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Research Clips

A weekly roundup of research news items curated from the professional development groups within the AAMC’s Scientific Affairs cluster and other sources.

From the Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (CFAS)

The 2018 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison, PhD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who shares the prize with Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Kyoto University Institute, Japan, for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. The NIH released a statement about the work, noting Dr. Allison is an NIH grantee.
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Dr. Allison was also the recipient of the AAMC Award for Distinguished Research in Biomedical Sciences in 2014.
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2018 Nobel Prize winners in chemistry also were announced this week. The awards went to Frances H. Arnold, PhD, of the California Institute of Technology, for the directed evolution of enzymes, and George P. Smith, PhD, of the University of Missouri, Columbia, who shares the prize with Gregory P. Winter, PhD, of University of Cambridge, U.K., for the phage display of peptides and antibodies. The NIH announced in a statement that the awardees were NIH grant recipients.
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NIH announced 89 grants under the 2018 NIH director's awards for High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which supports "ideas with potential for great impact in biomedical research from across the broad scope of the NIH." Nearly all of the recipients are aligned with AAMC-member institutions. Links in the NIH release describe the full array of recipients and summarize much of the work.
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Science covered the high-risk awards recipients from the angle of the strong showing by women in the 2018 cohort.
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African-Americans are increasingly involved in studies that do not require informed consent, according to a study recently published in Health Affairs. The finding was covered in STAT, which reported, "The large number of African-Americans in studies exempted from typical consent requirements contrasts with their low participation rates in some other kinds of trials. Clinical trials can present unique opportunities for patients, giving them an early shot at experimental treatments that might extend their lives, though many therapies turn out not to work and can also carry worrisome risks."
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In related news, the October edition of the American Journal of Public Health includes an article, "The Belmont Report at 40: Reckoning With Time," by Eli Y. Adashi, MD; LeRoy B. Walters, PhD; and Jerry A. Menikoff, MD, JD. "Durable and ever-present, the Belmont Report, which is the foundational document that reset the ethics of human subject research, must now reckon with all-important novel issues of the day that could not have been foreseen by its drafters," write the authors.
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Jeffrey M. Drazen, MD, NEJM editor in chief, had a letter published in the New York Times Sunday, "For Full Disclosure in Medicine," which describes how the journal will use the AAMC's Convey® disclosure system to collect financial disclosures from authors to spot potential conflicts of interest. "We encourage all involved in medical care, research or education to adopt Convey as a requirement of employment for their staff members and contributors," he wrote. The letter was in response to a recent Times editorial on financial conflicts of interests in medical research.
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Politico covered what it termed a "simmering fight" between antiabortion activists and the HHS under the Trump administration concerning fetal tissue research. HHS terminated a contract with a tissue provider and opened an audit of federally funded research involving fetal tissues. AAMC Chief Scientific Officer Ross McKinney, MD, was quoted in the piece, noting that the tissue's unique characteristics "are essential to the study of fetal diseases, like those caused by Zika virus, and hold promise for advancing biomedical research in other areas, as well."
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Science covered the notion of virtual reality for scientific careers in its coverage of professionally reviewed online job simulations available to help trainees make career choices. The piece interviews Thi Nguyen, PhD, associate dean for graduate career and professional development at Washington University in St. Louis, who led the development of the simulations. She spoke about the tool at the AAMC Graduate Research, Education, and Training Group (GREAT) meeting last week in Atlanta.
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"The Best Research Is Produced When Researchers and Communities Work Together" is the title of an editorial published this week in Nature. The piece builds on the notion of "co-production," where researchers, the public, and policymakers work together to build knowledge in an effort to achieve "full involvement in research by people who hope to benefit from the work."
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Texas A&M has been chosen as the sole recipient of a five-year grant from the Vulnerable Rural Hospitals Assistance Program, funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The grant will fund the creation of the Center for Optimizing Rural Health, to help rural communities maintain their hospital or create other means of access to care after hospitals close. Nancy Dickey, MD, A&M Rural and Community Health Institute executive director and president emeritus of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, will be principal investigator on the grant funding.
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Also in Texas, the NIH has named a consortia led by the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center as one of three centers responsible for generating clinical grade genomic data for the All of Us Research Program. These centers will begin to generate genomic data from biosamples contributed by the program's participants.
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Last week, the AAMC joined with the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research (FOVA) and VA researchers to celebrate 30 years of the FOVA coalition and its support of lifesaving achievements. Speakers from the VA and Congress recognized the program's biomedical research advances, and attendees thanked Congress for continued support of VA research through a 7.9% increase in the research program budget for FY 2019, which was recently signed into law.
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The AAMC will hold two webinars, on Oct. 9 and Oct. 30, to present key initiatives happening at CTSA Program hub sites, upcoming funding opportunities available through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and resources for fostering innovation and cutting-edge translational research activities.
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Subscribe to CFAS News to receive weekly updates for academic medicine faculty.

From the Group on Graduate Research, Education, and Training (GREAT)

Register for the Winners of the 2018 Innovation Award Webinar
The AAMC is hosting a webinar featuring presentations from the three recipients of the 2018 AAMC Innovations in Research and Research Education Award, developed in collaboration with the GREAT Group and GRAND leadership: Women in Innovation and Technology, Health Sciences Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Undergraduate and Post-graduate Students, and SINAInnovations - Sparking an Innovation Ecosystem. The primary goal of this year’s awards program is to highlight innovative institutional models to promote tech transfer, entrepreneurship, and research or research education partnerships with the private sector. The webinar will be held on October 22, from 1:00-2:00 PM ET, and free registration is required.

Update on NIH Extension Policy for Early Stage Investigator Status (ESI)
An NIH notice provides an “Update on NIH Extension Policy for Early Stage Investigator Status (ESI),” stating that effective immediately, NIH will approve an ESI extension of one year for childbirth within the ESI period. Program Directors and Principal Investigators must provide the child’s date of birth in the extension request justification on the NIH Extension portal.

NIH Grantee Awarded 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences October 1 announced that the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James Allison, PhD, of the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD, of Kyoto University Institute, Japan – also covered by Nature. The Academy noted that “by stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells, this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” An NIH press release noted that Dr. Allison has been funded by NIH since 1979, receiving more than $13.7 million. The AAMC recognized Dr. Allison with the 2014 Award for Distinguished Research in Biomedical Sciences.

NSF Programs Focus on Diversity in STEM
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded 6 Louis Stokes regional centers of excellence to broaden participation in STEM. Five new and one renewing center will conduct “implementation activities that lead to degree completion for minority students traditionally underrepresented in the STEM marketplace.” NSF also announced a new partnership with Boeing “to accelerate training in critical skill areas and increase diversity in STEM fields,” to which Boeing will contribute $11 of $21 million to NSF INCLUDES.

NCI: The R50 Research Specialist Award - Ensuring a Stable Cancer Research Workforce
The NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) published a blog post on its R50 Research Specialist Award, which is the only NIH grant “intended to support experienced scientists who are not independent investigators” – including staff researchers, core facility managers, and data scientists. Currently, over 50 research specialists receive R50 funding, and the 2019 R50 funding announcements were released last month. The post also explains that the R50 mechanism is designed to help create a stable workforce for cancer research.

NIGMS Hosts September Meeting
The National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) held a council meeting on September 13-14. Concept clearances were approved for reissues of Mature Synchrotron Resources and Maximizing Investigators’ Research Activity Award (MIRA R35), as well as the Bridges to Baccalaureate and Bridges to the Doctorate Programs. A Funding Opportunity Announcement for the MIRA R35 grant is planned for June 2019, and for the two Bridges programs for January 2019.

NCI Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for FY 2020
The NIH’s NCI posted its Annual Plan and Budget Proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which “directs attention to areas where there is unique potential to improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.” NCI Director Ned Sharpless, MD, identified four key areas for the NCI to focus on: develop the workforce, reaffirm our commitment to basic science, innovate clinical trials, and increase data aggregation and interpretation.

NIH Loan Repayment Programs Are Accepting Applications
To help relieve some of the financial burden on scientists and researchers, the NIH Loan Repayment Programs (LRPs) repay up to $35,000/year (for two years) of debt in exchange for a commitment to engage in NIH mission-relevant research. On average, nearly 50% of all new LRP applications are funded, and applicants can apply for renewal awards until all educational debt is repaid. The application deadline is November 15. Dr. Michael Lauer, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, discusses the program in a blog post.

NCATS Announces New CTSA Program Funding
The NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) announced funding to support the development of new Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) Program hubs. The first application due date is January 25, 2019, and letters of intent are due 30 days prior to the application due date. The AAMC is hosting a webinar on the CTSA Program on October 9 (see below).

Nature: Supporting Early Career Researchers through Travel Grants
A Nature of memes and schemes blog post advertises that the Communications journals – Biology, Chemistry, and Physics – have started funding travel grants to support the travel of early career scientists to international conferences. Grant applications are open until November 5.

AAMC Webinar Series: The Latest Developments from the CTSA Program
The AAMC’s Research on Care Community (ROCC) is presenting a webinar series on the latest developments from the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. The first webinar, CTSA Program Vision — Current Initiatives and Future Goals, is on Oct. 9, 2-3 p.m. EDT, and the second, Collaborations across NCATS’s Trial Innovation Network, is October 30, 2-3 PM ET.

Acad Med: The Integration of Clinical and Research Training - How and Why MD-PhD Programs Work
An Acad Med article combines constructs from cognitive psychology and medical education to propose a program theory on the integration of clinical and research training in MD-PhD programs. “The authors argue that integrated training early in becoming a physician–scientist requires development of at least three elements in trainees: cognitive synergy, sense of self, and professional capacity.” The article also provides recommendations on how to integrate these elements into MD-PhD programs.

Nature News: What the Nobels Are — and Aren’t — Doing to Encourage Diversity
A Nature News article discusses the lack of diversity in the Nobel Prize winners and how Nobel committees are working to solve this problem. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences committee plans to call on 2019 prize nominators to specifically consider diversity in gender, geography and topic. In addition, the nomination invitation letters for the physics and chemistry prize will “emphasize that nominators can put forward names corresponding to three different discoveries” to increase variation of nominees.

Nature: The Quest for Postdoctoral Independence
A Nature Career Feature discusses the difficult terrain postdocs face on the path to independence, having to “navigate often-tricky power dynamics, consider the attitudes and intentions of potential supervisors before joining a lab, set boundaries and, in some cases, learn how to say no.” The article gives advice on how to investigate a lab before joining, mentoring junior lab members, and seeking funding and strategic additional projects to pursue independent goals.

PLOS One: Women Ask Fewer Questions than Men (in Academic Seminars)
A study published in PLOS One determined that women are “2.5 times less likely than men to ask questions in departmental academic seminars,” according to an Inside Higher Ed article. While both men and women sometimes refrained from asking questions, women were more likely to do so because of internal factors, such as “not feeling clever enough” or “couldn’t work up the nerve.” The study also asked survey participants what would encourage them to ask more questions and provided recommendations of possible interventions.

Quick Links
IHE: How to Help Minorities Thrive - What Academic Spaces Can Learn from Athletics

Nature: How Female Scientists Can Confront Gender Bias in the Workplace

IHE: What Is the Value of Faculty Service?

Nature Worldview: No More First Authors, No More Last Authors

IHE: No More Passing the Harasser

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From Washington Highlights

Senate Holds Hearing on Proposed EPA Rule
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight Oct. 3 held a hearing titled, "Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency's Implementation of Sound and Transparent Science in Regulation." The hearing focused on a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency, which would limit the science the agency could consider in rulemaking to research for which all underlying data are publicly available. Read More.

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From the Research on Care Community Health Equity subgroup (ROCChe)

Subscribe to the AAMC Health Equity Research Updates for the latest news in health equity research and policy.