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2017 Spring Inside NIMH

Inside NIMH Spring 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

As the spring weather warms, NIMH progress and plans are heating up.

Progress and Plans

  • Professional Coalition for Research Progress Convened: NIMH convened the eighth meeting of the Professional Coalition for Research Progress on March 30, 2017. The “Coalition,” which last met in 2011, comprises a group of senior leaders and representatives from national professional organizations with an interest in NIMH research. Attendees learned about current NIMH research directions and strategies, shared the concerns and challenges of members of the organizations they represented, networked with their colleagues, and interacted directly with the NIMH Director and other senior NIMH staff. The meeting included presentations and break-out sessions on the NIMH experimental therapeutics approach to interventions, the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative, and balancing the NIMH research portfolio.
  • National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Workgroup Updates:
    • A new genomics workgroup will advise the NAMHC on future directions in psychiatric genetics and functional genomics, including how best to address the gap in knowledge between gene discovery and mechanistic models of disease. The workgroup on genomics held their first meeting on March 7, 2017. Meeting participants discussed 1) Issues of design, rigor, and replicability in human genetic studies; 2) Developing appropriate methods for data analysis and modeling; 3) Assuring efficient utilization of data collected with public funds; and 4) Biological interrogation of results from human genetics. The next genomics workgroup meeting will be held on June 19, 2017.
    • The workgroup on Opportunities and Challenges of Developing Information Technologies on Behavioral and Social Science Clinical Research is finalizing a report to be presented at the May NAMHC meeting. The report summarizes their discussions of the impact that new mHealth technologies are having on NIMH-related clinical research and includes recommendations for addressing the challenges and opportunities in this rapidly evolving research area.
    • The workgroup tasked with evaluating the proposed addition of a motor domain to the RDoC matrix is finalizing a report on their meeting proceedings and alignment of the candidate motor domain constructs with prior elements in the matrix.
  • New Limits on Grant Support Aim to Strengthen Biomedical Workforce and Stewardship: On May 2, 2017, NIH announced a new approach to limit the total NIH grant support provided to an individual principal investigator through NIH-supported research. The approach aims to optimize stewardship of taxpayer dollars by implementing a measure, called the Grant Support Index (GSI). The GSI is a measure of grant support that does not solely focus on money, since different types of science have varying costs. For more information on the implementation of the GSI, see the recent Open Mike blog by Michael Lauer, M.D., Deputy Director for Extramural Research.
  • New HHS Secretary’s First Official Visit to NIH: New HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., visited the NIH on February 21, 2017. After touring the NIH Clinical Center, Secretary Price tweeted “The @NIH is doing incredible work to improve lives, turning discovery into health. Thank you @NIHDirector and team for the warm welcome.” On March 29, 2017, at a House Appropriations Subcommittee Budget Hearing, Secretary Price stated, “The administration plans on continued investment in high priority mental health issues including suicide prevention, serious mental illness, and children's mental health.”

Budget Overview

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Budget: On May 5, 2017, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (Public Law No. 115-31) providing funds through September 30, 2017. The amount provided to NIMH, $1.602 billion, represents a 3.5 percent increase over the FY 2016 appropriation.

    NIMH anticipates awarding more than 600 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2017, with an estimated success rate of 23 percent, as can be seen in Figure 1 below.

As in past years, NIMH expects to support at least 75 percent of the applications up to the 20th percentile. Moreover, the Institute will give special consideration to applications from Early Stage Investigators. With the exception of specific programmatic adjustments, NIMH will fully fund modular and non-modular grant awards. Future year commitments for modular grant awards are expected to remain consistent with the FY 2017 awarded amount. Non-competing continuation awards from FY 2017 will be made at the committed level, and out-year commitments for continuation awards in FY 2018 and beyond will remain unchanged.

Figure 2 below shows the NIMH budget in appropriated (current) versus constant (FY 2000) dollars. Constant dollars are “inflation adjusted” for variations in the purchasing power of the dollar over time. Dollar amounts are adjusted based on the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index (BRDPI). The annual change in BRDPI indicates how much the NIH budget must change to maintain purchasing power similar to FY 2000.

  • Outlook for FY 2018: In May 2017, the President submitted an outline for his FY 2018 budget request to Congress. The request for NIH is $25.9 billion, a decrease of $8.2 billion from the current FY 2017 level. The President's full budget is planned to be released in late May. Congress will likely then begin work on the Labor/HHS/Education FY 2018 appropriations bill, which contains the NIH appropriation.

NIMH Staff News and Awards

  • NIMH Staff Awards:

    Distinguished Service Award, Society of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
    • Jeymohan Joseph, Ph.D., Division of AIDS Research

  • We are saddened to announce the passing of one of our former NIMH colleagues:

    Martin M. Katz, Ph.D., was a pioneer of psychopharmacology and a key player in NIMH’s history of mental health research. Dr. Katz served as the Chief of the NIMH Clinical Research Branch from 1968 to 1978 and devoted his career to studying the action of antidepressants in clinical populations and the theoretical understanding of their mechanisms of action. Dr. Katz came to the NIH in the late 1950’s to help start the psychopharmacology program, and is credited for helping to develop a behavioral methodology to study the effects of new antidepressant drugs. In 2016, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology named Dr. Katz the winner of the 2016 Paul Hoch Distinguished Service Award for actively contributing to the college for more than 50 years.