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Director’s Report to the 224th National Advisory Mental Health Council Meeting - February 11, 2010


I am pleased to welcome members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) and other participants and guests to our 224th Council meeting.  In the months since our October Council meeting, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has been focused on implementing our Strategic Plan, implementing the five new research priorities at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and preparing for the budgetary challenges of fiscal year (FY) 2011 that will follow the surge of funding received via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act).

We are now nearly 18 months into the implementation phase of the NIMH Strategic Plan.  Recovery Act funding gave us an unprecedented boost; with $366 million arriving within 6 months of publishing the Plan, we were able to support new initiatives in each of our target areas: pathophysiology, predictive biomarkers, personalized interventions, and public health impact.  New large-scale efforts in genomics and neurodevelopment will yield an infrastructure for discovery that should transform NIMH research in the future.  In addition to targeted use of Recovery Act funding, NIMH has been consolidating its funding opportunity announcements (FOAs) to align with the Plan.  This means fewer FOAs and very few with a specific disease focus, so that we can focus our funding on our highest priorities.

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., our new NIH Director, has announced 5 research themes as priorities:

  1. Applying Genomics and Other High Throughput Technologies
  2. Translating Basic Science Discoveries into New and Better Treatments
  3. Using Science to Enable Health Care Reform
  4. Focusing on Global Health
  5. Reinvigorating the Biomedical Research Community

As you know from recent Council meetings, NIMH is already committed to each of these areas.  With recent findings of structural genomic variants in DNA from people with autism and schizophrenia, we are moving quickly from genotyping to sequencing large parts of the genome.  Our translational efforts, especially for early stage drug discovery, are featured in a current review paper on chemical genomics and drug discovery (Frearson and Collie, Drug Discovery Today, 14: 1150-1158, 2009).  With a new focus on mental health economics bridging intramural and extramural programs, NIMH has recently hired two senior economists to assist with projects relevant to mental health care parity and reform.  We have a new Office of Global Mental Health that will co-lead a grand challenge initiative with the Global Action for Chronic Disease network in 2010.  Additionally, several efforts to reinvigorate the biomedical research community have been launched at NIMH, including our Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS)  award program for innovative young investigators, all of whom will be honored in a symposium next month.

While our enthusiasm for science remains high, we cannot ignore the impending budgetary realities.  We expect 2011 to be a difficult year.  As you will see in more detail below, the President’s FY2011 Budget proposes a 3.4% increase over our FY2010 NIMH allocation.  This increase is our highest since 2003, but with Recovery Act grants ending and the potential that unfunded Recovery Act applications will be submitted, we assume that the number of applications next year could be much greater than in FY2010.  Perhaps the restrictions on application re-submissions (no A2s) will offset this expected surge; however to protect against a precipitous drop in our success rate over the next couple of years, NIMH is carefully watching its out-year commitments and keeping set aside funds for RFAs flexible to protect the payline for outstanding unsolicited grant applications. 

I would like to provide some more specific updates on the Recovery Act new initiatives at NIH, activities of the Office of the Director at NIMH, and some organizational and staff changes of note.  Importantly, we have a new extramural division: the Division of AIDS Research (DAR).

Recovery Act Update

The total committed Recovery Act funds to date are $349 million of the $366 million allocation received by the NIMH. This infusion of money represents a unique opportunity to stimulate the economy by creating and preserving jobs, while advancing biomedical research. Additionally, Recovery Act funds will help jumpstart the research objectives laid out in the NIMH Strategic Plan, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee  Strategic Plan for Research, and the Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research .  The remaining Recovery Act funds will be spent in FY2010, via both new NIH FOAs as well as NIMH initiatives.  These include the following:

NIH-wide Updates

  • In 2009, NIH created the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases Program (TRND) , acknowledging that one of the greatest challenges in rare and neglected diseases has been getting a new molecular target or chemical into the drug development pipeline. The goal of TRND is to “de-risk” the early stages of drug development for rare and neglected diseases for industry investment (although costs are not necessarily decreased). The project also focuses on neglected targets by extending NIH’s efforts with the pre-clinical stages of drug development and to allow promising compounds to develop toward pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies up until the investigational new drug stage.  TRND will begin within the NIH intramural program, working closely with the National Chemical Genomics Center, and will progress to develop extramural and industry partnerships.
  • NIH launched the Basic Behavioral and Social Science Opportunity Network (OppNet)  on November 18, 2009. OppNet is a trans-NIH initiative to expand the agency's funding of basic behavioral and social sciences research (basic-BSSR). Basic-BSSR furthers our understanding of fundamental mechanisms and patterns of behavioral and social functioning, relevant to the Nation’s health and well-being, as they interact with each other, with biology and the environment. Research results lead to new approaches for reducing risky behaviors and improving health.  The OppNet budget is expected to grow to $30M per year, supported by all 27 NIH institutes and centers.  Current OppNet related funding opportunities are listed within the Recovery Act Update section (above). 

NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research

The NIH Neuroscience Blueprint  is a framework to enhance cooperation among the 15 NIH Institutes that support research on the nervous system. Created in 2004, the Blueprint has already funded a number of innovative cross-cutting projects.  New initiatives include:

  • Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (R25) 
    The goal of this FOA is to increase the diversity of students who successfully enter and complete Ph.D. programs in the neurosciences. This initiative was designed to support the development of collaborative research education partnerships that will increase undergraduate participants’ (1) awareness and interest in the neurosciences, (2) develop their scientific knowledge and hands-on research skills that will allow them to advance in neuroscience related research, education, and training activities, and (3) to establish networks with existing Ph.D. granting and NIH-supported predoctoral T32 neuroscience programs. These networks are intended to actively facilitate participants’ transition from the undergraduate to the graduate school level in the neurosciences.  Mark Chavez, Ph.D., of NIMH will serve as the team leader of this project (RFA-MH-10-070).
  • The Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Grand Challenge: New Treatments for Diseases of the Nervous System
    As a sister project to TRND (see above), one of the Blueprint grand challenges is to enhance the pipeline for new medications by bridging the “valley of death” between target identification and phase 1 clinical trials.  The goal is to develop new therapies for central nervous system disorders, not limited to rare and neglected diseases.  The team is drafting a request for proposals for a medicinal chemistry contract and a request for applications for U01 cooperative agreements that will support disease-focused bioactivity assays (for chemical optimization) and in vitro efficacy studies.  Jill Heemskerk, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke will serve as the team leader of this project. 

NIMH Updates

New FOAs

Recovery Act funds provided an exciting opportunity to initiate many two-year projects that will jumpstart NIMH’s progress on meeting the objectives of the Strategic Plan. Following this jumpstart, NIMH will continue to pursue the objectives of the NIMH Strategic Plan and the recommendations of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Workgroup on Research Training Report (PDF file, 49 pages) through the development of funding initiatives, among other activities. These include the following FOAs:

  • Blueprint Program for Enhancing Neuroscience Diversity through Undergraduate Research Education Experiences (R25) A description can be found within the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research section (above).
  • Seeding National Mentoring Networks to Enhance Diversity of the Mental Health Research Workforce (U24) 
    This FOA, issued by NIMH, solicits Resource-Related Research Project Cooperative Agreement (U24) applications from institutions/organizations that propose to conceptualize, plan and pilot an innovative prototype of a national infrastructure for mentoring individuals from diverse groups who are conducting research relevant to the mission of the NIMH.  Each mentoring network will be expected to have a focused scientific theme that is highly germane to the mission and strategic priorities of the NIMH including the Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS.  The NIMH expects that each mentoring network will recruit outstanding researchers as mentors for individuals (protégés) at various career stages beginning no earlier in the career path than the post-baccalaureate level (RFA-MH-10-050).

Office of Special Populations

  • The Second Annual Trauma Spectrum Disorders Conference: A Scientific Conference on the Impact of Military Service on Family and Caregivers (December 10, 2009, Bethesda, Maryland)
    The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, NIH, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other Federal Partners presented the second annual collaborative scientific conference examining recent research on trauma spectrum disorders (TSD). This year’s conference focused on the impact of TSD on military and veteran families and caregivers across deployment, homecoming, and reintegration.
  • Women in Science at the National Institutes of Health 2007-2008  was published by the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health in late 2009 to acknowledge the careers, leadership paths and life accomplishments of women scientists.  The publication showcased five NIMH honorees (Jacqueline Crawley, Ph.D., Kathleen Merikangas, Ph.D., Judy Rapoport, M.D., Susan Swedo, M.D., Leslie Ungerleider, Ph.D.) and featured an additional eight NIMH honorees (Karen Berman, M.D., Linda Brady, Ph.D., Della Hann, Ph.D., Ellen Leibenluft, M.D., Molly Oliveri, Ph.D., Jane Steinberg, Ph.D., Esther Sternberg, M.D., Ellen Stover, Ph.D.).

Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison (OCRPL)

  • NIMH Alliance for Research Progress (January 15, 2010, Winter Meeting)
    The NIMH convened the 12th meeting of the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress on January 15, 2010. The Alliance is a group of leaders from patient and family-related advocacy organizations directly concerned with mental illnesses. Topics included future directions for NIH, mental health parity, health care reform, and medical risks of severe mental illnesses. Speakers included Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH Director; Richard Frank, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services; Henry T. Harbin, M.D., Health Care Consultant and former CEO and Chairman, Magellan Health Services; and John Newcomer, M.D., the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Medicine Medical Director, Center for Clinical Studies, Washington University School of Medicine.

Introducing the NIMH Division of AIDS Research (DAR)

The Director of the former NIMH Division of AIDS, Health and Behavior Research, Ellen Stover, Ph.D., was called on by the NIH Office of AIDS Research to serve as a special advisor and coordinator of federal efforts to develop behavioral preventive interventions. Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H. has been named Acting Division Director. In light of the persistent high rate of new HIV infections, the Division has also been refocused solely on its AIDS research mission and its new name--the Division of AIDS Research (DAR)--reflects this change. In addition, NIMH convened a Summit of thought leaders last fall, both from within and outside the AIDS field, to review the NIMH AIDS portfolio and make suggestions for an optimal research agenda that will meaningfully impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Summit participants called for new research initiatives to develop more efficacious preventive interventions that target high risk groups and can efficiently be widely disseminated.

Awards for NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs (DIRP) Investigators

  • Jay Giedd, M.D., was awarded the 2009 Joel Elkes Research Award by the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology in recognition of an outstanding clinical/translational contribution to neuropsychopharmacology.
  • Francis McMahon, M.D., and Carlos Zarate, M.D., were both awarded tenure in the Division of Intramural Research Program.

Staff Changes


  • Susan Borja, Ph.D., joined the Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR) in the Traumatic Stress Disorders Research Program.  Dr. Borja comes to NIMH from the Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Psychiatry and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Charleston, SC where she completed her Clinical Psychology Internship and research on neuropsychology of post-traumatic stress disorder and the role of cognition in psychopathology.
  • Diana Morales, M.P.H., joined OCRPL as the new Director of the Outreach Partnership Program.  Prior to coming to NIMH, Ms. Morales served as Vice President of Public Education at Mental Health America (MHA), formerly the National Mental Health Association.  In this role, she led the Campaign for America’s Mental Health, a 19-year-old mental health education program carried out by up to 60 MHA affiliates nationwide.  Ms. Morales earned her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland-College Park and a Masters in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  She began her career in social marketing during which she worked on NIMH’s award-winning National Panic Disorder Education Program.


  • Rebecca Delcarmen-Wiggins, Ph.D., will begin a one-year detail as Program Official for Special Projects on Social Neuroscience and Executive Function in the Child Development and Behavior Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  Dr. Delcarmen-Wiggins is currently Chief of the Trajectories of Neurocognitive Functioning Program in the Division of Developmental Translational Research. 
  • Lucas Kempf, M.D., has joined the DATR Neuroscience Branch on a detail from the NIMH DIRP beginning December, 2009. He graduated from University of California-Berkeley with a degree in genetics, followed by a research fellowship in imaging and genetics of schizophrenia at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. He received his medical degree from University of Kansas Medical School, and completed his residency in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. Dr. Kempf joined the DIRP as a clinical fellow in the Unit of Systems Neuroscience in Psychiatry under Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, M.D., Ph.D., followed by a fellowship with Daniel Weinberger, M.D. in the Clinical Brain Disorders Branch.
  • Ellen Stover, Ph.D., has joined the NIH Office of AIDS Research on a detail to serve as a special advisor and coordinator for efforts on developing effective behavioral preventive interventions, a national priority given the lack of a successful vaccine and the persistent high rate of new infections.
  • Tracy Waldeck, Ph.D., has accepted a promotion to Branch Chief of Extramural Policy within the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA).  Dr. Waldeck has been a member of DEA since 2004 and will continue her current NAMHC related responsibilities and expand her expertise in extramural policy in her new role.

NAMHC Changes

New members of Council

  • Kay Jamison, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center.  She is also Honorary Professor of English at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.  She is the author or co-author of five books and more than 100 scientific articles about mood disorders, suicide, psychotherapy, and lithium.  Her memoir about her own experiences with manic-depressive illness, An Unquiet Mind, was selected as one of the best books of 1995.
  • Roberto Lewis-Fernandez, M.D. is Director of the Hispanic Treatment Program at New York State Psychiatric Institute and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University.  His research focuses on the socio-cultural determinants of illness experience, symptomatology, help-seeking behavior, and treatment dropout, and treatment outcome among U.S. Latinos diagnosed with anxiety, depressive, and dissociative disorders.
  • Rhonda Robinson Beale, M.D. is the Chief Medical Officer for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions where she is responsible for facilitating the clinical direction, quality of care and clinical policy of the organization. She is an experienced behavioral health practitioner with over 20 years of behavioral health and quality management experience. She is currently a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Health Care Services Board and has served on the IOM Neuroscience and Behavioral Health Board.
  • Carla Shatz, Ph.D. is Professor of Biological Science and Neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine.  She is also the Director of Bio-X, Stanford University’s interdisciplinary research program connecting biology and medicine.  Dr. Shatz’s research focuses on the discovery of how brain circuits are tuned up by experience during critical periods of development (before and after birth) via cellular and molecular mechanisms that transform early fetal and neonatal brain circuits into mature connections.  Her research is relevant not only for understanding brain wiring and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, but also for understanding how the nervous and immune systems interact.

Budget Information

National Institute of Mental Health FY 2011 President's Budget

(Dollars in Thousands)

Attachment 1 - Table 1 of 3

 FY 2009 Actual Includes Comparable Adjustments
Research Grants:      
Research Projects:      
Admin. Suppl(38)3,705(9)1,246(47)4,951
  Research Centers5894,494819,29466113,788
  Other Research:      
    Res. Careers35254,550457,01039761,560
    Coop. Clin. Res049051,34351,833
     Subtot., Other44694,0466812,490514106,536
Total Res.Grants2,460929,991335162,3542,7951,092,345
  Research Training:FTTP FTTP FTTP 
     Total Training94138,4481145,0021,05543,450
  R&D Contracts16264,54088,28417072,824
    Total, Extramural 1,032,979 175,640 1,208,619
 FTEs: FTEs: FTEs: 
  Intramural Res380169,02633,122383172,148
  Res. Mgmt. & Supp24562,383157,90326070,286
    Total, NIMH6251,264,38818186,6656431,451,053

Attachment 1 - Table 2 of 3

 FY 2010 Estimate
Research Grants:      
  Research Projects:      
    Admin. Suppl(35)3,347(9)1,246(44)4,593
  Research Centers5895,912819,58366115,495
  Other Research:      
    Res. Careers35255,368457,11539762,483
    Coop. Clin. Res0497000497
     Subtot., Other44695,4266812,680514108,106
Total Res.Grants2,427958,599339166,3942,7661,124,993
  Research Training:FTTP FTTP FTTP 
     Total Training94138,7321145,0391,05543,771
  R&D Contracts16265,50888,40817073,916
    Total, Extramural 1,062,839 179,841 1,242,680
 FTEs: FTEs: FTEs: 
  Intramural Res387171,47433,169390174,643
  Res. Mgmt. & Supp25064,428138,04126372,469
    Total, NIMH6371,298,74116191,0516531,489,792
    % Over Prior Year 2.7% 2.3% 2.7%

Attachment 1 - Table 3 of 3

 FY 2011 President's Budget
Research Grants:      
  Research Projects:      
    Admin. Suppl(35)3,347(9)1,246(44)4,593
  Research Centers5998,790820,17067118,960
  Other Research:      
    Res. Careers35657,029457,32840164,357
    Coop. Clin. Res0512000512
     Subtot., Other45198,2896813,060519111,349
Total Res.Grants2,422980,937367171,1142,7891,152,051
  Research Training:FTTP FTTP FTTP 
     Total Training94141,2351145,3661,05546,601
  R&D Contracts16176,459138,91017485,369
    Total, Extramural 1,098,631 185,390 1,284,021
 FTEs: FTEs: FTEs: 
  Intramural Res412176,96233,270415180,232
  Res. Mgmt. & Supp23867,649138,44325176,092
    Total, NIMH6501,343,24216197,1036661,540,345
    % Over Prior Year 3.4% 3.2% 3.4%

Attachment 2

AppropriationFY 2009 OmnibusFY 2009
Recovery Act
FY 2010
FY 2011 President's
FY 2011 PB.
2010 Enacted
NCI4,967,7141,256,5172/    5,101,6665,264,643162,977
NIDDK 3/1,910,151445,3931,957,3642,007,58950,225
NIAID 4/4,701,4561,113,2884,816,7264,977,070160,344
Type 1 Diabetes(150,000)0(150,000)(150,000)0
Subtotal, Labor/HHS30,318,02410,380,70331,009,78832,007,237997,449
Research Program
Total, NIH Discretionary BA30,396,09810,400,00031,089,00032,089,0001,000,000
Type 1 Diabetes150,0000150,000150,0000
Total, NIH Budget Authority30,546,09810,400,00031,239,00032,239,0001,00,000
NLM Progr. Eval8,20008,2008,2000
Total, Prog. Level30,554,29810,400,00031,247,20032,247,2001,00,000

1/ Funds are appropriated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 (P.L. 111-5) and are available until

2/ Includes $8,000,000 for facilities repairs and improvements at the NCI Frederick Federally Funded Research and Development Center in Frederick, MD.

3/ Type 1 Diabetes Initiative mandatory funds provided throught P.L. 110-173 and P.L. 110-275 in FY 2009 and FY 2010, respectively, are included in NIDDK and subtracted in Type 1 Diabetes to ensure non-duplicative counting.

4/ Includes funds for transfer to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis (FY 2008 - $294,759,000; FY 2009 - $300,000,000; and FY 2010 - $300,000,000).