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Director’s Report to the National Advisory Mental Health Council - September 24, 2009


I am pleased to welcome members of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) and other participants and guests to our 223rd Council meeting.  The months since our May Council meeting have been a busy time for everyone at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and for our Council members.  In addition to fiscal year (FY) 2009 coming to an end, a huge amount of work has gone into activities related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  I will now take a few minutes to share new opportunities that will be supported with ARRA funds, and to discuss important NIH-wide and NIMH updates.

ARRA Update


ARRA included an allocation of $10.4 billion in funds to the NIH, $366 million of which has come directly to NIMH.  The total committed funds to date are $349 million.  This infusion of money represents a unique opportunity to stimulate the economy by creating and preserving jobs, while advancing biomedical research.  Additionally, ARRA funds will help jumpstart the research objectives laid out in the NIMH Strategic Plan, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Strategic Plan for Research, and the NIH AIDS Strategic Plan.  The NIH Office of the Director contributed an additional $42.7 million to fund NIMH ARRA projects.

FY2009 and FY2010 committed funds *
*approximate NIMH dollars as of 9/23/09
ARRA Dollars
Challenge 64.8 million
Grand Opportunities 102.2 million
Faculty Recruitment 11.1 million
Army STARRS Supplement 10.0 million
Supplements 20.6 million
Autism RFA 37.6 million
Expansion of the Payline 72.6 million
Other RPGs 24.1 million

NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research

As part of ARRA, NIH developed a new initiative called the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science Research.  The NIH Office of the Director committed $200 million to fund 200 applications, with additional Challenge Grant applications funded by individual Institutes and Centers (ICs).  Many of the 15 broad Challenge Areas have relevance for research priorities identified in the NIMH Strategic Plan.  NIMH was assigned 880 of the approximately 20,000 challenge grant applications. Of these, NIMH will pay more than 65 and administer 10 more that will be paid from the NIH Common fund.

Grand Opportunities

The purpose of the NIH Research and Research Infrastructure Grand Opportunities (GO) program is to support high impact ideas that lend themselves to short-term, non-renewable funding, and may lay the foundation for new fields of investigation.  The program will support large-scale research projects at U.S. institutions that accelerate critical breakthroughs; early and applied research on cutting-edge technologies; and new approaches to improve the synergy among multi- and interdisciplinary research teams.  The NIMH outlined three topic areas for GO applications, each of which supports objectives laid out in the NIMH Strategic Plan:

  • Genomic Profiling of Mental Disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental Genomics: Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes
  • Transcriptional Atlas of Human Brain Development

New Faculty Recruitment (P30)

ARRA funding will also support eight institutional awards that provide funding to hire, provide appropriate start-up packages, and develop pilot research projects for newly independent investigators. The goal is to augment the institution’s community of multidisciplinary researchers focusing on areas of biomedical research relevant to NIMH.

ARMY Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service members (STARRS) Supplement

NIMH will jumpstart an important and timely study of suicide and mental health among military personnel with $10 million in NIMH ARRA funds.  With an additional $50 million in funding from the U.S. Army, an interdisciplinary team of four research institutions will carry out the largest study of suicide and mental health among military personnel ever undertaken.  Study investigators will move quickly to identify risk and protective factors for suicide among soldiers and provide a science base for effective and practical interventions to reduce suicide rates and address associated mental health problems. 

Administrative Supplements and Competitive Revisions

These ARRA awards to current NIMH grants will promote job creation and economic development while accelerating the tempo of scientific research.

Research to Address the Heterogeneity in Autism Spectrum Disorders Request for Applications (RFA)

ARRA funds in excess of $60 million will support research to address the heterogeneity in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) with approximately 60 awards by five ICs (NIMH, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences). These awards will allow for research within every major area of the IACC Strategic Plan for Research. 

Recovery After an Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE)

RAISE is a model example of how money from the Recovery Act can accelerate science related to public health problems and potentially benefit those citizens most in need.  This large-scale research project will explore whether using early and aggressive treatment, individually targeted and integrating a variety of different therapeutic approaches, will reduce the symptoms and prevent the gradual deterioration of functioning that is characteristic of chronic schizophrenia. RAISE is being funded by NIMH with additional support from ARRA. Contracts have been awarded to two research groups who will work in parallel to develop and test potential intervention approaches.

Expansion of the NIMH Payline

NIMH has committed approximately $60 million in ARRA funds to pay applications that have already scored well in peer review, but were beyond our ability to pay.  ARRA funds are limited to two years, therefore applications requesting more than two years of funding require modification before they are able to be paid with ARRA funds.

NIH-wide Updates

Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is appointed Director of NIH

On Monday, August 17, 2009, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., was sworn in as the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Collins was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate.  Dr. Collins is well known at the NIH and at NIMH.  He previously served as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) from 1993-2008. During this time, he visited the NIMH NAMHC meetings in 2005 and 2008.  Dr. Collins will lead more than 19,000 employees and oversee an annual budget of over $30 billion.

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.

For 2010, the Neuroscience Blueprint Team is developing Grand Challenges, including the Human Connectome Project (HCP).  The goal of this five-year project is to develop and share knowledge about the structural and functional connectivity of the human brain. The HCP RFA  was issued July 15, 2009; applications will be submitted November 24, 2009; and an award is expected to be made in the summer of 2010. Michael Huerta, Ph.D., of NIMH will serve as the Team Leader of this project.

NIH Roadmap:  Transformative R01s

The Transformative R01  (T-R01 RFA-RM-08-029) program was created to support exceptionally innovative, high risk, original and/or unconventional research projects that have the potential to profoundly impact a broad area of biomedical or behavioral research. To facilitate review and administration of this research, the T-R01 program will pilot novel approaches to peer review and program management.  Successful applications will be funded through the NIH Common Fund and administered by the NIH Institute that oversees the particular programmatic area covered by the application.

NIH Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research

On March 9, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13505 Removing Barriers to Responsible Research Involving Human Stem Cells.  As a result, NIH published guidelines for human stem cell research that became effective on July 7, 2009.  The guidelines dictate that all human embryonic stem cell research supported by NIH must:

  • be derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization for reproductive purposes and no longer needed for that purpose, and
  • be donated by individuals who sought reproductive treatment and who gave voluntary, written consent for human embryos to be used for research purposes. 

The complete guidelines are available online  .

Enhancing Peer Review Update

Following an agency-wide review of the NIH peer review system, NIH has developed the following timeline for implementing enhancements to the peer review system.  January and March 2009 changes have already gone into effect, with changes to application structure becoming effective for January 2010 receipt dates.

  • January 2009 application receipt dates:
    • Early Stage Investigators (ESI) and New Investigators (NI) will be noted and given special funding consideration
    • After this date, only a single amendment to an application can be submitted
  • May 2009 review meetings:
    • Review will be based on specified criteria
    • Scores for each criterion and the overall score will be on a nine-point scale
  • January 2010 receipt dates:
    • Applications will be shorter
    • Application forms will be restructured to align with the review criteria

NIMH Updates

New Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs)

ARRA funding provided an exciting opportunity to initiate many short term projects (2 years) and large projects (GO awards) 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 through the development of funding initiatives, among other activities.  This includes the following FOA:

  • Identification and Characterization of Sensitive Periods for Neurodevelopment in Studies of Mental Illness (RFA-MH-10-010 for R01, and RFA-MH-10-011 for R21 applications)
    These RFAs solicit research grant applications to investigate the role of sensitive periods (i.e., periods during which the developing brain is maximally sensitive to environmental influences that confer risk or resilience) in the development of cognitive or affective function and behaviors relevant to mental health disorders.  In particular, applications may address sensitive periods in the development of normal function or psychopathology, sensitive periods for intervention to prevent, pre-empt, and/or treat mental illness, and the mechanisms underlying the interaction between genetics, experience, and development. 

Office of Constituency Relations and Public Liaison

  • NIMH Alliance for Research Progress (July 31, 2009, Summer Meeting)
    The Alliance is a group of leaders from patient and family-related advocacy organizations directly concerned with mental illnesses. NIMH brings this group together twice a year to provide Alliance members with the opportunity to learn about scientific advances in mental health research, to discuss important information related to changes in the field, and to engage in day-long direct dialogue with NIMH leadership through which they provide crucial input and feedback for NIMH.  In addition to Dr. Insel’s research update, members heard a presentation focused on health care reform and comparative effectiveness research from Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at The Brookings Institution and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.  Joanne Silberner, M.A., correspondent at the health policy desk at National Public Radio, talked with Alliance members about interacting with the news media to disseminate health information.  Finally, grantee, E. Jane Costello, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Developmental Epidemiology at Duke University School of Medicine, talked to Alliance members about prevention research and her work on The Institute of Medicine report titled, “Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders in Young People.”
  • NIMH Outreach Partnership Program (OPP) Adds Partners to serve Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico
    Outreach Partners work to increase public awareness of the critical role research plays in expanding the understanding, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Each Partner conducts a statewide mental health outreach and education program to deliver science-based messages to the public, a broad range of health professionals, and traditionally underserved populations. Partners also collaborate with universities and other research institutions to increase opportunities for volunteer participation in NIMH and NIH sponsored clinical studies.
    • Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Council, in Pennsylvania, is a community-based education and support organization dedicated to preventing suicide, reducing the stigma associated with suicide, and supporting individuals affected by depression or by the loss of a loved one to suicide. 
    • Institute for Psychological Research at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, stems from 20 years of collaboration by a group of researchers engaged in research, training and development at the University of Puerto Rico.  Their mission is to generate and disseminate knowledge in the areas of treatment, prevention models and services for mental health problems, HIV / AIDS, and other conditions that adversely affect the health and welfare of people, such as violence and substance abuse. 

NIMH HIV/AIDS Brainstorming Summit

On September 20th and 21st, NIMH held a brainstorming summit of thought leaders to discuss how NIMH-funded research can best reduce the incidence and spread of HIV/AIDS. This brainstorming summit was motivated by the reality that after 20 years of research and many successes, the overall incidence of HIV does not seem to be decreasing, making it imperative to find new approaches.  Experts included scientific leaders already involved in HIV/AIDS research, as well as leaders from potentially relevant fields (such as cognitive science and behavior change) but not yet involved in the HIV/AIDS field. The group was chaired by James Curran, M.D., M.P.H., Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. The ultimate goal of the summit was to gather suggestions for new research opportunities and directions that will positively impact the current HIV/AIDS epidemic.

NIMH sought a range of new ideas from participants, such as their vision for new targets for robust behavioral interventions and ways to ensure widespread uptake of effective ones in the community. Participants shared their thoughts on how NIMH could optimally invest its research resources to rapidly achieve improved HIV/AIDS public health outcomes.  Going forward, NIMH intends to focus its Division of AIDS and Health and Behavior Research specifically on AIDS and new directions, moving its portfolio on health and behavior research (including co-morbidity of mental and medical disorders, adherence, and stigma) to other divisions with related interests.

Major Awards for NIMH Staff

  • Ellen Stover, Ph.D., of NIMH’s Center for Mental Health Research on AIDS received the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Presidential Citation at the Annual APA Convention in Toronto, Canada August 6, 2009.
  • Farris Tuma, Sc.D., M.H.S., of NIMH’s Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR), Traumatic Stress Disorders Research Program, received the 2009 APA “Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Trauma Psychology” at the Annual APA Convention in Toronto, Canada August 7, 2009.
  • Daniel Weinberger, M.D., of the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Program (IRP), received the Zulch Prize from the Max Planck Society in Germany.  The Zulch Prize recognizes outstanding achievements in basic neurological research.

Staff Changes


  • Bruce N. Cuthbert, Ph.D., joined NIMH as Director of DATR.  A former extramural staff member at NIMH from 1998 to 2005, Dr. Cuthbert served as Chief of the Emotion Process Program, Acting Chief of the Biobehavioral Regulation Program, and Chief of the Adult Psychopathology and Prevention Research Branch. For the last four years Dr. Cuthbert has been a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Minnesota. This August, NIMH called upon him to take on the coordination of our Research Domain Criteria project, an initiative to develop research-based criteria for studying mental disorders. 
  • Stacia R. Friedman-Hill, Ph.D., joined NIMH in September 2009 as the new Program Officer for the Mechanisms of Cognitive Dysfunction Program in the Neurobehavioral Mechanisms of Mental Disorders Branch of the Division of Developmental Translational Research (DDTR).  Dr. Friedman-Hill received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Davis, in 1999.  Most recently, she has been the Program Director for the Cognitive Neuroscience Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Panel Leader for the joint NIH-NSF program for Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience. 
  • Alice H. Luo Clayton, Ph.D., joined DDTR in September 2009 as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Fellow.  Before coming to DDTR Dr. Luo Clayton was an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the Behavioral Neuroscience Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Patrick Bender, Ph.D., joined the Genomics Research Branch of the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS) as a contract Health Science Administrator to provide programmatic support for ARRA and related programs in June 2009.  Before taking this position, Dr. Bender was faculty at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research where he served as the Director of the Molecular Biology research and production facilities, and as the contract Principal Investigator on the National Cancer Institute Breast Cancer Family Registry. 
  • Enrique Michelotti, Ph.D., joined the NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries Program Probe Production Centers Network to oversee small molecule probe development for more than 100 biological or phenotypic assays implemented by the network of Centers each year.  Before joining the NIH, Dr. Michelotti was Director of Chemistry at Locus Pharmaceuticals, where he was responsible for Medicinal Chemistry, Analytical and Compound Management. 
  • Erica Rosemond, Ph.D., joined the Office of Research Training and Career Development and DNBBS as a contract Program Manager.  She joins NIMH from a postdoctoral position in Dr. Jurgen Wess’ Intramural Research program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  • Sherry Molock, Ph.D.,M.Div., began a fellowship at NIMH in September under the auspices of the AAAS. Dr. Molock, whose interests include cultural factors in suicidal behaviors in adolescents and adults, was previously an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at George Washington University. Dr. Molock will focus on Strategic Objective 4.0 in NIMH's Strategic Plan: increasing the public health impact of research.
  • Bruno Averbeck, Ph.D., joined the IRP as a Tenure Track Investigator in August.  Dr. Averbeck’s single-unit recordings in monkeys focus on understanding the role of frontal-striatal circuits in cognition and motor control, and the impact of tonic dopamine levels on the computational properties of these circuits.  His research interests also include developing pharmacological models of schizophrenia in awake monkeys and understanding cognitive deficits in patients with schizophrenia.
  • Vicki Dobbins accepted the position of the Associate Director for Intramural Research Administration, effective July 5, 2009.  She replaces Mrs. Barbara Vermillion who retired recently.  Ms. Dobbins was previously the Chief, Administrative Services Branch, IRP, NIMH, and brings thorough expertise and knowledge of administrative rules, policies, and procedures in the analysis and development of options to further the NIMH IRP goals and objectives.


  • Rajni Agarwal, M.A., accepted a position with the NIMH OPP/OCRPL in July. Previously, Ms. Agarwal worked with the DATR Traumatic Stress Disorders Research Program and the IRP Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Program of NIMH.
  •  James Churchill, Ph.D., accepted the position of Director of Research Training and Career Development in DDTR in June 2009.  Since coming to NIMH in 2007, many people know Dr. Churchill from the effective roles he has played as Program Officer in the DNBBS training office and on the NIMH training team. 
  • Donna Mayo, Ph.D., moved to the Division of Extramural Activities, where she will be involved in Extramural Policy.
  • Peter Muehrer, Ph.D., moved to the Adult Psychopathology and Psychosocial Intervention Research Branch of DATR, where he will be involved in mood and sleep disorders programs.
  • Emeline Otey, Ph.D., moved to the Division of Services and Intervention Research, where she will oversee fellowship and ethics programs.
  • Michele Pearson joined DDTR as a Program Analyst in September 2009.  She was the recipient of an Intramural Research Training Award through the Laboratory of Neurosciences in the National Institute on Aging.


  • Charles Sanislow, Ph.D., left NIMH on July 31 to take a position as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
  • William Riley, Ph.D., left NIMH to take a position at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

NAMHC Changes

Departing members of Council

  • Glorisa Canino, Ph.D.
  • Norwood Knight-Richardson, M.D., M.B.A.
  • Pat Levitt, Ph.D.

Budget Information

National Institute of Mental Health FY 2010 House Mark and Senate Mark

(Dollars in Thousands)

Table 1 of 2

  FY 2009

FY 2010

President's Budget
FY 2010

House Full Mark
$ Change

FY 2010 House Full Mark to FY 2009
% Change

FY 2010 House Full Mark to FY 2009
$ Change

FY 2010 House Full Mark to Fy 2010 PB
IC Total Total Total Total Total Total
NCI $4,968,973 $5,150,170 $5,150,170 $181,197 3.6% $0
NHLBI $3,015,689 $3,050,356 $3,123,403 $107,714 3.6% $73,047
NIDCR $402,652 $408,037 $417,032 $14,380 3.6% $8,995
NIDDK 1/ $1,761,338 $1,781,494 $1,824,251 $62,913 3.6% $42,757
NINDS $1,593,344 $1,612,745 $1,650,253 $56,909 3.6% $37,508
NIAID 2/ $4,702,572 $4,760,295 $4,859,502 $156,930 3.3% $99,207
NIGMS $1,997,801 $2,023,677 $2,069,156 $71,355 3.6% $45,479
NICHD $1,294,894 $1,313,674 $1,341,120 $46,226 3.6% $27,446
NEI $688,480 $695,789 $713,072 $24,592 3.6% $17,283
$662,820 $684,257 $695,497 $32,677 4.9% $11,240
NIA $1,080,796 $1,093,143 $1,119,404 $38,608 3.6% $26,261
NIAMS $524,872 $530,825 $543,621 $18,749 3.6% $12,796
NIDCD $407,259 $413,026 $422,308 $15,049 3.7% $9,282
NIMH $1,450,491 $1,474,676 $1,502,266 $51,775 3.6% $27,590
NIDA $1,032,759 $1,045,384 $1,069,583 $36,824 3.6% $24,199
NIAAA $450,230 $455,149 $466,308 $16,078 3.6% $11,159
$141,879 $143,749 $146,945 $5,066 3.6% $3,196
NHGRI $502,367 $509,594 $520,311 $17,944 3.6% $10,717
NIBIB $308,208 $312,687 $319,217 $11,009 3.6% $6,530
NCRR $1,226,263 $1,252,044 $1,280,031 $53,768 4.4% $27,987
NCCAM $125,471 $127,241 $129,953 $4,482 3.6% $2,712
NCMHD $205,959 $208,844 $213,316 $7,357 3.6% $4,472
FIC $68,691 $69,227 $70,780 $2,089 3.0% $1,553
NLM $330,771 $334,347 $342,585 $11,814 3.6% $8,238
OD $1,246,864 $1,182,777 $1,168,704 -$78,160 -6.3% -$14,073
B&F $125,581 $125,581 $100,000 -$25,581 -20.4% -$25,581
Total, Labor/HHS Program Level $30,317,024 $30,758,788 $31,258,788 $941,764 3.1% $500,000

1/ Excludes Type 1 Diabetes mandatory budget authority in all years.

2/ Includes $300.000 Million for Global AIDS in all years.

Table 2 of 2

  FY 2010

Senate Full Mark
$ Change

FY 2010 Senate Full Mark to FY 2009
% Change

FY 2010 Senate Full Mark to FY 2009
$ Change

FY 2010 Senate Full Mark to FY 2010 PB
% Change

FY 2010 Senate Full Mark to FY 2010pb
IC Total Total Total Total Total
NCI $5,054,099 $85,126 1.7% -$96,071 -1.9%
NHLBI $3,066,827 $51,138 1.7% $16,471 0.5%
NIDCR $409,241 $6,589 1.6% $1,204 0.3%
NIDDK 1/ $1,790,518 $29,180 1.7% $9,024 0.5%
NINDS $1,620,494 $27,150 1.7% $7,749 0.5%
NIAID 2/ $4,777,457 $74,885 1.6% $17,162 0.4%
NIGMS $2,031,886 $34,085 1.7% $8,209 0.4%
NICHD $1,316,822 $21,928 1.7% $3,148 0.2%
NEI $700,158 $11,678 1.7% $4,369 0.6%
$683,149 $20,329 3.1% -$1,108 -0.2%
NIA $1,099,409 $18,613 1.7% $6,266 0.6%
NIAMS $533,831 $8,959 1.7% $3,006 0.6%
NIDCD $414,755 $7,496 1.8% $1,729 0.4%
NIMH $1,475,190 $24,699 1.7% $514 0.0%
NIDA $1,050,091 $17,332 1.7% $4,707 0.5%
NIAAA $457,887 $7,657 1.7% $2,738 0.6%
$144,262 $2,383 1.7% $513 0.4%
NHGRI $511,007 $8,640 1.7% $1,413 0.3%
NIBIB $313,496 $5,288 1.7% $809 0.3%
NCRR $1,256,926 $30,663 2.5% $4,882 0.4%
NCCAM $127,591 $2,120 1.7% $350 0.3%
NCMHD $209,508 $3,549 1.7% $664 0.3%
FIC $69,409 $718 1.0% $182 0.3%
NLM $336,417 $5,646 1.7% $2,070 0.6%
OD $1,182,777 -$64,087 -5.1% --- 0.0%
B&F $125,581 --- 0.0% --- 0.0%
Total, Labor/HHS Program Level $30,758,788 $441,764 1.5% --- 0.0%

1/ Excludes Type 1 Diabetes mandatory budget authority in all years.

2/ Includes $300.000 Million for Global AIDS in all years.