NIAMS Update October 2011

NIAMS - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Update - An online resource for the NIAMS Coalition, Council, and Colleague
October 20, 2011
The NIAMS Update is a monthly digest published for those interested in the latest scientific news and resources on diseases of the bones, joints, muscles, and skin. We encourage further dissemination of this resource.
Contact Information

Office of Communications and Public Liaison

Anita Linde, M.P.P.
Acting Director

Melanie M. Martinez, M.P.A.
Public Liaison Officer

Trish Reynolds, R.N., M.S.
Media Liaison

NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards Logo

2012 NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking applications for the NIH Director's Transformative Research Awards. Awards will be given for:

  • Exceptionally innovative, high-risk, original or unconventional research
  • Clinical, basic or behavioral/social science research projects

The awards will provide:

  • Up to $25 million total costs per year for a single project
  • One-third of total funding budget geared to projects with more than $1 million in direct costs

Letters of Intent are due by December 12, 2011. The deadline for Transformative Research Award applications is January 12, 2012.

See the instructions in RFA-RM-11-006. Find additional information, including Frequently Asked Questions about the Transformative Research Awards program. Send questions to


New Technique Identifies First Events in Tumor Development: NIH-Funded Study Provides Insight to the Earliest Stages of Some Cancers
A novel technique that enables scientists to measure and document tumor-inducing changes in DNA is providing new insight into the earliest events involved in the formation of leukemias, lymphomas and sarcomas, and could potentially lead to the discovery of ways to stop those events.

Scientists Shed Light on Link Between Dead Cell Clearance and Lupus
The removal of cells that die during apoptosis—the biological process of programmed cell death—has, for some time, been known to be involved in the development of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), an inflammatory disorder that affects multiple organ systems. Recently, with partial support from the NIAMS, scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle have provided an explanation for why mice, genetically modified to lack an apoptosis-linked protein, develop an autoimmune disease similar to lupus. The study was reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Calcitonin May Be an Effective Treatment for a Heritable Form of Rickets
An important advance in the understanding of X-linked hypophosphatemia—the most common heritable form of rickets—has led NIAMS-supported scientists to a potential treatment for a disorder in which low levels of phosphate lead to bone and tooth abnormalities.

Research Finds Link Between Statin Use and Progressive Muscle Disease
Each year, millions of Americans take statins, drugs collectively known to lower their blood cholesterol levels. While the drugs have proven effective in reducing heart attacks and strokes, for some people, these benefits come at a cost: widespread muscle pain that persists as long as the drugs are taken. New NIAMS-supported research has found that for a subset of patients, statins appear to trigger a far more serious muscle condition that persists long after the drugs are stopped.

Scientists Identify Potential Drug Target, Molecular Pathway, for Marfan Syndrome
A Johns Hopkins University research team studying the Marfan syndrome drug losartan has found a new therapy target for the disease, which is characterized by potentially fatal flaws in the body's connective tissue. The target, a protein called ERK, is involved in a cell signaling process that can result in thoracic aortic aneurysm and dissection, an often fatal Marfan complication in which the heart's aorta weakens and ruptures. The team, led by Harry Dietz, M.D., found that inhibiting the activity of ERK could stop aortic weakening in a mouse model of Marfan syndrome.

Researchers Achieve Needed Levels of Stem Cells To Treat Muscle Disease in Mice
Transplanting stem cells into diseased muscle to help generate new muscle has been a somewhat successful strategy for scientists working on animal models of genetic muscle diseases like muscular dystrophy (MD). One problem, researchers say, has been cultivating large enough quantities of sufficiently mature cells to improve muscle function in animals—and, eventually, in people with muscle diseases. Recently, however, a University of Minnesota research team led by Rita Perlingeiro, Ph.D., and supported, in part, by the NIAMS, used a new technique to produce enough cells both to ensure the transplantation and survival of the cells in mice, and to restore some lost muscle contractile properties. The new study, reported in Stem Cell Review and Report, is considered an important step in developing cell therapies for MD, traumatic muscle injury and age-related muscle loss.

Announcing the NIAMS Labs Facebook Page
The NIAMS Intramural Research Program is using the social media platform Facebook to reach researchers and the public by posting information about ongoing research, symposia, publications and clinical trials. The Facebook page also will link to news and other content on the NIAMS website.

NIH Grantees Win 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to NIH grantees Bruce A. Beutler, M.D., of the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California, and Jules A. Hoffmann, Ph.D., for their discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity; and the late Ralph M. Steinman, M.D., of Rockefeller University, New York City, for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity.

NIH Program Allows Junior Investigators To Bypass Traditional Post-Doc Training
A program designed to accelerate the entry of outstanding junior investigators into independent researcher positions immediately following completion of their graduate research degree or clinical residency has announced its first recipients. The NIH Director's Early Independence Awards (EIA) is part of an NIH-wide effort to empower the biomedical research workforce, particularly through the support of investigators early in their careers. The EIA program effectively allows awardees to leapfrog over the traditional post-doctoral training period, capitalizing on the creativity, confidence and energy of young scientists. The first group of awardees includes 10 exceptional junior investigators. NIH plans to commit approximately $19.3 million to support their research projects over a five-year period.

NIH Announces 79 Awards To Encourage Creative Ideas in Science
The NIH announced that it is awarding $143.8 million to challenge the status quo with innovative ideas that have the potential to propel fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health for the American public.

NIH Director, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Recognizes 20 NIH Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)
"I'm very pleased that the White House has selected 20 NIH-funded scientists for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This is indeed a great honor. These individuals have only recently received an NIH research grant or been appointed to a tenure track position within the NIH Intramural Program, but they have already shown exceptional productivity and promise."

PECASE is the nation's highest honor for scientists at the beginning of their professional careers. Since the program began in 1996, the NIH has funded a total of 193 PECASE recipients.

NIH Launches Program To Facilitate Drug, Vaccine and Therapeutic License Agreements for Startup Companies
President Obama announced an initiative that will facilitate the ability of startup companies to license inventions for groundbreaking medical technologies for drugs, vaccines and therapeutics developed by intramural scientists at the NIH. As part of this effort, the NIH is reducing both the costs and paperwork requirements for startup companies to obtain an exclusive option agreement to license the extensive patent portfolio developed by intramural research laboratories at both the NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The project is part of President Obama's Startup America initiative.

NIH, DARPA and FDA Collaborate To Develop Cutting-Edge Technologies To Predict Drug Safety
President Obama announced that the NIH will collaborate with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the FDA to develop a chip to screen for safe and effective drugs far more swiftly and efficiently than current methods allow, and before they are tested in humans. The chip will be loaded with specific cell types that reflect human biology. It will be designed to allow multiple different readouts that can indicate whether a particular compound is likely to be safe or toxic for humans. DARPA and the NIH will run separate and independent programs, but they will work closely to ensure maximum benefit and efficiencies.

NIH Clinical Center Receives 2011 Lasker~Bloomberg Award for Public Service
The NIH Clinical Center, the clinical research hospital at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, is the 2011 recipient of the Lasker~Bloomberg Public Service Award. The award was presented in ceremonies in New York City on September 23 by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, which has recognized outstanding advances in medical research each year since 1945. The award honors the NIH Clinical Center for serving as a model institution that has transformed scientific advances into innovative therapies and provided high-quality care to patients.

NIH To Make a Mightier Mouse Resource for Understanding Disease: Publicly Available Resource Will Add Detailed Medical Information About Knockout Mice
Over the next five years, NIH-funded researchers will extensively test and generate data about mice with disrupted genes to gain clues about human diseases. The NIH awarded a set of cooperative agreements totaling more than $110 million to begin the second phase of the Knockout Mouse Project.


NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series
The NIH's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series offers weekly lectures every Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Building 10, NIH Campus. Renowned scientists from around the globe present research on a variety of topics. The lectures are Continuing Medical Education-certified lectures, open to the public and available live via webcast.

Upcoming lecture:

November 2, 2011
Dr. Kenneth Fischbeck
"Developing Treatment for Hereditary Neuromuscular Disease"


September Shorttakes
NIAMS Shorttakes is a compilation of news from the Institute that is published three times a year in conjunction with NIAMS Advisory Council meetings.

NIH Research Matters
NIH Research Matters is a review of NIH research from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of the Director, NIH.

NIH Public Bulletin
Read about the latest public events, activities and health information resources from the NIH in the latest issue of the NIH Public Bulletin.

NIH News in Health
Read practical health information in NIH News in Health, which is reviewed by the NIH’s medical experts and is based on research conducted either by the NIH’s own scientists or by our grantees at universities and medical schools around the country.

Funding Announcements
Other Research Announcements

Basic Research on Decision Making: Cognitive, Affective and Developmental Perspectives (R01)
Letters of Intent Receipt Date: December 18, 2011
Application Receipt Date: January 18, 2012

Mechanistic Pathways Linking Psychosocial Stress and Behavior (R01)
Letters of Intent Receipt Date: November 19, 2011
Application Receipt Date: December 19, 2011

Lab to Marketplace: Tools for Biomedical and Behavioral Research (SBIR [R43/R44])
Letters of Intent Receipt Date: Not applicable
Application Receipt Date: Multiple dates—See announcement
Standard dates apply

Extension of Expiration Date for PA-08-191: Research Supplements To Promote Re-Entry Into Biomedical and Behavioral Research Careers

Extension of Expiration Date for PA-08-190: Research Supplements To Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research

Clarification to Notice NOT-OD-11-106: Request for Information (RFI): Input Into the Deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Future Biomedical Research Workforce

Outstanding Mentors Are Eligible for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESEM)

Revised Multiple Program Director(s)/Principal Investigator(s) Policy To Allow Change With Prior Approval

Revised Policy: Managing Conflict of Interest in the Initial Peer Review of NIH Grant and Cooperative Agreement Applications

NIH Announces the Posting of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Applicable to the 2011 Revised Regulation on the Responsibility of Applicants for Promoting Objectivity in Research for Which PHS Funding Is Sought for All NIH-Supported Institutions

If you would like to review information about funding opportunities more frequently than our monthly updates allow, see the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, the primary source for information about NIH funding opportunities. You can also request a weekly Table of Contents from the NIH Guide.