The first National Institute of General Medical Sciences advisory council meeting of 2018 was convened on Jan. 18-19, with an open session on Jan. 19. Jon Lorsch, director of the NIGMS, provided an update on the institute’s reorganization and the National Institutes of Health’s data science strategic plan.
The director’s report was followed by presentations from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology on its newly released report on Maximizing Shared Research Resource and James Onken on the history of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
In addition, the council moved to approve three program concepts: the reissuance of the Centers of Biomedical Excellence (COBRE) phase 1 and 2 awards; the creation of the Medical Scientist Training Program (T32); and the reissuance of the Research to Understand and Inform Interventions that Promote the Research Careers of Students in Biomedical Sciences program (R01).
Highlights from the meeting are below. You can watch a recording of the open session here, and we’re including timestamps on our highlights for your quick reference.
- 17:54 – Last year, the NIGMS released a request for information to receive input on the institute’s proposed reorganization. Ten comments were received, most of which were positive. The institute has moved from a structure with four scientific divisions to three. The new division titles have been changed to:
- Biophysics, Biomedical Technology and Computational Biosciences
- Genetics and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
- Pharmacology, Physiology and Biological Chemistry.
Lorsch stressed that the reorganization will not represent a change in the institute’s research interests, emphasis or portfolio. Additionally, the Center for Research Capacity Building will be elevated into a full division; and the Office of Emergency Care Research will be moving to the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke.
- 21:16 – The NIH is developing a strategic plan to address the data science needs of the biomedical research agency. This comes as a direct request from Congress. The objectives of the plan will include:
- modernizing the data resource ecosystem to increase its utility for researchers and other stakeholders;
- optimizing its efficiency of operation;
- enhancing date sharing access and interoperability; and
- modernizing infrastructure and increase capacity of the system.
The strategic plan will be formed around the concept known by the acronym FAIR to ensure that the data tools are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. In the coming months, the NIH plans to release a request for information to solicit the community’s input on the strategic plan and present its framework during institute advisory councils.
Members of the advisory committee expressed the need for any tools that are developed to be adequately connected to other federal agencies and international groups. They also cautioned that any plan moving forward must ensure that the tools created are dynamic enough to weather changes in technology and include the proper safeguards to prevent hacking. The NIH plans to present the finalized plan to Congress in the spring.
- 2:26:28 – Stefan Maas, NIGMS program director for the Medical Scientist Training Program, provided an overview of the new Medical Scientist Training Program T32 to the council. The program arose from an identified need for a dedicated funding opportunity to support M.D.-Ph.D. training programs. Currently, support for M.D.-Ph.D. programs falls under the full NRSA T32, which also includes predoctoral, postdoctoral and short-term awards, with no specific review criteria for dual-degree programs. The new funding opportunity will allow for more specificity to address the needs of MD-PhD training. The goals of the program will include:
- developing a diverse pool of physician-scientists;
- increasing skill development, rigor and reproducibility, ethical responsibility and integrity;
- providing evidence based, innovative educational practices and publish outcome data; and
- emphasizing individualize mentoring with exposure to diverse research areas toward career trajectories that utilize the dual degree.
The institute is expecting to solicit the first applications for the new Medical Scientist Training Program T32 in May 2019, with awards to be made in July 2020.
- 2:42:41 – Michael Sesma, postdoctoral training branch chief, presented proposed revisions to the institute’s research to understand and inform interventions that promote the research careers of students in the biomedical sciences program.
This funding opportunity will seek R01 applications from researchers seeking to conduct research and test hypotheses that positively affect training and mentoring for students pursuing biomedical careers.
Previous awardees have produced 93 publications, mostly in journals of education, and have 243 citations. Awarded grant topics have ranged from faculty-level activities, such as developing faculty networks and coaching for mentors to trainee-level interventions that include increasing research experiences and addressing imposter syndrome.
The program plans to solicit R01 applications at the end of 2018, with the first awards to be made in 2019. Additionally, there will be no funds dedicated to the program, and the proposals will have to compete with other R01s submitted to the institute.