I am delighted to introduce Dr. Larry Tabak, Principal Deputy Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who recently spoke to the NIAMS Advisory Council about an important new initiative in which all of the NIH Institutes and Centers will participate. His presentation invited considerable discussion on enhancing research reproducibility and transparency, a topic of great interest to the NIH, the research community and the public. In this month’s Director’s Letter, Dr. Tabak discusses this topic and invites wide participation in the process. We will continue to update you as this initiative progresses and we look forward to your feedback.
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Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health
In rare circumstances, scientific breakthroughs happen quickly and unexpectedly. More often, the scientific enterprise is an incremental process with new discoveries based upon the foundation of previous findings. Recently, a growing number of studies examining biomedical and behavioral research have drawn attention to a lack of methodological transparency and reproducibility of results in published research, which can affect this process.
Image: Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, Principal Deputy Director, National Institutes of Health
Bracing in adolescents with idiopathic scoliosis reduces the likelihood that the condition will progress to the point that surgery is needed, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The work was supported by the NIAMS, part of the NIH. The study was also featured on the NIH Director’s Blog.
Image: Before and after bracing x-rays of a girl with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis
Osteoporosis is characterized by reduced bone mass and bone strength leading to an increased risk of fractures. Although health care professionals have long known that low bone mineral density (BMD) is an important risk factor for bone fractures, questions have remained about how often BMD should be measured. Scientists at the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston sought to determine whether changes in BMD over a four-year period (from baseline) provided useful information regarding fracture risk.
Following a national search, the NIAMS has appointed Mariana Kaplan, M.D., as the Chief of the newly established intramural Systemic Autoimmunity Branch. Kaplan, a rheumatologist, will head a new research program focusing on adult rheumatic diseases on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Most recently, Kaplan was a Professor of Internal Medicine in the Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, at the University of Michigan, where she held several active NIH grants.
Image: Dr. Mariana Kaplan
Source: University of Michigan Health System
The NIAMS is updating its Long-Range Plan to help guide the research it supports over the next five years. Public input on the topics to be included in the plan and suggestions regarding how to enhance the NIAMS research portfolio are critical initial steps in this effort. NIAMS leadership and staff will review and consider the comments as the Institute updates its Long-Range Plan.
NIH Announces Awards To Strengthen the Biomedical Research Workforce: BEST Awards Encourage Innovative Approaches To Address Workforce Challenges
The NIH is making available approximately $3.7 million for awards to enhance training opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to prepare them for careers in the biomedical research workforce that could take them outside of conventional academic research. The first set of NIH Director’s Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) awards are supported through the NIH Common Fund’s Strengthening the Biomedical Research Workforce program.
NIH-funded Study Suggests Brain Is Hard-Wired for Chronic Pain: Brain’s White Matter May Determine Susceptibility to Chronic Pain
The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low-back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients. The research was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
Image: A map of chronic pain. Courtesy: Apkarian Lab, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine
NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., approved initial areas of high-priority brain research to guide $40 million of NIH fiscal year 2014 funding within the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative. The initiative aims to accelerate work on technologies that give a dynamic picture of how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact. The ultimate goal is to enhance understanding of the brain and improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases.
People are host to trillions of microbes living on their skin and in the gut, vagina, mouth, nose, lungs and penis. These microbes live as communities in and on the human body and are known as the human microbiome. For the most part, we peacefully coexist with these microbes. But sometimes, some of these microorganisms, such as bacteria, can trigger responses that may cause people to develop a disease. To better understand how and why alteration of the normal microbiome at various body sites promotes diseases, the NIH will fund three innovative research projects for the next three years.
The use of nanopore technology aimed at more accurate and efficient DNA sequencing is the main focus of grants awarded by the NIH. The grants—nearly $17 million to eight research teams—are the latest awarded through the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) Advanced DNA Sequencing Technology program, which was launched in 2004.
Image: Illustration of DNA strands passing through the nanopore sensor, where individual nucleotides are distinguished from each other.
Can sequencing of newborns’ genomes provide useful medical information beyond what current newborn screening already provides? Pilot projects to examine this important question are being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the NHGRI, both parts of the NIH. Awards of $5 million to four grantees have been made in fiscal year 2013 under the Genomic Sequencing and Newborn Screening Disorders research program. The program will be funded at $25 million over five years, as funds are made available.
NIH Grants To Investigate Disease-Related Variations in Genetic Makeup: Studies Focus on Underlying Susceptibilities in Minority Populations
Five research teams have received four-year awards to study the genomics of disease susceptibility in ethnically diverse populations. The projects aim to unravel the subtle variations in genetic makeup among groups—including African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and more—that may account for differences in risks for conditions such as high blood pressure and high blood lipids, in addition to common diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Four new pre-clinical drug development projects at the NIH will target a form of blindness and diseases characterized by cardiac problems. The projects were selected for their potential to treat specific rare diseases and to help scientists uncover new information that can be shared with other researchers.
NIH Director's Blog
We’ve long known that redheads are 10 to 100 times more vulnerable than people with other hair colors to melanoma, a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer. What we haven’t known is why. Why would the hue of your hair have anything to do with your cancer risk? When you consider that melanoma is our most deadly form of skin cancer—expected to cause some 77,000 cases and 9,400 deaths this year alone—it’s important to figure out the connection. A new study, led by NIH-funded researchers in Boston, has identified a couple of key links.
Other Federal News
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted several web resources for Marfan syndrome in the September 5–12, 2013, issue of the agency’s Genomics & Health Impact Update. Marfan syndrome is a heritable condition that affects the body’s connective tissue. Connective tissue plays an important role in many body systems, including the skeleton, eyes, heart and blood vessels, nervous system, skin and lungs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a final rule for the unique device identification system (UDI) that, once implemented, will provide a consistent way to identify medical devices. The FDA plans to phase in the UDI system, focusing first on high-risk medical devices. Once fully implemented, the UDI system rule is expected to have many benefits for patients, the health care system and the device industry.
The FDA recently held a public workshop with patients, caregivers, health care providers, researchers and industry to discuss ways to incorporate patient preferences when they weigh the risks and benefits of FDA-regulated products (both before and after the product goes to market).
The NIAMS has translated some of its most popular fact sheets into Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. These fact sheets offer health information about many diseases affecting Asian Americans, including osteoporosis, arthritis, lupus and gout. You may access and download nearly 50 Asian-language publications from our new webpage. Several Chinese-language audio publications are also available.
NIH Research Matters is a review of NIH research from the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, Office of the Director, NIH.
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 its grantees at universities and medical schools around the country.
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, open to the public and available live via webcast.
The NIH hosts a number of science seminars and events that are available online through real-time streaming video. You can watch an event at your convenience as an on-demand video or a downloadable podcast. Most events are available to all; a few are broadcast for the NIH or HHS and are marked as such. See additional details on events.
The NIAMS exhibit is traveling to several events. See the schedule of health fairs and exhibits.
Image: The NIAMS Exhibit
Pre-application: Opportunities for Collaborative Research at the NIH Clinical Center (X02)
Letter of Intent Receipt Dates: Not applicable
Application Receipt Dates: November 20, 2013 and November 20, 2014
Opportunities for Collaborative Research at the NIH Clinical Center (U01)
Letter of Intent Receipt Dates: 30 days prior to the application due date. Applicants are encouraged to submit an X02 pre-application, as described in the companion FOA, PAR-13-357. Applicants who submit an X02 pre-application should not submit a Letter of Intent.
Application Receipt Dates: March 20, 2014 and March 20, 2015
NIH Support for Conferences and Scientific Meetings (Parent R13/U13)
Letter of Intent Receipt Date: Not applicable
Application Receipt Dates: Standard dates apply
NIH Common Fund Initiative Announcements
Adaptation of Scalable Technologies to Illuminate the Druggable Genome (U01)
Letter of Intent Receipt Date: November 11, 2013
Application Receipt Date: December 11, 2013
Development of a Knowledge Management Center for Illuminating the Druggable Genome (U54)
Letter of Intent Receipt Date: November 11, 2013
Application Receipt Date: December 11, 2013
Defining a Comprehensive Reference Profile of Circulating Human Extracellular RNA (U01)
Letter of Intent Receipt Date: October 22, 2013
Application Receipt Date: November 22, 2013
Other Funding Announcements
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Funding Announcement
The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) announced the launch of the Pipeline to Proposal Awards, a new initiative designed to encourage the development of partnerships and health research project ideas among individuals and groups not usually involved in such efforts. This award is open to any individual patient, other healthcare stakeholder, or researcher—or group of patients, stakeholders, or researchers—oriented around a particular health issue. Beginning as a pilot project, the Pipeline to Proposal opportunity offers awards of up to $15,000 each. The request for proposals (RFP # PCO-ENGAWD2013 [PDF - 392 KB]) was released on October 15. Responses are due Monday, December 2.
New Program Certifications Required for SBIR and STTR Awards
NIH to Transition Payment for Individual Fellowships at Foreign and Federal Sponsoring Institutions, and Awards to Federal Institutions to Payment Management System Subaccounts in FY 2014
Notice of Intent to Publish the Reissuance of the Funding Opportunity Announcement “Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Institutional Research Training Grants (Parent T32)”
Review of Grants Information for Fiscal Year 2013