Funding News for Current and Future NIMH Awardees • Summer 2010 Edition
Summer 2010 Table of Contents
Inside NIMH is produced by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information about the Institute, visit our website at http://www.nimh.nih.gov. For comments and suggestions about Inside NIMH, please contact the NIMH Webmaster. The material in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and we encourage its use or reprinting.
Welcome to the summer 2010 edition of Inside NIMH. This edition of the newsletter discusses innovative and evolving trans-NIH and NIMH-specific initiatives and programs, as well as initiatives the Institute is considering for the future. In addition, we have a new column on research training and career development. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this edition.
I. Message from the NIMH Director
As we enter the final quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2010, I would like to briefly discuss a few matters related to the NIMH budget. More specific information about the FY 2010 funding strategy can be found on the NIMH website. This year we are managing two separate budgets: our regular “base” appropriation and the funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In terms of our base funding, we are on track to fund 590 new and competing research project grants, which is above the mean of the past 5 years. NIMH has been able to fund most grants in the top 15th percentile and most early stage investigators within the top 25th percentile. In addition, ARRA has provided an exciting and unique opportunity to accelerate the pace of biomedical science while stimulating the economy via infrastructure support and the creation and retention of jobs. We are also mindful of the realities of the post-ARRA budget constraints. On February 1, 2010, the FY 2011 President’s Budget Request was submitted to Congress. The FY 2011 request for NIH is $32.239 billion, an increase of $1.0 billion, or 3.2 percent above the FY 2010 level. The FY 2011 request for NIMH is $1.540 billion, an increase of $50.6 million, or 3.39 percent over the FY 2010 level. At this point, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have held hearings on the President’s budget request for NIH, but no further Congressional action has occurred. We do not know if the final appropriated budget will resemble the President’s request, nor when the appropriation will be determined. We do know that if there is a large increase in applications next year following ARRA funding, we will be challenged to maintain the current success rates.
Although we do not have an FY11 budget yet, we do have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (better known as the Health Care Reform law). This new law calls for increases in comparative effectiveness research and also for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN)—a dramatic advancement in the development of new treatments and cures by reducing barriers between laboratory discoveries and clinical trials. The NIH Director is authorized to spend $500 million per year to promote innovation in technologies supporting the advanced research and development and production of high-need cures, including the development of medical products and behavioral therapies. No funds have been appropriated specifically for CAN, as of yet.
You should also know that NIH has proposed new rules to strengthen federal oversight of financial conflict of interest. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published on May 21, 2010 outlining a more rigorous approach to investigator disclosure, management of conflict by universities, and federal oversight. I urge you to review and comment on these proposed revisions to the current financial conflict of interest Regulations, available for public comment until July 20, 2010.
There are many other initiatives that have been announced recently — including new efforts in the NIH Roadmap, the Neuroscience Blueprint, and the new behavioral and social science effort called OPP-Net. Inside NIMH will summarize these below along with a summary of our own efforts that are either launched or under consideration. But first, to continue a tradition begun in the spring 2010 edition, let’s take a look at four recently funded projects that exemplify our efforts to accelerate mental health research and to advance the NIMH Strategic Plan.
Thomas Sudhof, M.D., and his team at Stanford University are working to understand the role of neurexins—pre-synaptic cell adhesion molecules—in forming proper synaptic connections in the brain, and how changes in neurexin function might lead to subtle circuit alterations and disorders of cognition. Because previous research has linked neurexin function with both autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia, the researchers anticipate that this work will not only provide insight into how neurons communicate, but also promote our understanding of how such communication becomes dysfunctional in these two disorders.
A multi-disciplinary team at the University of California, San Francisco, including psychiatrist Owen Wolkowitz, M.D., psychologist Elissa Epel, Ph.D., and neurochemist Synthia Mellon, Ph.D., will explore the potential association between depression and a pre-mature aging process at the cellular level. The research team will examine whether young adult to middle-aged patients with histories of recurrent depression show accelerated cell aging as marked by shortening or degradation of telomeres—protective DNA-protein complexes found at the tips of chromosomes. This research is based on the work of recent Nobel Laureate, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., on telomere length and the activity of the enzyme telomerase. Dr. Blackburn is an active collaborator on the investigative team, and in a prior study, she and Dr. Epel, found a link between chronic stress and telomere shortening. This research is expected to yield new insights into the biology of depression and might spur the development of new biomarkers for the illness course and new treatments aimed at intervening with the molecular causes and consequences of the disorder.
Denis Nash, Ph.D., M.P.H., and his team at Columbia University are addressing a central challenge in global HIV/AIDS care: the timely initiation of anti-retroviral treatment (ART) among people who are living with HIV infection. Individuals who initiate treatment late are at very high risk for mortality relative to individuals who initiate treatment earlier in the course of HIV infection, as per treatment guidelines. Dr. Nash’s team aims to identify multi-level determinants of late ART initiation among patients in sub-Saharan Africa, with the ultimate goal of informing the development of interventions to increase timely ART initiation. His team will leverage existing data from more than 70,000 HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa who receive treatment through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and related initiatives. This project is responsive to the NIH Office of AIDS Research Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research, as well as the NIH Director’s new focus on global health.
Working collaboratively at Washington University in St. Louis, Joan Luby, M.D., Deanna Barch, Ph.D., and Kelly Botteron, M.D., will conduct a longitudinal neuroimaging study of developmental changes in the function and structure of ventral-prefrontal limbic cortical networks that are key to emotion processing in a unique cohort of children with and without preschool onset Major Depressive Disorder (PO-MDD). The team will examine the effects of depression severity and course, as well as key mediators/moderators assessed during early childhood, on the structure and function of prefrontal limbic emotion systems known to be altered in older children and adults with MDD. These data are critical to understanding the developmental neurobiology of MDD and to inform windows of opportunity for intervention in this chronic and treatment-resistant disorder.
This has been a time of rapid progress—these four projects are really only a sample of the science recently funded by NIMH. In 2010, we have funded two new Merit Awards (Ronald Duman, Ph.D., and Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D.) and 12 new Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) awards (Sonia Bishop, Ph.D.; Pearl Chiu, Ph.D.; Pietro Cottone, Ph.D.; Alex Dranovsky, M.D., Ph.D.; Amit Etkin, M.D., Ph.D.; Todd Gould, M.D.; Scott Langenecker, Ph.D.; Bo Li, Ph.D.; Christopher John Pittenger, M.D., Ph.D.; Michael Silverstein, M.D., M.P.H.; Nim Tottenham, Ph.D.; Zhaolan Zhou, Ph.D.). This year we funded six new Centers (Anissa Abi-Dargham, M.D.; Gerald August, Ph.D.; Jay Gingrich, M.D., Ph.D.; John Kane, M.D.; Mary McKernan McKay, Ph.D.; and, Lawrence Wissow, M.D., M.P.H. along with two Centers funded through the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Human Connectome Project initiative (Bruce Rosen, M.D., Ph.D. and David Van Essen, Ph.D.). Moreover, four scientists in our Intramural Program have received tenure (Jay Giedd, M.D., Francis McMahon, M.D., M.D., Benjamin White, Ph.D., and Carlos Zarate, M.D.). While we are seeing progress on many fronts, we are taking on new challenges as well—whether from disasters with mental health consequences, the needs of soldiers and combat veterans, or the opportunities in global mental health.
II. New Announcements about Funding Opportunities
Each week, NIH electronically distributes the NIH GUIDE, a listing of all NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), which include requests for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs), and important notices for the scientific community. Below is a selection of recently issued FOAs in which NIMH participates. The Research Funding page on the NIMH website has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources.
Note: You can subscribe to the NIMH Funding Opportunities LISTSERV to receive the latest information about RFAs and other research funding opportunities from NIMH, as well as administrative updates and changes to grant policies and procedures. You can also subscribe to a separate LISTSERV to receive weekly e-mails of the NIH GUIDE.
NIMH-Administered Requests for Applications
Seeding National Mentoring Networks to Enhance Diversity of the Mental Health Research Workforce
This FOA solicits Resource-Related Research Projects-Cooperative Agreement (U24) applications proposing 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. It is expected that the resulting infrastructure will be capable of sustaining an effective and vibrant national mentoring network. 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.
Release Date: November 13, 2009; Expiration Date: September 30, 2010
NIMH-Collaborative Requests for Applications
Pharmacokinetic Research in Pediatric HIV/TB Co-Infection
This FOA, administered by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and NIMH, encourages applications from institutions/organizations that propose to evaluate the pharmacokinetics of anti-tuberculosis (anti-TB) drugs and pharmacokinetic drug interactions between anti-TB drugs and anti-HIV medications in children with HIV/TB co-infection. Research related to the treatment of TB in the context of pediatric HIV/TB co-infection is urgently needed. This FOA will support investigator-initiated grants to define appropriate dosing of anti-TB agents in HIV-infected children and will generate knowledge leading to the optimization of management of TB/HIV co-infection in children, including the management of central nervous system (CNS) involvement with TB through the evaluation of CNS penetration of anti-TB agents in the context of antiretroviral therapy.
Release Date: March 4, 2010; Expiration Date: August 25, 2010
Methods for Prevention Packages Program (MP3 II)
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and NIMH invite applications for multidisciplinary research programs that (1) devise optimal HIV prevention “packages” (combination interventions) for specific populations; (2) perform pilot studies to demonstrate that the proposed prevention package is acceptable to the target population and the study design is appropriate and feasible; and (3) design clinical protocols to rigorously examine the safety and efficacy of these packages in the target population.
Release Date: March 18, 2010; Expiration Date: July 16, 2010
Microbicide Innovation Program (MIP VI)
The purpose of the Microbicide Innovation Program is to support novel, high-risk and under-explored strategies in the field of topical microbicides to facilitate the advancement of the field as a whole. A safe, effective, acceptable topical microbicide that prevents the sexual transmission of HIV could play a major role in world-wide reduction of the over 7,000 new HIV infections per day, potentially saving millions of lives. Topical microbicides are agents which when applied vaginally, rectally, and/or on the penis can result in inhibition of the transmission of HIV and/or other sexually transmitted infections (STI) that may be co-factors in HIV transmission and acquisition.
Release Date: April 20, 2010; Expiration Date: July 10, 2010
U.S.-India Bilateral Collaborative Research Partnerships (CRP) on the Prevention of HIV/AIDS and Co-morbidities
This FOA solicits applications from U.S.-funded institutions with an Indian-institution partner to establish Collaborative Research Partnerships (CRP) in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention or in preventing, treating, or ameliorating HIV-related co-morbidities such as malignancies, metabolic complications or opportunistic infections (OIs). The U.S.-India Bilateral CRP Program is designed to develop collaborations between scientists and institutions in the U.S. and India to conduct high quality HIV/AIDS prevention research of mutual interest and benefit to both countries while developing the basis for future institutional and individual scientific collaborations. This FOA will utilize the research capacities of the institutions and scientists in both countries to advance the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and to develop preliminary data that may support a more extensive future research proposal to test an HIV/AIDS prevention program.
Release Date: May 18, 2010; Expiration Date: August 4, 2010
NIH Common Fund Initiatives
The NIH Common Fund was enacted into law by Congress through the 2006 NIH Reform Act to support cross-cutting, trans-NIH programs that require participation by at least two NIH Institutes or Centers or would otherwise benefit from strategic planning and coordination. To date, the Common Fund has been used to support a series of short term, exceptionally high impact, trans-NIH programs known collectively as the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. As the Common Fund grows, and research opportunities and needs emerge in the scientific community, the portfolio of programs supported by the Common Fund will likely evolve to encompass a diverse set of trans-NIH programs, although the NIH Roadmap is likely to remain a central component. The following are projects co-led by NIMH:
The PAR, Solicitation of Assays for High Throughput Screening (HTS) in the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN), offers public sector biomedical researchers access to the large-scale screening capacity necessary to identify small molecules that can be optimized as chemical probes to study the functions of genes, cells, and biochemical pathways. This increased access will lead to new ways to explore the functions of genes and signaling pathways in health and disease.
Release Date: March 12, 2009; Expiration Date: January 5, 2012
Rapid Access to Interventional Development (RAID)
The NIH RAID program aims to make available, on a competitive basis, certain critical resources needed for the development of new therapeutic agents. This program uses resources of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Developmental Therapeutics Program and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI) Gene Therapy Resource Program. Depending on the stage of the project and the strength of preliminary data, available services include production, bulk supply, manufacturing that complies with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices standards, formulation, development of an assay suitable for pharmacokinetic testing, and animal toxicology. Assistance also will be provided in the regulatory process, through access to independent product development planning expertise. For more information, please contact the NIH-RAID program office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Announcing New Common Fund Programs
New research programs and funding opportunities, supported through the NIH Common Fund, are being launched in Fiscal Year 2010 to address critical needs and opportunities in a number of cross-cutting areas:
Here is an example of the funding announcements associated with these cross-cutting areas:
Assay Development for High Throughput Molecular Screening
This FOA will fund the development and adaptation of biological assays for use in molecular probe development projects employing automated high throughput molecular screening (HTS). It is expected that screening projects developed within this FOA will, upon completion, be submitted to the Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network (MLPCN) for implementation. This network has assembled a broad array of HTS capabilities which it employs to test small molecule chemical structures for interactions with biological targets. The MLPCN has exclusive access to a library of compounds assembled for this purpose, the Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository. The overall goals of the Molecular Libraries and Imaging Roadmap Initiative are to facilitate expansion of the PubChem public database of biological information about small molecule chemical structures, and the development of small molecule pharmacological tools for biological research.
Release Date: April 30, 2010; Expiration Date: October 30, 2010
NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiatives
The Neuroscience Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 16 NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices that support research on the nervous system. The Blueprint aims to develop research tools, resources, and training and to make them available to the neuroscience community. In 2009, the Blueprint Grand Challenges were launched to catalyze research with the potential to transform our basic understanding of the brain and our approaches to treating brain disorders. The Human Connectome Project (HCP) will use state-of-the-art neuroimaging technology to explore the connectivity of the healthy adult human brain. By systematically collecting brain imaging data from hundreds of subjects, the HCP will yield insight into how brain connections underlie brain function, and will open up new lines of inquiry for human neuroscience. In addition to brain imaging, the HCP will involve collection of DNA samples, demographic information and behavioral data from the subjects. Together, these data could hint at how brain connectivity is influenced by genetics and the environment, and in turn, how individual differences in brain connectivity relate to individual differences in behavior.
NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research Grand Challenge: Developing Novel Drugs for Disorders of the Nervous System
This Grand Challenge was established in response to the paucity of effective treatments for disorders of the nervous system. This program intends to develop drugs successfully through clinical Phase I and facilitate industry partnerships for their full development. The long-term goal of this Grand Challenge is to produce at least one novel and effective medication for a disorder of the nervous system that is currently poorly treated or untreatable. Most promising compounds identified through basic research are not sufficiently drug-like for human testing. Before a new chemical entity can be tested in a clinical setting, it must undergo a process of chemical optimization to improve potency, activity and drug-likeness and pre-clinical safety testing to meet the standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical testing. These activities are largely the domain of the pharmaceutical industry and contract research organizations, and the necessary expertise and resources are not commonly available to basic researchers. To address this problem, the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research is establishing a ‘virtual pharma’ network of contract service providers and consultants with extensive industry experience to enable drug development in the NIH neuroscience research community.
Release Date: May 5, 2010; Expiration Date: August 11, 2010
NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research Grand Challenge on the Transition from Acute to Chronic Neuropathic Pain
The purpose of this FOA is to encourage submission of multi-PI grant applications that propose highly collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects addressing neuropathic pain conditions. An expected outcome of this FOA will be the formation of partnerships between pain researchers and non-pain neuroscientists to develop new collaborations focused on understanding the maladaptive neuroplastic changes that occur during the transition from acute to chronic neuropathic pain. Chronic neuropathic pain conditions are difficult to treat and we currently lack an understanding of the mechanisms underlying the transition to a chronic pain state after acute nerve injury. It is hypothesized that those individuals transitioning to a chronic pain state after acute injury undergo a maladaptive neuroplastic process in contrast to those who recover from injury without chronic pain. The application of expertise, tools, and knowledge from the field of neural plasticity will bring new insights and approaches to elucidate the changes associated with onset and maintenance of pain chronicity. New knowledge garnered from these studies will enable improved diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of chronic neuropathic pain conditions.
Release Date: May 7, 2010; Expiration Date: September 30, 2010
III. Future Research Directions
National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives
This listing of potential future initiatives is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and of potential upcoming announcements to solicit that research. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing are not certain and depend on sufficient funding. The titles and brief descriptions are consistent with the information available at the time of concept clearance. The resultant FOAs may differ from the concepts in the final wording of their titles or other aspects. To send questions about a specific concept, follow the “Submit Comments” link at the bottom of the description.
Summary of NIMH-Sponsored Scientific Meetings
Research workshops and scientific meetings are some of the best forums in which to identify research gaps and to stimulate new areas of mental health research. Below is a brief description of meetings that NIMH sponsored recently. Questions about a specific meeting can be addressed by the program contact listed in the meeting description.
IV. Update on Electronic Submission of Grant Applications
Please take the time to review the major changes that are happening to NIH applications for due dates after January 25, 2010. Applications using incorrect forms or following old instructions will be delayed and may not be reviewed! To better understand the new requirements, the Enhancing Peer Review Website has a page dedicated to the application changes and has made available to you a number of resources on the Training and Communications Resources page. Here are a few important updates to bear in mind:
The Enhancing Peer Review website will continue to be updated with additional resources as they are developed. To be notified when new application packages become available, sign up on the Enhancing Peer Review LISTSERV or look out for an announcement in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts.
V. Research Training and Career Development
In this inaugural column on research training and career development, we would like to dispel the myth that NIMH no longer supports research training and career development. On the contrary, NIMH is committed to research training that prepares junior and early-to-midcareer scientists to conduct innovative research in areas of program relevance that will advance the mission of the Institute. In FY 2009, NIMH spent 8.0 percent of its total extramural research budget on training and career development programs (roughly $97 million). Success rates for individual fellowships, institutional training grants, and mentored career development awards are competitive and better than the success rates for research grants: approximately 38 percent of the mentored career development award (K01, K08, K23, K25, K99) applications were funded in FY 2009, compared to a success rate of 21.5 percent for research grants. Historical information on success rates for individual research training and career development programs may be found on the NIH Office of Extramural Research website. NIMH training officers (PDF File) are available to provide technical assistance to potential applicants for individual fellowship and career development awards. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact us early in the process of developing an application.
Future training and career development columns will focus on specific programs and initiatives, e.g. opportunities available through NIMH-supported research education (R25) programs, the Pathway to Independence program (K99/R00), or NIMH’s efforts to increase the diversity of our research workforce. We’re interested in feedback from the community; comments or suggestions related to NIMH’s support for research training and career development may be directed to NIMH_Training@mail.nih.gov.
VI. Recent NIMH News Releases
Please help us spread the word about the results of NIMH funding by acknowledging our support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications. NIMH has two primary methods of getting the word out:
All releases and updates are posted to the Science News section of the NIMH website. These are all also distributed to the public through the NIMH LISTSERV, which now has more than 20,000 subscribers.
If you have a manuscript accepted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact your NIMH program director to discuss the possibility of a news release or other forms of dissemination.
VII. Stay Connected with NIMH
In pursuit of new ways to reach our stakeholders, NIMH has leapt into the world of social media. In addition to our email newsletters and RSS updates, NIMH now offers a video series entitled, “Speaking of Science,” and YouTube videos on mental health topics. We have also entered the world of Twitter, where we highlight Science Updates, Press Releases, and other timely matters. You can even find us on Facebook! Be sure to read our Director’s Blog for insights into the latest topics in mental health research.
Check us out!