportunities.

The videocast is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 17, from 2-4 p.m. You will be able to access it at During the discussion, we will tell you about the opportunity, identify areas of science within the NIGMS mission that may benefit from Blue Waters, and help interested scientists form collaborations to submit proposals.

Presenters include Jeremy Berg, Stephen Meacham from NSF, Eric Jakobsson and Thom Dunning from the University of Illinois, and John Moult from the University of Maryland. You may join the live discussion by e-mailing questions and comments via the NIH Videocast Web site or by sending them to me. You also can send me your ideas or questions ahead of time.

Because of the considerable NIGMS investment in protein folding and prediction of protein structure from sequence, we will explore this area during the videocast. We realize that many other areas within the NIGMS mission may also benefit from access to Blue Waters, and we welcome discussion about those as well.

We have also set up a Web site where you can post your ideas and interests in using Blue Waters and/or forming collaborations.

New Resource to Address Glycoscience Bottlenecks


There are over 750 human enzymes dedicated to glycan synthesis, catabolism and recognition. They include glycosyltrasferases (GTs) and glycoside hydrolases (GHs). While there is tremendous demand for these enzymes in the scientific community, few are available in sufficient quantities for synthetic purposes or for structural/functional studies. Not surprisingly, glyco-enzymes are exceptionally underrepresented in the Protein Data Bank.

To help overcome these bottlenecks, NIGMS is partnering with NIH’s National Center for Research Resources to provide a two-year Recovery Act supplement to the NCRR-sponsored Resource for Integrated Glycotechnology at the University of Georgia. The center will draw additional expertise from investigators at the University of Arizona and University of Wyoming to generate libraries of gateway and expression vectors for glyco-enzymes. The gateway and expression libraries for these enzymes will begin to be made available to the scientific community over the next few months.

The team also will work to express and distribute a subset of these enzymes. Your input for this expression effort is welcome. Please direct inquiries regarding these vectors/enzymes to Kelley Moremen.

This new repository for mammalian GT and GH libraries will speed expansion of the chemical space for carbohydrates as well as speed structural and biochemical studies of these enzymes. The resource should benefit multiple scientific communities and accelerate progress on both the basic biology of the enzymes and their use for development of screening tools (arrays), diagnostics and therapeutics.

The GT and GH expression vectors libraries also may be a useful resource for researchers planning to respond to the upcoming PSI:Biology program announcements mentioned in an earlier post.

Research Resources for the Scientific Community


Through initiatives such as “glue” grants, the Protein Structure Initiative, the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network and in other ways, NIGMS-supported researchers develop resources, information and opportunities of value to broad segments of the scientific community. A list of major NIGMS-funded Web sites and portals is available on our Web site.

I invite you to explore these resources, and I welcome your comments about them.

PSI:Biology Reminder and Application Resources



This is just a reminder that letters of intent for the three PSI:Biology funding opportunities are due on Monday, Sept. 28. If you’re still thinking about applying, please view these resources:

You can access this and other relevant information from our PSI:Biology Web site. Please continue to direct any additional questions to me by e-mail or phone (301-594-0828).

Happy Fifth Birthday, MIDAS


Five years ago this summer, MIDAS, the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, was born. When we began, we knew the effort to develop computational models of disease spread would play a role in preparing for new outbreaks—we just didn’t think it’d be so immediate. First with H5N1 fears and now with the H1N1 pandemic, our researchers have provided computational models to help decisionmakers from all levels of the government plan ways to control flu.

While modeling is just one of many tools used in making policy recommendations, it can help explore different scenarios and outcomes. In the case of flu, MIDAS scientists have used their models to help answer questions like:

  • Can you contain a pandemic locally?
  • What’s the best way to slow the spread of flu while we develop a vaccine?
  • What’s the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions?
  • Should we distribute antivirals before an outbreak?

As we head into the next five years, we are adding two new centers and three research groups that are pretty exciting. They bring expertise in such areas as MRSA modeling, high-performance computing, statistics, social behavior and visualization tools for non-experts. We’re also going to put a lot more effort into understanding the ecology and evolution of disease, the impact of co-infections, and antibiotic and antiviral resistance.

The two new centers have an additional charge in education and outreach, particularly with public health officials from around the world. I am especially looking forward to this, since there’s such a great need for people with backgrounds in infectious disease epidemiology to also be able to do analytical and computational work.

The thoughtful, careful studies we do through MIDAS require a diverse group of people to communicate with each other every day. One thing I love about the way MIDAS has matured over the years is that we’ve built a level of trust and collaboration. Our researchers freely share data, ideas, and analytical and computational tools.

As we’ve learned, health policy questions emerge and develop almost instantly as new issues arise. Our challenge will continue to be modeling in this real-time context.

One-Stop Shop for Info on NIH-Funded Research

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Screenshot of NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool Expenditures and Results (NIH RePORTER)Trying to figure out if your latest idea for a project is already being widely supported by NIH?

Looking for a local collaborator who has the research expertise you need?

Searching for research results on a particular disease or medication?

Want more details about NIH-funded research than you can find in the prepared reports on the NIH RePORT Web site?

RePORTER (RePORT Expenditures and Results) is now ready to help! It replaces the CRISP funded research report tool, which NIH will retire this September after a long and distinguished career.

The new site brings together data from many different sources and lets you search and sort it in new ways. You can still do simple searches by investigator, organization and terms (keywords), but you can also, for example, search just Recovery Act-funded grants or by NIH spending category. The results give you more detailed information about the projects, including funding levels, links to related research papers, resulting patents and other helpful information.

Because you can specify a variety of search terms and topics, you can use RePORTER to generate your own reports.

RePORTER includes information about NIH-supported research at institutions in the United States and throughout the world, as well as NIH intramural research.

Spend a few minutes on the site, and you’ll find it’s easy to use. That said, RePORTER is still very new and growing, so some features—like the “Term Search” field that currently doesn’t support complex, compound queries—will likely improve.

But even as the site moves from version 1.0 beta to full release in the fall, it’s already an incredibly convenient one-stop shopping venue for information about NIH-funded research. Come on by!

If you have comments about RePORTER, use the e-mail link at the bottom of each page to send your feedback.

NIGMS Home Page Now Easier to Navigate

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I’m pleased to announce that the NIGMS Web site has a new look, making it easier for you to navigate.

New features include a large, center area with rotating “slides” and prominent links to our most popular pages, including the NIGMS Recovery Act site. You can quickly find the latest funding opportunities or search for them. Also, “bookmark and share” links let you easily share our Web material with others.

The new layout retains the site’s current tabbed navigation, but we plan to change this when we overhaul the site later this year.

Screenshot of NIGMS Home Page

I welcome your feedback on the new design and your ideas for the complete revamp. You can send your comments to