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2017 Autumn Inside NIMH

Inside NIMH Autumn Edition


Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH! We publish Inside NIMH in conjunction with each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Director of NIMH on all policies and activities relating to the conduct and support of mental health research, research training, and other programs of the Institute. In addition, check out our website for regular updates on timely topics at NIMH. I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on this edition.


Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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I. NIMH Director’s Updates

New and Newsworthy

  • NIH Leadership News:
    • On June 6, 2017, President Trump announced his selection of Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., to continue as Director of NIH. Dr. Collins has led NIH, the world’s largest supporter of biomedical research, since his initial appointment in August, 2009. He previously served as Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH from 1993-2008. Dr. Collins led the International Human Genome Project and made landmark discoveries of disease genes.
    • On June 9, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to appoint Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., as the new director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Dr. Sharpless is Director of the NCI-designated Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, and studies the cell cycle and its role in cancer and aging.
    • In October 2017, Josie Briggs, M.D., will retire from her position as Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), after 20 years of service to NIH. Dr. Briggs joined NIH in 1997 as Director of the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and became Director of NCCIH in 2008. The current NCCIH Deputy Director, David Shurtleff, Ph.D., will serve as Acting Director.
  • New Policies and Initiatives:
    • Changes to NIMH R21 Applications: NIMH continues to fully support applications for  exploratory/developmental research grants (R21s), but is changing how they are accepted (NOT-MH-17-040). Effective January 9, 2018, NIMH will no longer accept applications in response to the NIH Parent R21 funding opportunity announcement (FOA; PA-16-161). NIMH plans to issue new R21 FOAs in the coming months. For a listing of our currently supported R21 FOAs, see the NIMH Funding Opportunities webpage or the NIH Guide to Grants and Contracts. You can also subscribe to the NIH Guide or to the NIMH Funding Opportunities ListServ for notifications of new announcements, as well as administrative updates and changes to grant policies and procedures. For more information see the NIMH R21 FOAs page.
    • Next Generation Researchers Initiative: The 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in December, 2016, instructs NIH to promote policies that encourage researchers to gain earlier independence. At the Advisory Committee to the Director meeting on June 8, 2017, NIH launched the Next Generation Researchers Initiative to enhance stewardship of research dollars and strengthen the biomedical research workforce. This initiative bolsters support for early-stage and mid-career investigators to address longstanding challenges faced by these investigators trying to launch and sustain independent research careers (NOT-OD-17-101).
    • NIH Clinical Trial Definition and New Requirements: The NIH definition of a clinical trial was revised in 2014, in anticipation of stewardship reforms for clinical trials that will go into effect for competing grant applications and contract proposals received January 25, 2018 and beyond. The definition broadens the scope of applications that will now be labeled as clinical trials. NIH will continue to provide guidance to help researchers understand new clinical trials requirements for grants and contracts, including specific funding opportunities, the new Human Subjects and Clinical Trial form, and requirements for registration and reporting.
    • Updated Policy for Certificates of Confidentiality: NIH is updating its policy for issuing certificates of confidentiality. Certificates ensure the privacy of research participants, and the policy applies to all NIH-funded research that involves the collection or use of identifiable, sensitive information about human subjects. Effective October 1, 2017, NIH will automatically provide certificates to any NIH -funded recipients conducting research applicable to this policy (NOT-OD-17-109).
    • NIH Single Institutional Review Board (IRB) Policy for Multisite Clinical Research: In a recent commentary, Dr. Collins and Carrie Wolinetz, Ph.D., Associate Director for Science Policy, NIH, explain how NIH’s single IRB policy for multisite clinical research is complementary to the final Common Rule. A single IRB review for multi-site studies conducting the same protocol will help streamline the process by eliminating repetition of IRB reviews across sites. The single IRB policy goes into effect on January 25, 2018.
  • Updates on Large NIH Longitudinal Studies:
    • All of Us Research Program: On June 5, 2017, the NIH All of Us Research Program announced beta testing of its protocols and platforms. The beta phase will include 10,000 to 15,000 participants to inform engagement with diverse communities and improve systems before NIH launches this program nationally. The All of Us Research Program aims to ultimately include one million or more research participants. In addition, on July 25, 2017, the Program announced its first community partner awards.
    • Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study: The NIH ABCD study, the largest longitudinal study of brain development and child health in the U.S., released its first Fast Track Data on the NIMH Data Archive. The inaugural data release contains unprocessed neuroimaging data and demographics from participants aged 9-10. Qualified researchers may request access through the NIMH Data Archive.
  • Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Updates: The IACC met on July 26, 2017 and reviewed the draft IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), scheduled for publication in Autumn 2017. The updated Strategic Plan includes new objectives for ASD research and service activities, and provides guidance to federal agencies and private partner organizations. For updates on the IACC and autism activities across the community, sign up to receive the new e-newsletter from the NIMH Office of Autism Research Coordination.
  • National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Workgroup Updates:
    • The NAMHC workgroup on Opportunities and Challenges of Developing Information Technologies on Behavioral and Social Science Clinical Research published a report summarizing workgroup discussions and recommendations. The report highlights advances in the field of digital health technology for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illnesses, and provides a framework of how these technologies can enable more rapid and nimble research.
    • The NAMHC genomics workgroup, charged with advising the NAMHC on future directions in psychiatric genetics and functional genomics, held its second meeting on June 19, 2017. The workgroup is currently drafting a report.

Budget Overview

  • FY 2017 Budget: We currently anticipate awarding approximately 565 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2017.  The projected success rate for competing RPGs in FY 2017 is 21%, a decrease from the FY 2016 success rate of 23%.  The projected success rate for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) is 28%, which is an increase from the FY 2016 success rate of 24%.  We anticipate funding a total of 93 new Principal Investigators (PIs) in FY 2017, which is consistent with the number of new PIs we funded in FY 2016.

  • Outlook for FY 2018: FY 2018 will begin under a continuing resolution (CR). As in the past, while operating under a CR, non-competing grants will be awarded at levels below committed amounts, likely at 90%. As in previous years when operating under a CR, the commitment level for NIMH grants will be determined after we receive a full-year appropriation for FY 2018.

NIMH Staff News and Awards

  • Pamela Collins, M.D., M.P.H, transitioned from her position as inaugural Director of the NIMH Office of Research on Disparities and Global Mental Health (ORDGMH) to join the University of Washington as Director of Global Mental Health Research. During her eight-year tenure at NIMH, Dr. Collins spearheaded NIMH research priorities to increase mental health equity in the United States and abroad. Dr. Collins and her team initiated NIMH research and training efforts in global, women’s, and rural mental health research.
  • Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., was named Acting Director of ORDGMH. Dr. Beckel-Mitchener has served in several leadership capacities at NIH, including Chief of the Functional Neurogenomics Program in the NIMH Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science, Coordinator of the NIH Single Cell Analysis Program, and co-lead of the Cells and Circuits Team for the NIH Brain Research to Advance Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. 
  • Judith L. Rapoport, M.D., retired from the Division of Intramural Research Programs (IRP) faculty in July 2017 after 41 years of service and continues in the IRP as Scientist Emeritus. Dr. Rapoport was Chief of the Child Psychiatry Branch in the NIMH IRP. She applied a variety of methods to study psychiatric disorders in children, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and childhood onset schizophrenia.
  • We are sad to announce the passing of two remarkable colleagues.
    • Howard Eichenbaum, Ph.D., passed away on July 21, 2017. Dr. Eichenbaum served on the NAMHC from 2009-2012, and was Director of Boston University’s Center for Memory and Brain and the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurobiology. Dr. Eichenbaum studied the neuropsychology of memory in animals and the characterization of memory coding properties of neurons.
    • Larry Seidman, Ph.D., passed away recently and unexpectedly while attending a meeting on data harmonization in community clinics for first-episode psychosis. A long time NIMH grantee, Dr. Seidman worked as a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was known for his influential work on the characterization of underlying neuropsychological deficits and assessment of genetic and perinatal risk factors for schizophrenia and co-occurring disorders.