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2018 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.

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 leaves take to the air, news at NIMH is falling all around. NIMH is striving to increase public awareness about suicide prevention, working to revise its structure to better align with its mission, sharing updates on NIH-wide initiatives and policies, and much more.

News to Know

  • Suicide Prevention Awareness: September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, shedding light on a tremendously important, yet often avoided, public health issue. Suicide rates are on the rise, claiming the lives of more than 40,000 people in the U.S. each year. NIMH is working to increase public awareness by posting social media messages across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn to promote educational suicide prevention resources and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, NIMH is reaffirming the critical importance of suicide prevention research as a top Institute priority. As highlighted in several NIMH Director’s Messages, NIMH Science News articles, and general media items, NIMH’s robust suicide prevention research portfolio requires collaboration, big data, specialized approaches for particular at-risk groups, and more. To foster innovation and speed progress, the Institute also prioritizes suicide prevention research consortia, teams, and meetings. Moving forward, NIMH will maintain steadfast commitment to its collaborative national research agenda for suicide prevention, designed to mobilize the scientific community to systematically address suicide prevention.
  • Aligning NIMH Mission and Structure: Based on input from a variety of key stakeholders, NIMH is working to optimize its structure to advance the ambitious mission of the NIMH. Across existing Divisions and Offices, principle changes include: distributing the genomics and global mental health portfolios into existing Divisions; enhancing the focus on mental health disparities; adopting a more team-based approach; establishing short-term workgroups; enhancing scientific and operational support; strengthening intramural-extramural interactions; and, addressing operational processes. The restructuring will be phased in during the coming months and program officers will notify grantees.
  • Report of the NAMHC Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Changes to the Matrix (CMAT) Workgroup: The NAMHC RDoC CMAT workgroup is charged with developing a standardized format for submitting suggested revisions to the RDoC matrix, evaluating proposed changes, and making final recommendations to the NAMHC. The workgroup proposed adding a Sensorimotor Domain to the RDoC matrix, aimed at delineating the relationship between motor symptoms and mental health. On September 20, 2018, the workgroup presented a report on the proposed changes to the NAMHC. This workgroup report will soon be available to the public. A forthcoming NIH Guide Notice will clarify NIMH interest in basic sensorimotor research.
  • Announcements from the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC): On September 27, 2018, the IACC will host a workshop, Addressing the Health Needs of People on the Autism Spectrum, to discuss health epidemiology, patient-provider interactions, and co-occurring health conditions that affect individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The next IACC full committee meeting will be held on October 17, 2018. The workshop and meeting will be open to the public.
  • NIH Leadership News:
    • NIH named Helene Langevin, M.D., Ph.D., as Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Dr. Langevin comes to NIH from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. She has served as director of the Osher Center and professor-in-residence of medicine at Harvard Medical School since 2012.
    • NIH announced the selection of Bruce J. Tromberg, Ph.D., as Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). Dr. Tromberg is currently a professor at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), with appointments in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Surgery. He is also director of UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic. Dr. Tromberg is expected to join NIBIB in 2019.
    • On August 31, 2018, Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N, retired as Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), a position she held for more than 23 years. During her tenure at NIH, Dr. Grady also served as the Deputy Director of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and Acting Director of NINDS. NIH is conducting a national search for a new Director of NINR. The Scientific Director and Acting Deputy Director of NINR, Ann Cashion, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N, is serving as Acting Director.
  • Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative
    • NIH Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group: The ACD BRAIN Initiative Working Group met on August 24, 2018 to discuss the state of human neuroscience. Experts discussed neural recording and stimulation; functional imaging; brain connectivity; and translating research from mouse to human. A video recording of the meeting is available to the public. The next meeting of the ACD Working Group on the BRAIN Initiative will be held on September 21, 2018.
    • NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network: The BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) released its first large data set. The release includes molecular profiling data for over 1.3 million individual cells from the mouse brain. Datasets include snRNA-Seq, scRNA-Seq, snATAC-seq, snmC-Seq. The BICCN has also completed molecular profiling on 800,000 human cells and is working through the data release approval pipeline. 
  • NIH Publishes Updates on Large Studies: In 2018, NIH published updates on some of NIH’s largest initiatives. A cover article in the Journal of Neuroscience detailed the state of the BRAIN Initiative, summarizing past efforts and providing a vision for the future. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience devoted a special issue to the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, highlighting multiple components of the Study. A viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association described the purpose and plans for the Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative designed to stem the opioid epidemic. These resources provide readers with the NIH perspective on large cohort studies with potential for high impact in the era of big science.
  • NIH Policy Updates:
    • Biomedical Research Integrity: On August 23, 2018, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, issued a statement about protecting the integrity of U.S. biomedical research. Dr. Collins outlined three areas of concern that, in some instances, involve foreign entities: 1) failure by some researchers at NIH-funded institutions to disclose contributions from other resources; 2) diversion of intellectual property to other entities; and, 3) sharing of confidential information by peer reviewers with others. In response, NIH will work with other government agencies, NIH-funded institutions, and a working group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director to identify robust methods to protect the integrity of U.S. biomedical research.
    • Returning Research Data to Study Participants: The Revised Common Rule, a substantial update to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, took effect on July 19, 2018 with a delayed compliance date of January 21, 2019 (except for three specific provisions). Included in the delay are new provisions for returning data to study participants. NIH and other federal agencies are reviewing a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus study to examine whether other federal policies are consistent with such information sharing. Meanwhile, the scientific community is placing greater emphasis on returning certain study results to participants, who are viewed as partners in the research process. A key example is the NIH All of Us Research Program that plans to make data available to study participants.
    • Resources to Enhance Rigor in Research: In July 2018, the NIH Office of Extramural Research published a perspective on scientific rigor, highlighting NIH resources designed to help researchers develop better grant proposals. Resources include blog posts, reviewer guidance, and much more, all available on the NIH Reproducibility webpage.
    • Behavioral and Social Clinical Trial Template: In light of recent NIH policies that expanded the requirements of clinical trials, NIH developed a draft Behavioral and Social Clinical Trial Template to assist NIH-funded investigators as they prepare Phase 2 and 3 Investigational New Drug or Investigational Device Exemption clinical trial protocols. The template is specifically aimed at studies involving social and behavioral interventions, and NIH is seeking public comment through October 11, 2018.
    • Basic Studies Involving Human Subjects: NIH posted several blogs and articles over the past two years about efforts to enhance stewardship and transparency in clinical trial research. Concerns emerged regarding how NIH’s Policy on the Dissemination of NIH-Funded Clinical Trial Information applies to basic science studies involving human participants. NIH is seeking public comment through November 12, 2018 on standards NIH should use to assure adequate registration and results reporting for the subset of studies that meet NIH’s definition of a clinical trial and that focus on basic research

Budget Overview

  • Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget: NIMH currently anticipates awarding approximately 575 competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2018. The projected success rate for competing RPGs in FY 2018 is 21%. In accordance with the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI) policy, NIMH projects awarding 80 unique early stage investigators (ESIs), and anticipates funding more than 340 unique at-risk investigators.

    Figure 1.
    NIMH Applications, Awards, and Success Rates for Research Project Grants
    Fiscal Year Applications Awards Success Rate
    2013 2736 512 19
    2014 2830 548 19
    2015 2480 507 20
    2016 2568 587 23
    2017 2735 571 21
    2018 Est. 2715 575 21
  • Outlook for FY 2019: On September 13, 2018, the House Appropriations Committee filed a two-bill appropriations “minibus” funding bill, which has been approved by a joint House and Senate Conference Committee. The bill provides a total of $39.1 billion for NIH, an increase of $2.0 billion above the FY 2018 enacted level. For NIMH, the bill provides $1,812.8 million, an approximate increase of $98 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. It is highly likely that the bill will be passed by both chambers prior to the start of the fiscal year.

NIMH Staff News and Awards

  • NIMH Staff News:

    In October 2018, NIMH will announce a national search for the Office of Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD) Director.

    Hugo Tejeda, Ph.D. joined the NIMH Intramural Research Program on September 16, 2018, as tenure-track Chief of the Unit on Neuromodulation and Synaptic Integration. He studies the modulation of synaptic integration in the nucleus accumbens by endogenous opioids, monoamines, and aversive learning.

    We are sad to announce the passing of an outstanding colleague. Dr. David Jacobowitz (“Dr. J”), Ph.D. passed away on September 7, 2018. Dr. Jacobowitz established and led the Section on Histopharmacology in the NIMH Division of Intramural Research Programs. His career spanned 60 years, 30 of which he spent at NIMH. Dr. Jacobowitz’s legacy includes complete neuroanatomical maps of 11 neuronal systems; an early atlas of the mass, charge, and relative concentration of over 100 proteins in 25 regions of rat brain; and, a chemoarchitectonic atlas of the developing mouse brain, an invaluable resource for researchers interested in the fetal brain. He was dedicated to the belief that the key to uncovering the secrets to brain function lies in understanding neuronal conductivity. Dr. Jacobowitz was a friend to many and known for his collaborative nature, widely sharing his neuroanatomical and proteomics expertise with experts and students alike.

  • NIMH Staff Awards:

    Robert K. Heinssen, Ph.D., A.B.P.P, Director of the NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research, received the American Psychological Association’s Michael S. Neale Award. Dr. Heinssen was recognized for his outstanding leadership in fostering new research programs that promote evidence-based practices to improve the lives of individuals with early serious mental illness. His work in psychosis risk factors, early detection and intervention, and broad implementation of effective practices has had national-level impact on those affected by serious mental illness.

    Michael Freed, Ph.D., Chief, Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch; Denise Juliano-Bult, M.S.W., Chief, Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology Branch; and Andrea Horvath-Marques, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H, Chief, Mental Health Disparities Program, received the 2018 Administrator’s Award for Collaboration Health Resources and Services Administration for participation in the HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce-NIMH Partnership to Reduce Health Disparities through Collaborative Care Implementation.