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A compilation of news from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Published three times a year. Just scan these “shorttakes” for information on what’s happening at the NIAMS, or access the complete articles for viewing or use in your own newsletter or other publication.
From the Director . . .
Update on the NIAMS Long-Range Plan
Last year, I wrote about our efforts to update the Institute’s Long-Range Plan for fiscal years (FY) 2015-2019. When complete, our Long-Range Plan will outline the Institute’s perspective on research needs and opportunities within NIAMS’ mission, and will serve as a resource for all who are interested in NIAMS’ activities. Because we will continue to devote the majority of our extramural budget toward funding the best investigator-initiated research ideas, the new plan will encourage creative approaches for generating the scientific discoveries that will ultimately improve the health of the American public.
We discussed this activity with our Advisory Council during its September 2013 meeting, and the Institute also issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit comments on how the plan should be updated. We gathered additional information through listening sessions with the community. This input was combined with the numerous scientific opportunities that our communities have identified, and are continuing to identify, through NIAMS-sponsored roundtable discussions, scientific planning retreats, and additional listening sessions.
At our June 2014 Advisory Council meeting, the draft plan will be ready for review. Once we have incorporated feedback from the Council members, the draft plan will be posted on the NIAMS website, and we will again solicit comments through an RFI, which will be published in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts in mid-June.
In late June, be sure to check the NIAMS website to view the draft plan. As academic researchers, representatives of patient and health advocacy organizations, members of professional societies, clinicians, and individuals and families affected by the diseases and conditions within NIAMS’ mission, we welcome your thoughts.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Research Watch and Announcements . . .
Osteocalcin, a hormone produced in bone, influences pre-natal brain development and cognitive function in mice.
A higher level of the small signaling molecule, CXCL4, correlates with a more severe form of scleroderma. The findings suggest that the molecule could be used as a diagnostic marker for the disease and as a therapeutic target.
A team of researchers has proposed a comprehensive set of diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia.
Two research teams revealed how cells in skin feel fine detail and texture. The findings may help scientists understand how aging and certain diseases can reduce our ability to sense touch and could lead to new approaches to restoring the sense of touch.
Children who break their forearm after just a mild trauma may have underlying bone health conditions.
A study showed that some benefits of building bone during youth can last a lifetime. The research also confirmed that continued physical activity can help maintain bone strength as we age.
By analyzing the genomes of thousands of people, scientists have uncovered several genes associated with Sjögren’s syndrome.
NIH researchers have identified gene variants that cause a rare syndrome of sporadic fevers, skin rashes and recurring strokes, beginning early in childhood.
Grants and Contracts . . .
For information on NIH Funding Opportunities related to the NIAMS, please subscribe to the monthly NIAMS Update or visit the Funding Opportunities List on the NIAMS website and the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.
Highlights From the Hill, DHHS and NIH . . .
Congressional Briefings: Accelerating Medicines Partnership
On March 10, 2014, Kathy L. Hudson, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Science, Outreach, and Policy, NIH; Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director, National Institute on Aging (NIA); Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., Director, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK); and Robert H. Carter, M.D., Deputy Director, NIAMS, briefed staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the NIH Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), a collaboration between private and public entities to address complex disorders such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
On March 21, 2014, Dr. Hudson, Dr. Hodes, Dr. Rodgers, and Dr. Carter briefed staff from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the NIH AMP.
Congressional Briefing: Scleroderma
On May 6, 2014, at the request of the Scleroderma Foundation, Robert H. Carter, M.D., Deputy Director, NIAMS, participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill titled, “Hope Through Medical Research: Advancing Our Scientific Understanding of Scleroderma and Related Autoimmune Diseases.” The briefing was sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Richard Silver, M.D., from the Medical University of South Carolina, and Susan Nyanzi, Dr.P.H., a person living with scleroderma, also participated. Congressional and NIAMS staff, researchers, patients, and advocates from the scleroderma community attended the event.
Congressional Roundtable: 21st Century Cures
On May 6, 2014, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director, NIH, participated in a roundtable sponsored by the House Energy and Commerce Committee [Chairman, Representative Fred Upton (R-MI)], which brought together scientific leaders, researchers, private investors, and others to discuss how to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new treatments and cures. The roundtable was the first in a series of events related to the Committee’s recently launched 21st Century Cures initiative.
New Legislation: Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act
On April 3, 2014, the President signed H.R. 2019, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act (P.L. 113-94). The bill terminates the Treasury account used to pay certain expenses for political party presidential nomination conventions, and transfers $126 million over 10 years to a new “10-Year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund.” The bill authorizes appropriations to the NIH Common Fund for pediatric research grants, but does not actually provide money for such grants. In addition, the bill does not increase the discretionary amount available for spending by the Committees on Appropriations—unless there is a corresponding higher allocation to the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education Subcommittee.
New Legislation: DATA Act
On May 9, 2014, the President signed S. 994, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) of 2014 into law (P.L. 113-101). The House had previously passed S. 994 on April 28. The Senate passed the measure, introduced by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), on April 10. The DATA ACT requires federal agencies to increase the amount of financial data they provide to the government website, USASpending.gov.
Note – S. 994 does not contain the provisions for spending limits on conference and travel that were included in the original House version of the bill, H.R. 2061, which passed the House on November 18, 2013.
Pending Legislation: American Cures Act/HEALS Act
On March 12, 2014, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. 2115, the American Cures Act. The bill would: (1) establish a mandatory Biomedical Research Fund administered by the Secretary of the Treasury; (2) transfer funds to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense Health Programs, and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Medical and Prosthetic Research Program to ensure that funding for a fiscal year would not fall below 105 percent of the previous year; (3) add an additional amount to account for any increases in the Gross Domestic Product; and (4) require the appropriation for each of the agencies and programs to be no less than the amounts appropriated for fiscal year 2014.
On April 3, 2014, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced H.R. 4384, the America Helping Encourage Advancements in Lifesaving Science (HEALS) Act. This bill is identical— except in title—to S. 2115, introduced by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) on March 12, 2014.
For More Information
For other related legislative highlights, please refer to the NIH Office of Legislative and Policy Analysis website.
The NIAMS website provides current and historical budget-related data and the NIAMS FY 2014 Funding Plan.
On March 4, 2014, President Obama released his FY 2015 budget request to Congress. The amount requested for NIH is $30.4 billion, which is an increase of approximately $211 million over the FY 2014 enacted budget. The amount for NIAMS is $520.2 million, which represents an increase of $851,000 above FY 2014. The NIAMS FY 2015 Congressional Justification (CJ) is available on the NIAMS website. In addition to budget tables, the CJ document includes narrative sections about the Institute’s programs and how funds will be allocated.
On March 26, 2014, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on NIH’s FY 2015 budget, and the Future of Biomedical Research. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director, NIH, testified. He was accompanied by Harold E. Varmus, M.D., Director, National Cancer Institute (NCI); Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., M.Sc., Director, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI); and Story C. Landis, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Dr. Collins’ testimony is posted on the NIH website.
On April 2, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on NIH’s FY 2015 budget. Dr. Collins testified. He was accompanied by Dr. Varmus, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Gibbons, Dr. Landis, and Christopher P. Austin, M.D., Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Dr. Collins’ testimony is posted on the NIH website.
NIAMS Faces . . .
Markus Hafner, Ph.D., has joined the NIAMS Intramural Research Program’s (IRP) Laboratory of Muscle Stem Cells and Gene Regulation as Group Leader of the RNA Molecular Biology Group. Before joining the NIAMS, Dr. Hafner was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rockefeller University in New York. His research at the NIAMS will focus on dissecting the composition of ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) involved in cellular RNA transport and the control of RNA stability.
Robert Walker, Jr., Ph.D., was recently appointed as Chief of the Career Development and Outreach Branch, NIAMS IRP. Dr. Walker came to the NIAMS in 2012 as a Scientific Program Manager, and served as Special Assistant to the NIAMS Scientific Director and as the Technology Transfer Liaison with the NHLBI. Dr. Walker holds a doctorate in Molecular Parasitology from Meharry Medical College. He completed two post-doctoral fellowships at NIAID—one in Host Restriction of HIV and the other in Technology Transfer.
After eight years at the NIH, Dave Zielinski, Ph.D., Chief of the Science Policy and Planning Branch in the Office of Science Policy, Planning and Communications (OSPPC), accepted an Associate Dean position at Columbia University. During his time with the NIAMS, Dr. Zielinski managed OSPPC’s strategic planning, program evaluation, and legislative liaison activities.
After seven years with the NIAMS EP Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases, Theresa Smith has joined the NIDDK Division of Extramural Activities. Ms. Smith served as Executive Secretary of the Federal Working Group on Bone Diseases and as Coordinator for the NIAMS Conference Grant Program, among other duties as a Research Analyst.
NIH Faces . . .
After almost 20 years at the NIH, John Ruffin, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), announced his retirement from federal service. Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., has been appointed Acting Director of the NIMHD.
On May 5, 2014, Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., Director of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), joined the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as Chief Science Officer. William T. Riley, Ph.D., was named Acting Director of OBSSR. Dr. Riley works in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute.
Kudos. . .
On February 27, 2014, the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) presented the ASBMR Distinguished Leadership Award to Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the NIAMS, in recognition of his many years of leadership at NIH and for his consistent support of bone and mineral research.
On March 22, 2014, the Dermatology Foundation paid tribute to Dr. Katz with the Foundation’s Lifetime Career Educator Award. The award recognizes “an academic dermatologist who has a lifelong history of dedicated service as a mentor, role model and inspirational teacher to many generations of residents and fellows.”
John J. O’Shea, M.D., Scientific Director at the NIAMS, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine, conferred by the Feinstein Institute’s peer-reviewed, open-access journal Molecular Medicine. Dr. O’Shea was selected as “having produced innovative, paradigm-shifting research that is worthy of significant and broad attention in the field of molecular medicine.” The award will be given on June 9 at the New York Academy of Sciences in Manhattan.
NIAMS Communications Update. . .
In February, the NIAMS concluded its nationwide distribution of four health planners tailored to multicultural populations as part of its National Multicultural Outreach Initiative (NMOI). The purpose of the health planners is to increase awareness among adults with conditions of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin about the availability of resources from the NIH and other federal agencies. Partnerships with key NIAMS Coalition members and federal agencies, as well as social media efforts, boosted awareness of the planners in multicultural communities, resulting in the distribution of health planners in 49 states and three U.S. territories. The NIAMS offered new resources in its electronic toolkit to help organizations promote the planners and other health resources for multicultural communities.
NIAMS Coalition Activities
The Institute continues to work with the NIAMS Coalition to share the latest research advances and related developments, and to foster dialogue on the future path and directions of NIAMS-funded research. The NIAMS Coalition, a group of nearly 90 professional and voluntary organizations, raises awareness about research into the basic understanding, causes, incidence, treatment, and prevention of diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, skin, and connective tissues.
This year, the Institute has engaged with the Coalition in multiple ways, including face-to-face meetings and leadership presentations at professional and voluntary meetings. In April, the Institute hosted more than 30 patient advocates and family members representing the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The advocates heard from NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., as well as NIAMS Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases Director Joan A. McGowan, Ph.D., and Timothy Bhattacharyya, M.D., who leads the Clinical and Investigative Orthopaedic Surgery Unit in the NIAMS IRP. The patient advocates then toured the Clinical Research Center (CRC) and the CRC’s Movement Analysis Lab.
The NIAMS social media efforts continue to expand. In early May, the @NIH_NIAMS Twitter feed surpassed 5,000 followers. In March and April, the NIAMS participated in Twitter chats on massage and back pain, both hosted by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The NIAMS also participated in a chat hosted by USA Today on arthritis in May. These chats allow us to share our health information and research advances while interacting with large, diverse audiences throughout the United States and the world.
NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D., was one of four NIH Institute directors to appear in a special February edition of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. Dr. Katz talked about rheumatic, musculoskeletal and skin diseases and the importance of developing new ways to prevent and treat these diseases.
In addition, Dr. Katz was interviewed about NIH eczema trials by The Advocate, the National Eczema Association’s quarterly magazine. The story, “The Truth about Clinical Trials,” was published in March.
NIAMS Deputy Director Robert H. Carter, M.D., spoke with Nature Reviews Drug Discovery about the rheumatoid arthritis and lupus components of the NIH Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP). The April story was titled, “Drug Makers and NIH Team Up to Find and Validate Targets.” Dr. Carter was also interviewed about the NIH AMP for an article in the February issue of Instrument Business Outlook.
Joan A. McGowan, Ph.D., Director of the NIAMS Division of Musculoskeletal Diseases, was featured in the March issue of Physics Today. Dr. McGowan described NIH-supported biomedical research on the International Space Station for the story titled, “Space Station Research to Get New Lease on Life.”
Mariana J. Kaplan, M.D., Chief of the NIAMS Intramural Systemic Autoimmunity Branch, discussed lupus research with NIH Medline Plus, the magazine. “Progress Made in Lupus Diagnosis and Treatment” appeared in the Spring issue.
NIAMS Deputy Scientific Director Vittorio Sartorelli, M.D., was interviewed by The Scientist for the article titled, “Exploring the Roles of Enhancer RNAs.” In the May story, Dr. Sartorelli shared what he has learned about the functions of enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) through his research on eRNAs and myogenesis.
NIAMS Senior Advisor Robyn J. Strachan spoke with the New York Times for the story “The Age Premium: Retaining Older Workers.” The May feature touted the NIH as an organization that values the contributions of older employees.
NIAMS Career Development and Outreach Update. . .
Approximately 20 high school and college students from diverse backgrounds will participate in the 2014 NIAMS Summer Student Internship Program. The summer internship program provides a unique opportunity for talented students to come to the NIAMS for training and mentoring. This program encourages students to work in the field of biomedical research and, in particular, in the disease areas that NIAMS supports.
On February 26, 2014, John J. O’Shea, M.D., Scientific Director, NIAMS IRP, and Robert C. Walker, Jr., Ph.D., Chief, Career Development and Outreach Branch, were guests of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. They highlighted and presented scientific research opportunities that may be of interest to Meyerhoff scholars. As the NIAMS and NIH continue to emphasize the need for more diversity in the scientific research workforce, this was an excellent opportunity to meet with competitive students from culturally diverse backgrounds who are focused on the biomedical sciences.
For information on arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases, including copies of NIAMS publications, contact:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
For information on osteoporosis and other bone diseases, contact:
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases ~ National Resource Center
For general information on NIAMS and its research programs, contact:
Office of Science Policy, Planning and Communications
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
Compiled by the Office of Science Policy, Planning and Communications, NIAMS; phone: (301) 496-8190; e-mail: NIAMSInfo@mail.nih.gov