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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC and AAVMC Submit Joint Comments on NIH Infrastructure Programs


    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The AAMC and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) submitted on Feb. 14 joint comments to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) for strategic planning around the agency’s support for shared research resources.

    The ORIP invited input on Dec. 13, 2019 from the research community for developing its 2021-2025 strategic plan, largely involving two types of infrastructure programs. The first program type includes shared animal resources, ranging from collections of invertebrates to zebra fish, mice, and even nonhuman primates. All enable investigations in basic biology and serve as models for human disease. The second category of infrastructure programs includes shared instrumentation and construction of new facilities.

    The AAMC and AAVMC, collectively representing the nation’s medical schools and veterinary medical schools, expressed continuing support for the ORIP’s “uniquely important” programs, which help fund the development of infrastructure at academic institutions.

    The comments focused on ways to improve and extend the value of these programs. For example, they advised that strategic planning around the development of animal resources should also help researchers more fully characterize the suitability of particular animal models for human diseases. Too often, the response stated, investigators focus on particular phenotypes expressed in an animal model, but they may lack information on other ways that those animals are similar to or different from humans in the type of disease being studied. The comments also called for improving the presentation of information on available research resources on the NIH website to help investigators find and compare potential models and resources.  

    The letter commented on the ORIP’s programs for training of veterinarian researchers, recommending that “NIH should continue efforts to encourage careers for veterinary medical scientists, paralleling concerted efforts on physician scientists.” They also noted that the majority of veterinary medical school graduates, like physicians graduating from medical school, are women, and that efforts to recruit, retain, and advance women in research fields should greatly aid veterinarian scientists as well.