The NIAMS Intramural Research Program (IRP) has an established tradition of excellence, with a strong focus on long-term, high-risk research into the genetics and pathophysiology of human disease, and the development of innovative therapies for a number of serious disorders for which satisfactory treatments previously did not exist. The IRP receives approximately 10 percent of the Institute’s budget, and I would like to share an update on this important program.
For much of 2014, the intramural research programs across the NIH have been taking a look inward to develop a vision for intramural research for the next decade and beyond. At the request of NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIAMS and other Institutes consulted with experts to elaborate on what makes the IRP unique, and how those traits can be leveraged and enhanced for the future. In addition, an Advisory Committee to the NIH Director (ACD) Working Group was assembled to examine and assess the IRP to identify areas of opportunity, enhance the uniqueness of the IRP, evaluate the sustainability of current approaches, and guide the future vision of the IRP. The Working Group reported on its findings at the December 11, 2014, meeting, making recommendations regarding research, workforce, training, and infrastructure and facilities. The NIH and the NIAMS are considering these recommendations as we strive to continuously improve our program.
As we consider the path intramural research will take in the future, NIAMS investigators continue to generate outstanding basic, translational, and clinical research discoveries that have a significant impact. Basic research conducted in NIAMS laboratories is furthering our understanding of how the genome works to control gene expression, and how errors in those processes can lead to disease. In addition, translational research is enhancing understanding of cardiovascular disease risk in lupus and other autoimmune diseases, potentially leading to novel interventions. The NIAMS clinical program continues to excel in identifying the genetic basis of rare pediatric autoinflammatory diseases. Some of the characteristics of these conditions appear in other immune diseases, and the work could lead to novel insights and new treatments that reach far beyond a single rare disease.
In addition to enhancing the NIAMS’ research mission, the IRP also is a key component of training the next generation of researchers, and hosts several innovative programs to meet this goal. Our Summer Research Program provides outstanding opportunities for high school, undergraduate, graduate, and medical students contemplating a career in biomedical research or academic medicine to gain valuable experience. In addition, NIAMS has developed a robust series of research and training programs for clinician-researchers. The combination of our Rheumatology Fellowship, Scholars in Translational Science, and Assistant Clinical Investigator programs are developing a robust cohort of highly skilled investigators who will conduct clinical research throughout the nation for years to come.
Finally, I would like to highlight two recent scientific honors that the NIAMS IRP Scientific Director John O’Shea, M.D., received. In April, Dr. O’Shea was named the 2014 recipient of the Ross Prize in Molecular Medicine. Conferred by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and the journal Molecular Medicine, the Ross Prize is bestowed upon an active investigator who has “produced innovative, paradigm-shifting research that is worthy of significant and broad attention in the field of molecular medicine.” In addition, this fall, Dr. O’Shea was elected a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM). Election to the IOM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. We are very proud of Dr. O’Shea’s accomplishments.
As you can see, the NIAMS IRP plays a vital role in the mission of the Institute, and in the scientific community. You can keep up to date on our IRP through the NIAMS website and the IRP Facebook page.