Director’s Report to the 231st National Advisory Mental Health Council
I am pleased to welcome members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), speakers and guests to our 231st meeting. In this report I will share with you information about new and ongoing initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
With fiscal year (FY) 2012 well underway, NIMH continues to be on track to award over 500 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY2012. This number represents a significant increase over the 465 awarded in FY 2011, but would still fall below the 2008-2010 average of 558. NIMH expects to support at least 75 percent of the applications under the 20th percentile. Moreover, the Institute will support sufficient applications from early stage investigators to ensure their success rate is equivalent to that of established investigators. With the exception of specific programmatic adjustments, modular and non-modular grant awards will be fully funded in FY 2012, without future-year inflationary increases. NIMH is placing increased emphasis on funding grants with limited out-year commitments, such as administrative supplements. Consistent with NIH policy, non-competing modular RPGs are being issued at full commitment levels, while non-competing, non-modular RPGs are being issued at FY 2011 levels, without future-year inflationary increases.
Outlook for FY 2013
In February 2012, the President submitted his FY 2013 budget request to Congress. The request for the NIH is $30.860 billion, the same overall level as FY 2012. The request for NIMH is $1.479 billion, less than a 0.1 percent increase over the 2012 level. The President’s Budget (PB) stands in contrast to the Budget Control Act of 2011, which, through its spending limits and sequestration—which would take effect if Congress fails to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years by January 2013—would result in an approximately 8 percent reduction to the FY 2013 NIH budget from FY 2011 levels. Both the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees that oversee NIH have held hearings regarding the FY 2013 PB. It is unclear when the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill, which contains the NIH appropriation, will be introduced, and when the Subcommittees which oversee the NIH budget will convene to discuss it. Based on historical trends, it is likely that NIMH will begin FY 2013 on a Continuing Resolution.
NIH Common Fund Programs and Initiatives
The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high impact, trans-NIH programs. These programs are supported by the Common Fund, and managed by the NIH Office of the Director in partnership with the various NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices. The following are updates on some of the projects co-led by NIMH:
- The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) Project
The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project aims to provide to the scientific community a resource with which to study human gene expression and regulation and its relationship to genetic variation. The goal of this initiative is to understand how genetic variation may control gene expression across organs, tissues, and individuals. GTEx launched as a 2-year, $25 million pilot study supported by the NIH Common Fund. The GTEx pilot project currently supports two biospecimens source sites, and a laboratory, data analysis, and coordinating center. Donor collections and tissue analysis began in 2011 and are now in the final stages of the pilot phase. To date over 120 post-mortem donors have entered the program and collection of tissue from surgery donors is underway. More than 10,000 tissue aliquots have been collected. A manuscript describing the program is being drafted and the first wave of GTEx data will be available to the research community later this spring.
- Molecular Libraries Program (MLP)
The NIH’s Molecular Libraries Program (MLP) offers access to a growing library of over 370,000 small molecules – chemical compounds that can be used as tools to probe basic biology and advance our understanding of disease. The goal of the MLP is to integrate high-throughput chemical approaches with state-of-the art genetics, cellular, molecular and in vivo biology in a multi-disciplinary effort to discover proof-of-concept (POC) molecular probes for cell and in vivo systems. Recent findings were published in the February 17, 2012 issue of the journal Science, Hanson, M.A. et al. Science 335, 851–855 (2012)
- Human Microbiome Project (HMP)
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) aims to characterize the microbial communities found at several different sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and urogenital tract, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease.
National Database for Autism Research
The National Database for Autism Research (NDAR) now provides researchers access to clinical assessments, demographic information, environmental information, imaging studies and genetic/sequencing data from more 25,000 subjects. NDAR integrates and standardizes data, tools, and computational techniques from a wide variety of individual researchers as well as public and private databases. Through NDAR, researchers can access results from these different sources at the same time, using the rich data set to conduct independent analyses, supplement their own research data, or evaluate the data supporting published journal articles, among many other uses. As the amount of available data continues to grow, NDAR is planning an initiative to encourage the creative use of the database, potentially through the use of a Challenge Prize. The NDAR team anticipates that this prize will bring insights and stimulate new research directions from computational scientists and others who have not previously participated in autism research.
Recent NIH and NIMH Meetings of Interest
NIMH Alliance for Research Progress
NIMH convened the sixteenth meeting of the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress (the Alliance) on February 10, 2012. The Alliance includes leaders from national organizations representing patients with mental illness and their families. Organized by the Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison (OCRPL), NIMH brings this group together twice a year to provide members the opportunity to learn about scientific advances in mental health research and discuss important information related to changes in the field. The meeting format allows for dialogue among participants and NIMH leadership, providing the Institute with crucial input and feedback. For the February meeting, presentations included the use of neuroimaging and cognitive science to discover new treatments for pediatric anxiety; the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the use of cognitive training to intervene in early psychosis; a New York Times series on people who are living full lives despite mental illnesses; and how patient registries can achieve positive outcomes through social networking and data sharing. Guest speakers included Daniel Pine, M.D. , Chief of the NIMH Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience and Chief of the Emotion and Development Branch in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program; Grayson Norquist, M.D., M.S.P.H., Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center; Rachel Loewy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco; Benedict Carey, Science Reporter, New York Times; and James Heywood, Chairman and Co-Founder of PatientsLikeMe, Inc.
Brain Awareness Week
On March 14-15, 2012, NIMH participated in the 12th annual Brain Awareness Week (BAW) a health and science information fair held at the Behnke Auditorium of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, MD. BAW is an international effort that takes place annually for one week during the month of March. Supported by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness about brain research, the program is designed to teach middle school students about the neurosciences and brain health. The National Eye Institute (NEI), the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) also participated in the event. The NIMH Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison teamed with the NIMH Division of Extramural Activities to present information to middle school children.
Outreach Partnership Program Annual Meeting
The Outreach Partnership Program, a national science dissemination and research promotion initiative carried out through 55 Outreach Partners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, held its annual meeting from March 19-22, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The meeting featured a scientific update from NIMH Deputy Director, Phil Wang, M.D., Dr. PH., as well as an overview of the NIMH Office of Science Policy, Planning and Communications (OSPPC) by Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D., M.P.H., including a discussion of educational resources available for Partners’ use by Karin Lee, a writer-editor in OSPPC. NIMH’s Jane Pearson, Ph.D. presented an overview of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and Pamela Collins, M.D., M.P.H., director of NIMH’s Office of Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health discussed mental health disparities in a global context. The meeting kicked off with a keynote presentation by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. Over the course of the following three days, Outreach Partners heard from leading researchers and experts in the areas of family-based treatment and support, community-partnered research, suicide, trauma—including among military service members and the genetics and neurobiology of PTSD. Outreach Partners also participated in a Partner Sharing Session and select plenary panels. In addition, they led roundtable discussions on family engagement and outreach and mental health disparities.
Autism Centers for Excellence Principal Investigators Meeting
On March 21-22, 2012 the annual Investigator Meeting for Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) was held at the NIH Neuroscience Center in Rockville, Maryland. An integral part of the ACE Program, the meeting brought investigators together to engage in focused discussions regarding research priorities and challenges within three topic areas: Characterization, Treatment, and Etiology. In addition, there were sessions focused on discussing new data sharing functionality through NDAR, with time allotted for a question-and-answer period with NDAR staff. Finally, there were specific sessions covering institutional training programs and the publication of research findings through Institute press offices. ACE principal investigators (PIs), project PIs, core directors and data managers were all in attendance.
Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health
NIMH hosted two meetings that follow on the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health. The Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health identified priorities for research that will make an impact on the lives of people with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders over the next 10 years.
The first meeting, “Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health: Integration and Implementation in Research, Policy and Practice,” (April 2-3, 2012) focused on research and policy responses to one of the grand challenges: Redesign health systems to integrate mental, neurological, and substance use disorders with other chronic-disease care, and create parity between mental and physical illness in investment into research, training, treatment and prevention. With collaboration from colleagues at the HHS Office of Global Affairs, Fogarty International Center , National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the agenda highlighted research and case studies that demonstrated the intersections of mental health and maternal and children’s health care, HIV-related disease care, and non-communicable disease care.
The second meeting, “From Priorities to Action: Translating the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health into Policy and Practice,” (April 4-5, 2012) allowed in-depth discussion of research and policy gaps among a smaller group of participants. The products of this two-day workshop will be five white papers, suitable for publication in a scientific journal, that make the case to policymakers and health system managers for building health care delivery systems capable of integrated management of mental illnesses along with other health conditions. The meeting also served as one of the inaugural activities for the new Trans-NIH Center for Global Health Studies, which hosts researchers, policymakers, clinicians, advocates and other key global health stakeholders to engage in short-term, project-based scholarship in global health science and policy.
Cognitive Training in Mental Disorders: Advancing the Science
On April 9-10, 2012 NIMH held a workshop to facilitate discussion between representatives from academia, NIH, local human services agencies and private industry interested in the translation of advances in cognitive neuroscience research into effective cognitive training (CT) interventions for individuals with psychiatric disorders. Over the last two decades, an increased understanding of the brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity has led to the emergence of CT as a potentially viable intervention approach for a number of psychiatric disorders. The goals of the workshop were to provide an assessment of the current state of knowledge regarding CT interventions, identify knowledge gaps for future program planning, increase collaboration and integration across research groups, and discuss strategies for broadly implementing the most promising CT interventions. Drawing on the diverse expertise and experience of workshop attendees, presentations and discussions focused on current studies of CT efficacy, emerging approaches and applications, integration of CT with other interventions, and implementation of CT in health care systems. Additional information on the workshop agenda, participants and attendees will be made available through the NIMH Meeting Summaries web page.
Using Stem Cells for Biological & Therapeutics Discovery in Mental Illness
On April 24-25, 2012, NIMH and the Foundation for NIH (FNIH) convened a meeting of scientists representing academic research, industry, government and funding organizations to discuss the latest technological advances in using patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and related tools to identify molecular, cellular and developmental alterations relevant to psychiatric disorders. The meeting was sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly and One Mind for Research. Major goals of the meeting were to address challenges and strategies for using these cells in target identification and drug development to treat mental illnesses, and to share this discussion among diverse stakeholders. Speakers noted significant progress in methods for making iPSCs and emphasized the need for standardizing derivation/validation methods, while allowing room for further innovation. A call was also made for standards to validate neuronal and glial types from iPSCs, where much work remains to establish that the “right cell” is being assayed from a developmental and functional standpoint. Some initial and intriguing comparisons between patient and control phenotypes were shown, which generated lively discussion of replicability, sufficiently powered patient sample numbers and construct validity against independent measures of pathophysiology. NIMH is addressing cell banking and sharing concerns through the recent establishment of the NIMH Stem Cell Resource at Rutgers University, linked to the existing NIMH repository for genetics/clinical biomaterials and data (see NOT-10-024). Organizers are developing a summary of recommendations from the meeting to be made available to the scientific community.
USA Science and Engineering Festival
NIMH teamed with other NIH Institutes to participate in the NIH exhibit at the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival held April 27-29, 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. The goal of the festival is to re-invigorate the interest of the nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining science activities. Volunteers from the NIMH intramural and extramural programs worked cooperatively to engage young people at six different NIMH exhibits and stage shows.
- Tracy Bale, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania received the 2012 Society for Women’s Health Research Medtronic Prize for scientific contributions to women’s health.
- Edward Callaway, Ph.D., Professor, Systems Neurobiology Laboratories at Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, New York University, Steven Siegelbaum, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Columbia University and Matthew Wilson, Ph.D., Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as members of the 2012 class.
- Yeates Conwell, M.D. is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide at the University of Rochester. He was selected for the 2011 Research Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in recognition of the major impact of his research on the understanding of late-life suicidal behavior, and for the importance of his field-based suicide prevention studies in Hong Kong and the U.S. Additionally, in December 2011, Dr. Conwell was selected by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) as one of 73 “innovators” out of 920 applicants to participate in the Innovation Advisors Program (IAP). Participation in the IAP will promote Dr. Conwell’s work on the integration of primary care, mental health, and the social connectedness of older adults in their communities leading to a more comprehensive model of collaborative care, which aims to improve health outcomes, as well as to improve the quality and lower the cost of care for older adults.
- Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D., President of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD), was presented with the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) 2012 Distinguished Service Award at the May 7, 2012 APA Conference. Under Dr. Hoffman’s leadership, the NEA-BPD developed a website with audio and video for the dissemination of new research findings to persons with borderline personality disorder, families of people with BPD, clinicians and researchers. Other NEA-BPD activities included presenting the Annual Borderline Personality Disorder Junior Researcher Awards at national conferences, disseminating the resolution of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of May as BPD Awareness Month, two Congressional briefings about the disorder, a psychoeducational course for families with a borderline personality disorder member called Family Connections and Connections Place, a program to support re-entry into the work force by persons recovering from the disorder.
- David Jentsch, Ph.D., Edythe London, Ph.D. and Dario Ringach, Ph.D., from the University of California, Los Angeles were presented with the Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in a ceremony at the organization’s annual conference in Vancouver, Canada on February 17, 2012. The professors were recognized for their “strong defense of the importance of the use of animals in research and their refusal to remain silent in the face of intimidation.” All three have been targeted repeatedly by extremists opposed to the use of laboratory animals in research. The Award is presented annually by AAAS to honor individual scientists and engineers or organizations for exemplary actions that help foster scientific freedom and responsibility.
- Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder received the Donald F. Klein Early Career Investigator Award in April 2012 from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This award recognizes an early career investigator for the best original research paper on neurobiology, psychopharmacology, psychosocial treatments or experimental psychopathology of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.
- David Jay Miklowitz, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at the Semel Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, received the Bipolar Mood Disorder Research Award. The Bipolar Mood Disorder Prize (formerly the Nola Maddox Falcone Prize and the Selo or Lieber Prize) is a lifetime achievement award given by the National Alliance for Research in Brain & Behavior Research Foundation to an outstanding scientist carrying out work on the causes, pathophysiology, treatment or prevention of affective disorders.
- Roger Nicoll, M.D., Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, is the winner of the 2012 Edward M. Scolnick Prize in Neuroscience, awarded annually by the McGovern Institute. Dr. Nicoll’s main research goal for almost three decades has been to understand at the cellular and molecular level how electrical activity reshapes the brain’s connections.
- Robert J. Ursano, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, was presented with the “William C. Menninger Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Science of Mental Health” by the American College of Physicians at its annual Convocation ceremony on April 19, 2012.
NIMH Awards and Honors
- Matthew Rudorfer, M.D., Chief of the Research Centers and Somatic Treatment Program within the Division of Services and Intervention Research at NIMH received the Honored Speaker Award from the International Society for ECT and Neurostimulation (ISEN) at its annual meeting in Philadelphia on May 6, 2012. The Award has been presented every year for over a decade by the ISEN Executive Committee and Board of Directors “to recognize outstanding leaders in the field of ECT and brain stimulation research and clinical work.”
NIMH Staff News
- James Breiling, Ph.D. retired from NIMH in February following a long and distinguished career at the Institute. Most recently, as Chief of the Psychopathology, Behavioral Dysregulation and Measurement Development Research Program in the Division of Adult Translational Research, Dr. Breiling managed the personality disorders portfolio. He is widely known throughout the Borderline Personality Disorder community for his programmatic leadership of cutting-edge research on this serious disorder, as well as his tireless efforts to encourage patient support groups and psychoeducation. His work with the research community in the areas of psychopathy and violence was an outgrowth of one of his lasting contributions to the NIMH and to public health: his role in developing the Teaching Family Model in the 1980s as a non-institutional, therapeutic intervention for aggressive youths. An outstanding expert in psychometrics, Dr. Breiling was one of the early leaders at NIMH in promoting research on item-response theory and computer-adaptive testing for scale development.
- Jill Heemskerk, Ph.D. has been appointed Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Translational Research at NIMH, beginning in June 2012. A program official at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) since 1999, Dr. Heemskerk most recently served as Program Director in the Office of Translational Research, specializing in therapeutics development. In her work at NINDS, she established several programs emphasizing drug discovery and translation of basic research findings to the clinic. She directed the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Project, an industry-style preclinical drug development program, an NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Neurotherapeutics Grand Challenge. She also established the Neurodegeneration Drug Screening Consortium to reposition approved drugs, and the NINDS High Throughput Drug Screening Facility for Neurodegeneration. Dr. Heemskerk has served on scientific advisory boards for the ALS Association, the Spinal Muscular Atrophy Foundation and the Huntington’s disease Society of America. She earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco and conducted postdoctoral research in developmental genetics at Columbia University.
- Tamara Kees recently joined the Grants Management Branch as the Supervisory Team Leader. Working as a grants specialist since 2003 at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and more recently as a senior specialist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Ms. Kees brings significant experience in clinical trials.
- Sandra Molina joined the Office of the Scientific Director (OSD) in the Division of Intramural Research Programs on January 18, 2012 as an administrative assistant and first point-of-contact for the OSD. At NIH since 2005, Ms. Molina first began as an administrative assistant and meeting coordinator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and joined the OSD office at NHLBI in 2009.
- Sue Murrin joined NIH on February 27, 2012 as NIMH’s new Executive Officer. Previously she served as Assistant Inspector General for Management at the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for eight years, where she oversaw budget, IT, human resources, contracts and procurement. Prior to the USDA, Ms. Murrin worked at HHS, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Transportation, gleaning extensive knowledge and experience overseeing the administrative offices of government agencies.
- Dianne Rausch, Ph.D. has accepted the position of Director for the Division of AIDS Research, NIMH. She received her doctorate in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology from Northwestern University. She has served as acting Director for the NIMH Division of AIDS Research since 2011, and prior to this was the Deputy Director for the Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS. Since joining the Division in 1997, Dr. Rausch has increasingly taken on greater leadership roles, and has been crucial in NIMH’s successful collaborations with NIAID on AIDS initiatives, as well as with other Institutes and agencies, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator, U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the United States Agency for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. She has been a driving force in the NIMH AIDS program.
National Institute of Mental Health
FY 2011 - FY 2012 Budget (Total)
(Dollars in Thousands)
|FY 2011 Actual|
|Coop. Clin. Res||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Res. Mgmt. & Supp||243||74,151||243||74,151|
|FY 2012 Estimate (+.2%> FY 2011 Actuals)|
|Coop. Clin. Res||0||0||0||0||0|
|Res. Mgmt. & Supp||243||73,151||243||73,151|