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Updated: 4 hours 51 min ago

Ming Lei to Direct Research Capacity Building Division

Mon, 2018-06-11 11:17

I’m pleased to announce that Ming Lei will join NIGMS later this month as the new director of our Division for Research Capacity Building. Ming is a molecular geneticist with extensive experience overseeing fellowship, career development, and training and education grant programs.

Ming is currently deputy director of the Center for Cancer Training and chief of the Cancer Training Branch at the National Cancer Institute, which he joined in 2008 as a program director. His experience before that includes leading the Genes and Genome Cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation, serving as an associate professor of microbiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and working as a research scientist in the Division of Biotechnology at the Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ming’s expertise in managing far-reaching and complex programs, and his ability to effectively engage with scientists and other stakeholders, make him an ideal choice for this key position and a valuable addition to our senior leadership team.

Please join me in welcoming him to NIGMS.

For more about Ming, see our news announcement.

Analysis of NIGMS Support of Research Organisms

Tue, 2018-06-05 17:46

NIGMS is committed to supporting a wide-ranging portfolio of biomedically relevant fundamental research. As we discussed in a previous Feedback Loop post, we see this approach as the best way to increase our understanding of life. For many years, one important dimension of diversity in our scientific portfolio—the organisms scientists use to conduct their research—was limited by technical considerations. However, recent advances such as the decreasing cost of genome sequencing and the development of the CRISPR system for genetic modification now make it possible to use an expanded range of research organisms.

Applying these new technologies to the broader universe of Earth’s species, some of which have been the subject of research for many years and some of which have only recently attracted academic attention, presents an opportunity for a fresh perspective on the nature and behavior of living systems. In recognition of this opportunity, and as an extension of the recent portfolio analysis of NIH support for a subset of traditional model organisms presented by NIH’s Office of Extramural Research (OER), we decided to explore NIGMS’ support for investigator-initiated research using a subset of organisms for which historical application numbers are low. The 17 research organisms listed in Table 1 below were suggested for analysis by NIGMS program staff, who encountered them as the subject of one or more applications to NIGMS since 2008. On average, the number of applications per organism was never greater than three per year. Although this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of the rare research organisms supported by NIGMS, it spans the phylogenetic tree and is thus representative.

Myxococcus xanthus
“Rhodospirillum centenum” OR “Rhodospirillum rubrum”

“Methanococcus” OR “maripaludis”

“Zoothamnium” OR “giant ciliate”

“Echinoidea” OR “Strongylocentrotus purpuratus” OR “sea urchin”
“Cnidaria” OR “Hydra”
“Euprymna scolopes” OR “bobtail squid”
“Tribolium castaneum” OR “red flour beetle”

“Ciona intestinalis” OR “Ciano savignyi” OR “sea squirt”
“Ginglymostoma cirratum” OR “nurse shark”
“Myxini” OR “Hagfish”
“Takifugu rubripes” OR “Japanese puffer” OR “Tiger puffer” OR “pufferfish” OR “puffer fish”
“Ambystoma mexicanum” OR “axolotl”
Anolis carolinensis OR “Anolis carolinesis” OR “Carolina anole”
“Taeniopygia guttata” OR “zebra finch” OR “zebrafinch” Table 1. Seventeen Research Organisms in this Analysis and Associated Keywords
Applications were first identified by searching the text of the entire NIGMS portfolio of Research Project Grant (RPG—defined here as R01, R37, R35, DP2, R15, R24, R21, and R00 mechanisms) applications from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2016 for keywords associated with each of the 17 species (Table 1). Each application identified in this manner was read by at least two curators to confirm the use of the research organism in question. If the initial coding did not produce a consensus, the discrepancy was resolved by further discussion. This manual curation approach is consistent with the methodology employed in the above-mentioned analysis of traditional research organisms presented by OER, so the two datasets could be compared.

Figure 1. R01 Applications Received and Awards Made by NIGMS (FY 2008-2015) for Traditional and Rare Research Organisms. The 17 non-traditional research organisms designated here as rare are listed in Table 1. Five applications proposed simultaneous research on two of the research organisms shown (two on both axolotl and Carolina anole, two on both sea squirt and Methanococcus, and one on both lamprey and Japanese puffer), but were only counted once each for purposes of calculating award rates. Blue bars, applications that were not awarded; orange bars, awarded applications. Excludes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) applications.

Figure 1 shows the number of R01 applications received and awards made by NIGMS to study the widely used research organisms Drosophila melanogaster, Xenopus laevis/tropicalis, and Danio rerio (Zebrafish) from FY 2008 to 2015; in comparison, the use of our selected 17 research organisms in R01 applications over the same time period has been relatively rare (n = 152). Consistent with existing data on trans-NIH award rates, NIGMS R01 applications that propose to study the widely used models enjoy a higher combined award rate than the overall average (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value < 0.0001).

Although the sample size is small, R01 applications proposing to study rare research organisms have an award rate similar to applications on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish or the overall NIGMS R01 pool (Table 2; Fisher’s exact p-value = 0.13 and 0.50, respectively). This conclusion, which may seem contrary to expectations, is unchanged if data on applications through the end of FY 2016 and/or data on other RPG mechanisms are included in the calculation of award rates.

applications awards award rate all NIGMS 28429 6513 22.9% Drosophila, Xenopus, Zebrafish 2701 704 26.1% rare research organisms 152 31 20.4% Table 2. Number of Applications, Awards, and Award Rates for NIGMS R01s, FY 2008-2015. Award rates are determined by dividing the number of competing applications funded by the number of competing applications reviewed; if the same project is submitted more than once in the same fiscal year, the two submissions are both counted as independent attempts to secure funding. The combined award rate for Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish is significantly higher than the overall NIGMS R01 award rate; other pairwise comparisons are not statistically significant. ARRA-funded applications are excluded in all cases.

While NIGMS continues to support the use of traditional research organisms, we also welcome applications using new and unusual research organisms that propose well-justified studies relevant to the Institute’s mission. As we go forward, we will continue to monitor the distribution of support for the various organisms studied by NIGMS grantees, including how those organisms may be linked to particular areas of study. As always, we are interested to hear your thoughts on this issue, and encourage PIs who are interested in applying to NIGMS to contact a program director who manages applications close to their area of research.

We are grateful to the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis in the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Analysis for sharing their data on Drosophila, Xenopus, and Zebrafish awards. We would also like to thank our colleagues on the NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group as well as Michael Bender, Dylan Burgoon, and Donna Krasnewich for their help with this analysis.

NIGMS Research Organisms Working Group
Jake Basson, Office of Program Planning, Analysis and Evaluation
Emily Carlson, Office of Communications and Public Liaison*
Lisa Dunbar, Office of Scientific Review
Rafael Gorospe. Division of Research Capacity Building
Sailaja Koduri, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
Paul Sammak, Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences
Kristine Willis, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Dorit Zuk, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

*Now with NIH’s All of Us Research Program

Wanted: Genetics, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Program Director

Thu, 2018-05-31 09:44

We’re recruiting for a program director (also known as a health scientist administrator or program officer) to manage research grant, fellowship, training, and other types of awards focused on the structure and function of cells and cellular components, and the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie inheritance, gene expression, and development. The position is in our Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology​, and it involves working collaboratively with other program directors in the division to support outstanding science in these fields. Candidates should have expertise in state-of-the-art molecular genetics, cell biology, and/or developmental biology. Familiarity with NIH extramural funding as an applicant, reviewer, or NIH scientific administrator is a plus, and outstanding written and oral communication skills are essential.

There are two vacancy announcements: one for candidates with current or former federal employment status and one for candidates without such status. Both announcements close on June 7, 2018. Please see the NIH HSA website for position requirements and application procedures. The Applying for Scientific Administration Jobs at NIGMS blog post offers additional background and tips.

Not looking for a position right now? Please help us out by forwarding this information to others who might be interested in this opportunity.

Early Notice: Concept Clearance for the Reorganization of Undergraduate and Graduate Programs to Enhance Diversity in the Biomedical Research Workforce

Wed, 2018-05-30 16:36

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to developing a diverse pool of biomedical scientists through a variety of institutional training and student development programs. Based on stakeholders’ feedback through Requests for Information (NOT-GM-15-108; NOT-GM-17-017), as well as extensive analyses and discussions with NIH staff and the community, we intend to make adjustments to our programs designed to enhance the diversity in the biomedical research workforce. The modifications, which the NIGMS Council recently approved, are designed to: 1) provide equity of trainee support across programs; 2) prevent programmatic overlap; 3) align the funding strategies with the programmatic goals; 4) tailor expectation of outcomes, support mechanisms, and review considerations according to the institution’s level of research activity; and 5) strengthen our ability to evaluate the success of the programs. The changes, described in more detail in the recent Videocast of the Council Open Session, will impact the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), the Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) program, and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers – Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (MARC U-STAR) programs. We don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP). Possible adjustments to the Bridges to the Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate programs are currently under discussion.

Specifically, the modifications are intended to do the following:

  • Align the programmatic goals of preparing trainees for careers that have a significant impact on the health-related research needs of the Nation with the funding approach. We’ll accomplish this by transitioning from the Research Education (R25) mechanism to Training (T) mechanisms.
  • Provide equity across NIGMS programs for trainee stipends and tuition remission.
  • Create separate institutional eligibility tracks for review and funding based on NIH research project grant funding levels. The two tracks include research-intensive, i.e., those with a 3-year average of NIH research project grant (RPG) funding greater than or equal to $7.5 million, and research-active, i.e., those with a 3-year average of RPG funding less than $7.5 million (RPG data are available through NIH RePORTER).
  • Continue the MARC (NOT-GM-18-031) program to support the training of research-oriented undergraduates at research-intensive institutions.
  • Convert the current RISE research education program into two separate training programs: one to support the training of undergraduates called the Undergraduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or U-RISE (NOT-GM-18-030), and the other to support graduate training towards a Ph.D. called the Graduate Research Initiative for Student Enhancement, or G-RISE (NOT-GM-18-029). RISE masters’ programs are encouraged to apply for our Bridges to the Doctorate Program. RISE programs are intended for research-active institutions.
  • Convert the current IMSD research education program into an IMSD (NOT-GM-18-028) training program that supports graduate training towards a Ph.D. at research-intensive institutions. IMSD programs that currently support undergraduates are encouraged to apply for the MARC or U-RISE program, depending on the institutional eligibility.
  • Minimize the duplication of diversity-focused NIGMS programs. Each institution will be eligible for one diversity-focused undergraduate program (either MARC or U-RISE) and one diversity-focused graduate program (either IMSD or G-RISE).
  • Tailor the programs and review considerations to the specific strengths and needs of research-active and research-intensive institutions and their students.
  • Enhance the capacity for NIGMS to monitor and evaluate program outcomes.

The figure shows the trainee pathway, including community college (CC) students, undergraduates, postbaccalaureates (Postbac), graduate master’s trainees (Graduate MS), doctoral trainees (Graduate PhD), and postdoctoral trainees. The NIGMS diversity-focused programs are color-coded to match the trainee stage supported. The figure shows how the diversity-focused programs will be placed in separate tracks based on research project grant (RPG) funding to prevent programmatic overlap and to ensure that programs at a broad range of institution types are represented. Because the Bridges programs are multi-institutional collaborations, they are not included in the tracks.

The funding announcements for these four programs to enhance diversity in the biomedical research workforce will encourage applications from training programs that do the following: focus on skills development (including an emphasis on quantitative and computational skills); promote rigor and reproducibility in research; teach the responsible and safe conduct of research;  create inclusive, safe, and supportive research environments; use evidence-based, innovative educational and mentoring practices; employ cohort-building activities and interventions that enhance the trainees’ science identity and self-efficacy; provide individualized mentoring and oversight throughout the trainees’ undergraduate or graduate careers; and introduce trainees to a variety of scientific research areas and career trajectories.

For institutions with currently funded IMSD, RISE, and MARC programs, the policies and guidance in the FOA (under which the existing programs were funded) will apply until the end of the current funding cycle. NIGMS intends to release the MARC, U-RISE, IMSD, and G-RISE funding announcements in the fall of 2018. All applications for these programs must be submitted under the new FOAs effective July 1, 2018. NIGMS will conduct extensive outreach to provide guidance while institutions and existing programs navigate the transition.

We thank the community for its ongoing feedback. As always, we welcome your comments on the Council-approved plans. Contact(s) for questions: Sailaja Koduri for MARC and IMSD; Anissa Brown for U-RISE; and Luis Cubano for G-RISE.

Give Input on Strategies to Enhance Postdoctoral Career Transitions to Promote Faculty Diversity

Tue, 2018-05-29 09:00

NIGMS has a longstanding commitment to train the next generation of biomedical scientists and support the training of students from diverse backgrounds, including groups underrepresented in biomedical research, through fellowships, career development grants, and institutional training and student development programs. These programs, and other efforts, have contributed to a substantial increase in the talent pool of well-trained biomedical Ph.D.s from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. However, increasing evidence shows that transitions of these talented scientists from postdoctoral training into independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions is a key point at which they exit the NIH-funded research workforce. Similarly, women have earned a majority of biomedical Ph.D.s since 2008 but approximately one-third of NIH-funded principal investigators are women.

We have undertaken a number of efforts to facilitate the career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate including Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards and research supplements to promote diversity in health-related research and re-entry into biomedical research careers. Additionally, we administer the NIH Common Fund’s National Research Mentoring Network, a nationwide consortium of biomedical professionals and institutions collaborating to provide biomedical trainees from all backgrounds and at all levels with evidence-based mentorship and professional development programs. While these efforts have supported the development of highly-trained biomedical scientists who have the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue independent biomedical research careers, we need additional strategies to promote transitions to independent faculty positions at research-intensive institutions.

We are seeking input from the biomedical research community and other interested groups through a Request for Information (RFI) on strategies for enhancing postdoctoral career transitions to promote faculty diversity at research-intensive institutions. Specific topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The barriers scientists from underrepresented groups face as they progress from postdoctoral training into faculty positions at research-intensive institutions, and potential strategies to overcome these barriers.
  • The qualities and perspectives that scientists from underrepresented groups bring to the research enterprise, and how these can be drawn upon to encourage and promote career transitions into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.
  • Approaches key stakeholders (e.g., faculty advisors, institutions, scientific societies, etc.) can use to promote the successful career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions, and how these can be coordinated and sustained to maximize impact.
  • Current strategies that have been successful in promoting the transition of postdoctoral scientists from underrepresented groups into independent, tenure-track faculty positions.
  • Any other comments or recommendations for NIGMS to consider with respect to programs to enhance career transitions of postdoctoral scientists from diverse groups into the professoriate at research-intensive institutions.

Responses can be submitted via an online form and can be anonymous. The due date for providing input is July 20, 2018.

Webinar for Postdoctoral Research Associate Training (PRAT) Program Applicants

Tue, 2018-05-22 15:30

We’re hosting a webinar for students and fellows interested in the PRAT Program for the October 3 receipt date:

Wednesday, June 20, 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET.

PRAT is a competitive three-year fellowship program that prepares trainees for leadership positions in biomedical careers. Training includes a mentored laboratory research experience and intensive career and leadership development activities. PRAT fellows conduct research in laboratories in the NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) in basic biomedical research areas within the NIGMS mission. These areas include, but are not limited to, biological chemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, computational biosciences, developmental biology, genetics, immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology, physiology, and technology development.

Applicants can be graduate students considering postdoctoral research opportunities or fellows with no more than two years of postdoctoral research experience by the time of appointment to the PRAT program (late summer 2019). All applications require connecting with an investigator in the NIH IRP in advance of writing the application.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 625 876 209 and the password MjRSPSrH. You can also attend by phone by calling 650-479-3208. Slides will be posted on the PRAT website following the event.

NIGMS Staff and PRAT Fellows Participating in June 20 Webinar:

Kenneth Gibbs, Director, PRAT Program
Mercedes Rubio, Program Officer, PRAT Program
Amy Elliott, PRAT Fellow
Sam Golden, PRAT Fellow
Laura Corrales-Diaz Pomatto, PRAT Fellow

We look forward to talking with you about the PRAT Program.

Early-Career Speaker Describes Genomic Antics of Ancient Vertebrate, Answers Questions from Undergrads

Wed, 2018-05-02 14:08

The videocast from our April 17 Early-Career Investigator Lecture with Jeramiah Smith is now available. Jeramiah, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, gives a fascinating talk about his genomic research with sea lampreys. He then offers advice for students interested in biomedical research careers. I encourage you to take a look and share the video with students and postdocs in your labs and departments.

We launched this annual lecture series three years ago both to highlight the achievements of our early-career grantees, and to encourage undergraduates and other students to pursue careers in biomedical research. This year, a group of nearly 30 students from the ASCEND program at Morgan State University attended in person (and asked some outstanding questions!).

Undergraduate students and three faculty members from Morgan State University attended the NIGMS Director’s Early-Career Investigator Lecture. The speaker, Jeramiah Smith, is on the far right. The students are part of a university program supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Diversity Program Consortium. Credit: Christa Reynolds.

One of Jeramiah’s tips underlies all scientific inquiry, though it might have surprised the students: “Embrace being wrong.” Rather than feeling discouraged when an experiment yields unexpected results, he encouraged students to try to understand what happened and why. That’s how science advances.

I hope you and your trainees find the lecture as inspiring as I did.

Following the lecture, Jeramiah Smith answered questions from NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch (top right) and students from Morgan State University. Credit: Chia Chi Chang.

Funding Opportunity: Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study Coordination Center

Wed, 2018-04-25 09:02

NIGMS requests applications in support of a Coordination Center (RFA-GM-18-003) for our Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS) program. The MIDAS network of researchers shares models, data sets, and tools to study the spread of infectious disease and possible intervention strategies. The network consists of researchers funded by MIDAS research (R01) grants as well as other interested researchers. It is hoped that the output of the research conducted by the MIDAS network will improve our ability to predict the course of infectious disease outbreaks and model the outcomes of proposed interventions.

MIDAS modelers rely on large data sets and robust computational resources. The MIDAS Coordination Center will serve as a hub for storing these resources. More importantly, the Coordination Center will improve the usability of the MIDAS resources, host educational activities for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and coordinate MIDAS-related meetings.

The application deadline is May 31, 2018. Applicants may request up to $880,000 per year in direct costs including up to $250,000 for an independent research program. This is a five-year award. More details can be found in the RFA. Please contact me if you have any additional questions.

Administrative Supplements to Add Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias

Thu, 2018-04-19 15:14

NIGMS, along with other NIH Institutes and Centers, has partnered with the National Institute on Aging to grow the community of scientists actively engaged in research focused on Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias (AD/ADRD). Details of this year’s AD/ADRD supplement program are provided in NIA’s Notice NOT-AG-18-008. If your research, research training, or research capacity-building grant is not currently focused on AD/ADRD and you have an inspiring new idea of potential value to the field that is within the scope of the funded Specific Aims of your current award, please consider this opportunity.

Research related to AD/ADRD might fall within the scope of an already-funded NIGMS award originally focused on, for example, an enzyme, transporter, or metabolic pathway being studied for its basic biological or physiological role (or a non-AD/ADRD-related medical condition) if you have recognized an exciting new implication for AD-type pathologies or their treatment. Funded projects developing analytical methods, tools or technologies, drug molecules, or drug delivery systems not previously intended for application to AD/ADRD might now appear to have potential in this area. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their program director to discuss their ideas for AD/ADRD research and how those relate to the Specific Aims currently funded. Decisions about scope are strictly the purview of NIH. Center and Resource grants that allow non-specified pilot projects should consider adding AD/ADRD projects if interest and expertise exist.

NIA provides an Alzheimer’s Disease Administrative Supplements webpage that includes NIH’s coding definitions of Alzheimer’s disease and its related dementias, as well as titles and abstracts for several funded projects that meet the definition of AD/ADRD research. These sources can help you determine if your grant is already considered AD/ADRD research and, therefore ineligible for this supplement. If the Specific Aims of your grant are not already AD/ADRD-related and you’d like to apply for this supplement, you are strongly encouraged to use the information on NIA’s supplement webpage as well as the Query and Matchmaker tools in NIH RePORTER to help assure that the research in your supplement request is considered AD/ADRD-appropriate.

Applications must be received at NIGMS by June 8 for funding in FY 2018. Applicants must use NIH’s general Administrative Supplement Funding Opportunity Announcement, PA-18-591. To ensure that NIGMS can quickly identify applications for AD/ADRD supplements, be sure to include the NIA Notice number (NOT-AG-18-008) in the abstract and notify the Program Official of the parent award that a supplement request has been submitted. Applications will be ranked by NIGMS and the most compelling will be submitted to NIA for final consideration.

Additional requirements: Eligible NIGMS grants must:

  • Have a project end date in FY 2019 or later (on or after October 1, 2018).
  • Not be in a no-cost extension or entering a no-cost extension in FY 2018 (on or before September 30, 2018).
  • Be eligible for a supplement. R35 MIRA grants are not eligible for this supplement program, per NOT-AG-18-008. R15 AREA grant PIs should check with their Program Official or Grant Specialist about the possibility of supplement awards.

Please contact me if you have questions regarding the details of this administrative supplement program, and include NOT-AG-18-008 in the subject line of all related email communication.

Administrative Supplements for NIGMS Predoctoral T32 Grants to Develop Curricular and Training Activities

Tue, 2018-04-17 16:04

To continue our efforts to catalyze the modernization of biomedical graduate education, we invite eligible NIGMS-funded T32 predoctoral training programs to submit administrative supplement requests to develop new curricular and training activities to enhance the program’s ability to: 1) provide graduate trainees with a strong foundation in research design and methods in areas related to conducting rigorous and transparent research to enhance reproducibility (PA-18-756); 2) prepare students for diverse careers in the biomedical research workforce (PA-18-757); 3) develop the knowledge and skills of trainees to enhance laboratory safety (PA-18-758); and 4) develop the technical, operational, and professional skills of predoctoral biomedical researchers (PA-18-759).

Grantees should consider the following before applying:

  • Only one application will be accepted per institution per area of curricular/training activity development. We expect that in institutions with two or more NIGMS predoctoral training grants the programs will cooperate to develop a single application proposing activities that are broadly applicable to their trainees.
  • If an institution has received a previous administrative supplement in one of the four areas described above, the institution is not eligible for an additional award in that same area.
  • There’s a budget cap of $80,000 in direct costs per award, and the funds from the supplement must be expended by June 30, 2019.
  • Supplement funds cannot be used to support additional trainee slots.
  • To be eligible for the supplement, the training grant must be active through at least June 30, 2020. Training grants that have received outstanding priority scores and are expected to be renewed effective July 1, 2018, are NOT eligible.
  • Applicants may apply electronically through or eRA Commons as instructed in the FOAs. Applications will not be accepted in other ways.
  • If applying in more than one area of curricular or training activity development, separate requests in response to each FOA must be submitted.
  • Applications are due by May 18, 2018.

Please contact your program director, Alison Gammie, or Shiva Singh if you have any questions.

Webinar for NRMN Coordination Center and NRMN Resource Center Applicants

Mon, 2018-04-09 11:26

If you’re preparing a grant application for either the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) Coordination Center (U24) or the NRMN Resource Center (U24) for the June 11 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Monday, April 30, 1:00 PM ET

During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the NRMN Coordination Center and the NRMN Resource Center funding announcements and answer your questions. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 622 059 858 and the password PxH2Dy3Q. If you are unable to attend online, you can call 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you.

Webinar for NRMN: The Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points (U01) Grant Applicants

Thu, 2018-04-05 09:37

If you’re preparing a National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN): The Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points (U01) grant application for the June 11, 2018 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Monday, April 23, 2018, 1:30 PM ET

During the webinar, we’ll provide an overview of the NRMN: The Science of Mentoring, Networking, and Navigating Career Transition Points (U01) announcement and answer your questions. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx meeting page and enter the meeting number (access code) 621 810 025 and the password xgmgtxPy. If you are unable to attend online, you can call 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and enter the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you.

NIGMS Administrative Supplements for Equipment

Thu, 2018-03-29 10:08

NIGMS is offering administrative supplements of between $50,000 and $250,000 for the well-justified purchase of single pieces of equipment. In past years, we issued separate funding announcements (PA-15-089 and PA-16-125) for this purpose. This year, however, we will accept requests for equipment supplements from Principal Investigators (PIs) who hold NIGMS R01, R35, R37, or R15 awards under PA-18-591, Administrative Supplements to Existing NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements (Parent Admin Supp Clinical Trial Optional).

Eligible investigators are strongly encouraged to discuss potential requests with their program directors before submitting applications. Two or more NIGMS grantees at the same institution may submit separate but cross-referenced requests, where the funds requested reflect the actual proportion of the time that the shared equipment would be used by each PI. However, under no circumstances may a joint request exceed $400,000 in direct costs. The requested supplemental budget cannot exceed the total year direct cost amount of the parent award. PIs may not request future year funds. NIGMS strongly encourages investigators to seek matching funds from their institutions or elsewhere, and to ensure that follow-up expenses (such as maintenance contracts) will be covered from other available funds. Institutional contributions and commitment will be factored into funding decisions.

Applicants should include price quotes or other documentation, in addition to a strong scientific justification for the requested equipment supplement.

NIGMS anticipates awarding a limited number of administrative supplements toward the end of this fiscal year. The number of awards given will depend on the funds available. If you have any questions about these supplements, please contact me.

Reviewers Will Be Ready for the New Predoctoral T32 FOA

Tue, 2018-03-27 16:27

The first receipt date for predoctoral T32 applications in response to NIGMS Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) PAR-17-341 is fast approaching—May 25, 2018. While a wealth of information is already available regarding the intent and requirements of this new FOA, including on our NRSA Institutional Predoctoral Training Grants website and a recent Feedback Loop post, we want to reassure prospective applicants that we are also actively preparing for the review of these applications.

All predoctoral T32 applications submitted to NIGMS are currently reviewed by two in-house standing review committees, TWD-A and TWD-B, and this will continue for applications submitted under the new FOA. However, we are mindful that reviewing these applications requires different expectations and considerations, and that reviewers must accordingly be prepared for them. To this end, scientific review officers in our Office of Scientific Review are working closely with program staff in the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity to revise the materials and resources currently used to orient review committee members to ensure they understand and address the new review criteria appropriately. We are also exploring options to add expertise to the committees in aspects of the FOA that may be less familiar to reviewers, such as program evaluation, evidence-based approaches to teaching and mentoring, and non-academic career development. In addition, we are considering ways to bring the perspectives of community members who educate and mentor undergraduate students who go on to pursue Ph.D.s in biomedical fields, as well as of those who employ graduates of NIGMS-funded Ph.D. programs, such as representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. And of course, NIGMS review and program staff are available at each step, including during the review meetings, to provide guidance and reminders.

A feature of the new T32 FOA is that all submissions are considered new (Type 1) applications, and there will be no renewal (Type 2) applications received under the new FOA. Since site visits have been part of the review process only for renewal applications, no site visits for peer review will be conducted under the new FOA. Site visits will take place as planned for renewal applications submitted under the parent T32 FOA for the January 25, 2018, receipt date.

Note that applications for our Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) will continue to be reviewed using the criteria of the parent T32 FOA and will be site visited according to the established schedule while a new MSTP-specific FOA is under development.

If you have any questions about these upcoming preparations, please feel free to contact me.

NIGMS Transitions AREA Support to Undergraduate-Focused Institutions

Thu, 2018-03-15 13:13

NIGMS is realigning its support of the Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program to focus on providing research experiences to undergraduate students in scientific areas within its mission. Accordingly, we’ve published a new undergraduate research-focused AREA funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and are discontinuing our participation in the NIH Parent AREA FOA. The undergraduate research-focused AREA FOA will allow us to continue to: 1) support small-scale meritorious research projects at institutions that do not receive substantial NIH funding (less than $6 million in total costs in 4 of the last 7 years), 2) enhance the research environment at eligible institutions, and 3) expose students to scientific research so that they consider careers in biomedical sciences. Unlike the Parent FOA, the new announcement allows NIGMS to place its emphasis specifically on undergraduate research.

This new AREA FOA limits eligibility to undergraduate student-focused institutions or academic components within an institution (e.g., School of Arts and Sciences) in which the undergraduate student enrollment is greater than the graduate student enrollment, and it excludes all types of health professional schools. Additionally, the research team must be composed primarily of undergraduate students. This FOA aligns the application instructions and review criteria with the goals of the AREA program. We expect that these clarifications will lead to applications that better fit the goals of the program and provide reviewers the tools they need to evaluate the program as designed.

NIGMS is withdrawing from the Parent AREA FOA after the May 7, 2018, AIDS application due date. Beginning with the June 25 application due date, all AREA applications for NIGMS support, including renewals originally submitted to the Parent FOA, must be submitted to the undergraduate research-focused FOA (see NOT-GM-18-021). Note that this change does not affect existing NIGMS awards or applications that are pending review or funding decision. We will also continue to provide co-funding for meritorious AREA grant applications from institutions in IDeA states to other NIH institutes and centers that fall just outside of their normal funding range, regardless of which AREA FOA they come in under.

NIGMS has been a strong supporter of the AREA Program since its inception and will continue this commitment. We expect that the new FOA will better serve the community and fulfill our mission.

If you have any questions about the new AREA award, please email me or call 301-594-0943.

Planning to Apply for an NIGMS Established Investigator MIRA? Points to Consider

Fri, 2018-03-09 13:09

When NIGMS issued PAR-17-094, Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (R35), in December 2016, we opened the established investigator MIRA mechanism to all NIGMS grantees whose single-PI R01-equivalent grants were set to terminate in the same or subsequent fiscal year as the MIRA application. The purpose of this post is to remind you of important points to keep in mind if you are eligible to apply for a MIRA. Before applying, we strongly encourage you to contact your program director, who can advise you on whether MIRA is the best funding program for you and can help estimate a project budget if your application does well in peer review.

Some key points to know if you are considering applying for a MIRA grant:

  • Your consistent and sustained history of support from NIGMS is a major determinant of an award level.
  • For well-funded investigators, an award will likely be somewhat lower than your current/recent total budget in recognition of the stability, flexibility, decrease in administrative burden, and increased length of award that the MIRA provides.
  • It’s very difficult for most investigators to keep multiple R01s funded simultaneously and we expect that it will become even harder to do so in the future. In general, because NIGMS prioritizes funding for meritorious investigators who otherwise would not have support over providing additional grants to already well-funded investigators, the Institute is unlikely to award more than two R01s to a PI. Thus, for well-funded PIs, even with budget reductions relative to past funding levels, MIRA is likely to provide better and more stable support in the long run than trying to keep multiple R01s going.
  • In general, if your current total research support from NIGMS is between $250,000 and $400,000 in direct costs, your award may be about the same, reduced, or slightly increased.
  • If your current NIGMS research funding is less than $250,000, you might expect an amount similar to or even higher than this level. One of our goals for MIRA is to raise the median award level relative to what it is for our R01s to reverse losses due to inflation over the past decade for investigators who have been supported by a single, modular NIGMS R01.
  • Because every situation is different, our budget determinations are done with a great deal of consideration and on a case-by-case basis.
  • As an example, if you had three concurrently active NIGMS R01s in 2 or 3 of the last 5 years, but only two were active in the past year, we are not likely to consider your recent NIGMS funding history to be three R01s. Similarly, if you have grants in long no-cost extensions prior to submitting your MIRA application, their past budgets are not likely to be included in our calculations.
  • The budgets for non-NIGMS grants will not be included when calculating your funding history. MIRA grants are not intended to take the place of research support you have from other sources.
  • The Institute’s budget, which can change from year to year, is a consideration in making funding decisions and setting award levels.
  • MIRA provides support for a program of research in your lab that is relevant to the mission of NIGMS. It cannot be used to support work that is outside NIGMS’ research areas. If you have questions about the appropriateness of the research for NIGMS, discuss it with your program director.
  • To apply for a MIRA you must have at least one single-PI R01; if all your NIGMS grants are multi-PI awards, you are not eligible to apply for MIRA.
  • While the MIRA mechanism is advantageous for most NIGMS grantees, it is not the best mechanism if your current support is largely obtained through multi-PI grants, or if your focus is solely on technology development. You should discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your program director before you apply.
  • Finally, read the MIRA FOA carefully and refer to the Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have any additional MIRA questions, contact the program director for your current grant(s).

Webinar for MARC U-STAR Program Applicants

Wed, 2018-03-07 14:09

If you’re preparing an institutional MARC Undergraduate Student Training in Academic Research (U-STAR) grant application for the May 24 receipt date, don’t miss our upcoming webinar:

Tuesday, March 27, 2:00-4:00 p.m. ET

During the webinar, we’ll answer your questions about the MARC U-STAR funding opportunity announcement and data tables. You may send questions before the webinar or post them in the chat box during the event.

To access the webinar, visit the WebEx Meeting page and enter the meeting number 621 811 686 and the password “MARC2018.” If you are unable to attend online, you can join by phone by calling 1-650-479-3208 from anywhere in the United States or Canada and entering the meeting number above.

We look forward to talking to you about the MARC U-STAR program.

Requesting Your Input on the Draft NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science

Mon, 2018-03-05 11:06

To capitalize on the opportunities presented by advances in data science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing a Strategic Plan for Data Science. This plan describes NIH’s overarching goals, strategic objectives, and implementation tactics for promoting the modernization of the NIH-funded biomedical data science ecosystem. As part of the planning process, NIH has published a draft of the strategic plan [PDF 490KB], along with a Request for Information to seek input from stakeholders, including members of the scientific community, academic institutions, the private sector, health professionals, professional societies, advocacy groups, patient communities, as well as other interested members of the public.

As co-chair of the NIH Scientific Data Council, which is overseeing development of the Strategic Plan for Data Science, I encourage your comments and suggestions. Responses should be submitted via an online form by April 2, 2018.

Funding Opportunity for Development of Training Modules to Enhance the Rigor and Reproducibility of Biomedical Research

Wed, 2018-02-28 14:09

It’s crucial that the results of NIH-supported biomedical research are reproducible, unbiased, and properly validated. Establishment and use of rigorous and reproducible approaches require appropriate and sustained training of researchers and students. In 2014, we announced a funding opportunity to develop, pilot, and disseminate training modules to enhance data reproducibility. The products of these grants are posted on the NIGMS website as they become available, together with other relevant training modules about conducting rigorous and reproducible research.

We’ve just reissued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support the development of additional training modules in three areas that build upon and extend those targeted through the previous FOA. The three new areas of emphasis are: 1) How scientific culture, organization, and incentives influence the rigor and reproducibility of biomedical research; 2) Good laboratory practices and record keeping; 3) Advanced experimental design and analysis.

The application deadline is June 29, 2018. Applicants may request up to $250,000 in direct costs to cover the entire award period (up to three years). More details can be found in the FOA or in the program’s Frequently Asked Questions.

If you have any questions about this FOA or the training modules, please contact me.

NIGMS Rigor and Reproducibility Working Group

Alexandra Ainsztein, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Erica Brown, Division of Extramural Activities

Luis Cubano, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity

Haluk Resat, Division of Biophysics, Biomedical Technology, and Computational Biosciences

Lisa Dunbar, Office of Scientific Review

Kristine Willis, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Dorit Zuk, Division of Genetics and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Application and Funding Trends in Fiscal Year 2017

Tue, 2018-02-27 16:07

NIGMS is committed to ensuring that taxpayers get the best possible returns on their investments in fundamental biomedical research [PDF 702KB]. As part of this commitment to stewardship [PDF 7.89MB], we regularly monitor trends in our funding portfolio.

We recognize the value of a diversified investment portfolio and approach our research investments in a similar fashion. Sustaining a broad and diverse portfolio of talented investigators is a central goal of the Institute, as a wide variety of research questions can be studied by an investigator pool that comprises many different backgrounds, fields, and skills. To monitor this, we track the “cumulative investigator rate,” which indicates the proportion of unique investigators actively seeking funding who had an NIGMS grant in a given Fiscal Year (FY). As shown in Figure 1, the number of investigators seeking support consistently increased between FY 2006 and 2014, but the number of NIGMS-funded investigators remained relatively unchanged over that same period. As a result, the cumulative investigator rate steadily decreased. Since FY 2014, the cumulative investigator rate has steadily increased, as the number of applicants seeking support has stabilized and the number of investigators receiving support has grown by 14%. Currently, 37.4% of investigators seeking R01/R35 funding from NIGMS received support in FY 2017.

View larger image Figure 1. Number of NIGMS R01/R35 Applicants, Awardees, and Cumulative Investigator Rates, FY 2006-2017. The number of investigators actively seeking NIGMS R01 and R35 support (blue circles, dashed line; left axis) increased steadily from FY 2006 to 2014 but has stabilized more recently. These applicants were defined as anyone who submitted a competing NIGMS R01 or R35 application in the fiscal year shown or any of the previous four fiscal years. The NIGMS R01 and R35 awardee counts (green squares, solid line; left axis) remained relatively stable from FY 2006 to 2014 and have increased somewhat over the past three years. As a result, the NIGMS cumulative investigator rate (gray triangles, dotted line; right axis) declined from FY 2006 to 2014 but has begun to recover since then.

As part of our commitment to a diverse portfolio, we also emphasize support for the next generation of biomedical researchers. Supporting early stage investigators (ESIs), as well as maintaining stable support for investigators through their critical first renewals, is essential to maintaining a vibrant research community. As shown in Figure 2, the number of ESIs receiving their first competing NIGMS major research project grant has increased in the last two years. This is due, in part, to interest in our Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA) R35 grant program which includes a funding opportunity for early stage investigators. As we move forward, we will continue to track the stability of support for investigators across all stages of their research careers.

View larger image Figure 2. Number of NIGMS Competing R01/R35/DP2 ESI Awardees, FY 2009-2017. The number of unique R01, R35, and DP2 ESIs (blue bars) receiving their first major NIH research project grant from NIGMS has typically been 90-110 a year since introduction of the ESI designation in 2009. Over the last two years, NIGMS has made more awards to ESIs, many of whom are supported on the MIRA program.

In addition, we track more traditional measures of our grants portfolio, such as the success rate [PDF, 185KB], calculated as the number of applications funded divided by the number of unique project proposals received. As shown in Figure 3, the NIGMS research project grants (RPGs) success rate for FY 2017 was 30.7%, a percentage point higher than the success rate in FY 2016. We received slightly fewer competing applications in FY 2017 than 2016, and made nearly the same number of awards, resulting in a similar success rate. This marks the third year in a row that success rates have remained relatively stable since their lowest point in FY 2013. MIRA applications and grants are included in these counts for RPGs.

View larger image Figure 3. Number of NIGMS Competing RPG Applications, Funded Competing RPGs, and Success Rates for RPGs, FY 2006-2017. NIGMS RPG applications (blue circles, dashed line; left axis) decreased slightly from FY 2016 to 2017. Meanwhile, NIGMS-funded RPGs (green squares, solid line; left axis) remained stable in FY 2017 relative to FY 2016. As a result, the NIGMS RPG success rate (gray triangles, dotted line; right axis) increased slightly when compared with FY 2016.

As noted above, changes in the numbers of both competing applications and awards influence our success rate. The number of competing applications submitted is largely driven by the research community, although the increasing percentage of investigators with funding since FY 2014 (Figure 1) could have led to a decrease in the number of people submitting applications. In addition, researchers funded through the MIRA program do not submit additional research grant applications to NIGMS, which will lead over time to a decrease in applications. The number of competing grants awarded is affected by our funding policies, budget, and existing commitments to active grants. As stated in our 2015 Strategic Plan [PDF 702KB], we have been making efforts to bolster support for investigator-initiated research and for individual researchers through careful consideration of our portfolio and funding policies.

As mentioned in our previous funding trends posts, we do not use a strict percentile cutoff (“payline”) to make funding decisions. Instead, we take a variety of factors into account, including peer review scores, summary statements, the relevance of the research area to the Institute’s mission, overall portfolio diversity, and an applicant’s other research support. As a result, a significant number of applications each year are in the “fundable” range, as shown in the funding plots in Figures 4 and 5. In FY 2017, approximately 50% of applications that scored at the 24th percentile were funded, identical to the value in FY 2016 (Figure 4). As with last year, a number of well-scoring R01 applications went unfunded, in part due to NIGMS policies on support for research in well-funded laboratories and funding for investigators with substantial unrestricted support. In general, a well-scoring application for an investigator’s third R01 will be a lower priority for funding than a meritorious application for another investigator’s only grant.

Similar figures are not shown for the MIRA program, as applications are not percentiled and the program is still in its early phases. NIGMS has been carefully monitoring the MIRA program and communicating its findings via regular Feedback Loop posts and will continue to do so.

View larger image Figure 4. Percentage of Applications Funded Within Each Percentile for Competing NIGMS R01 Applications, FY 2013-2017. Curves are smoothed by including applications two points above and below the percentile value shown. The percentile at which 50% of the applications were funded for FY 2017 (solid orange line) is near the 24th percentile, as compared with the 24th in FY 2016 (long-dashed green line) and the 24th in FY 2015 (medium-dashed blue line). FY 2016 had a lower proportion of funded applications below the 10th percentile.
View larger image Figure 5. Funding Distribution of Competing NIGMS R01 Applications by Percentile, FY 2017. Funded grants (solid green bars) generally follow the funding curve pattern demonstrated in Figure 4, with unfunded applications (striped black-and-white bars) constituting the remainder of the overall uniform distribution of application percentiles.

In FY 2018, NIGMS has been operating under a continuing resolution , meaning that our budget is at a similar level to FY 2017. During this time, we are following current guidance as it relates to issuance of awards. However, we continue to use every analytical tool at our disposal to ensure that we maximize scientific returns on taxpayers’ investments by supporting a vibrant and diverse portfolio of outstanding fundamental biomedical research.

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