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  • Washington Highlights

    NIGMS, NINDS, and NCATs Councils Meet

    Jodi (Lubetsky) Yellin, PhD, Director of Research Workforce, Training, and Science Policy
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) councils met September 15-16.

    The NIGMS council meeting included a report by NIGMS Director Jon Lorsch, PhD, who shared data from the institute’s first review of the Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award (MIRA) for New and Early Stage Investigators. MIRA, which is under the R35 mechanisms, is a five-year grant intended to increase the flexibility and stability of funding to NIGMS investigators. The success rate for the award was 29.4 percent with a median award for direct costs of $250K. Dr. Lorsch also noted that NIGMS is working on a new funding opportunity announcement to allow those with an NIGMS R01 to apply for a MIRA when their R01 is up for renewal.

    Dr. Lorsch announced the planned creation of a T32 funding opportunity announcement tailored to promote the development of pre-doctoral training programs in fundamental biomedical research. The forthcoming announcement responds to comments received by the research and research training community to the Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education Request for Information [see Washington Highlights, September 9].

    During the NINDS council meeting, Director Walter Koroschetz reported that due to prior increases in applications, the anticipated continuing resolution, and out-year commitments of 8 percent over the prior year, the payline will reduce from 15 percent to 12 percent. Dr. Koroschetz expressed his concern regarding how the prior flat funding of NINDS has negatively impacted the infrastructure for neuroscience. Dr. Koroschetz also indicated that they would discuss the level of support of investigators and number of grants at the February 2017 council meeting.

    Chris Austin, MD, director of NCATS, discussed regulation and a policy on posting clinical trials summary results, released later that day, as part of a series of initiatives to improve the quality of information generated from clinical trials. The NCATS council, which meets together with the Cures Acceleration Network, approved two concept clearances: the first to develop tools and networks for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) big-data-to-knowledge initiative within the Clinical and Translational Science Awards consortia; the second, to renew the drug repurposing program. With these approvals, NCATS staff can move to develop new requests for approvals based on these concepts.