2021 Spring Inside NIMH
Welcome to the latest edition of Inside NIMH! We publish Inside NIMH in conjunction with each meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), 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. I hope you find this edition interesting and helpful. I also invite you to check out the NIMH website for regular updates on timely topics, and to follow me on Twitter (@NIMHDirector).
Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health
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NIMH Director’s Updates
NIMH is committed to addressing the many challenges facing our stakeholders. In this edition of Inside NIMH, we highlight a number of NIMH-hosted mental health outreach activities, provide guidance to researchers affected by the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, and describe trans-NIH efforts to address structural racism in biomedical research.
News to Know
- NIMH’s Response to COVID-19: Over the past year, NIMH researchers have been hard at work examining the effects of COVID-19 on mental health. For example, investigators in the NIMH Intramural Research Programs (IRP) recently identified risk factors that may contribute to elevated anxiety among young adults during stressful life events, such as the pandemic. Additionally, as part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADxSM-UP) program, NIMH-supported researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health adapted their studies to meet the changing needs of their communities by studying ways to expand COVID-19 testing on reservations. More information about the trans-NIH response to COVID-19 can be found on the NIH COVID-19 website.
- NIMH Launches Inaugural James Jackson Memorial Award: On March 15, 2021, NIMH launched the inaugural James Jackson Memorial Award, named in honor of the late Dr. James Jackson, a renowned social psychologist and member of the NAMHC. Dr. Jackson’s research on race, ethnicity, racism, health, and mental health had far-reaching impacts on the fields of disparities research and minority mental health. The 2021 award recipient is Enrique Neblett, Jr., Ph.D. Dr. Neblett is a Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, with a strong record of research focused on mental health disparities and the impact of racism on health and mental health outcomes among minority (particularly Black) populations. He will present his research at an NIMH virtual webinar in July 2021 during Minority Mental Health Month.
- NIMH Initiative Expands Access to Resources for Early Psychosis Treatment and Research: The Early Psychosis Intervention Network (EPINET), a broad research initiative aimed at determining how to provide the best treatment for individuals experiencing symptoms of early psychosis, continues to expand its reach by increasing access to resources for researchers, providers, and families. Among other efforts, the initiative is growing its network of research hubs and launched a new web portal. A key feature of the portal is the EPINET Core Assessment Battery, which includes standardized measures and individual items that assess key domains of early psychosis psychopathology, recovery, contextual factors, and treatment. The research portal will be built out over time, as practice-based early psychosis treatment tools are developed.
- Outreach Spotlight: NIMH launched the new Get Involved section of the NIMH website, which features information about upcoming health observances, a variety of resources to help engage stakeholders, and several ways people can connect with NIMH. NIMH expanded its Education and Awareness portal to offer shareable resources about schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder and new Spanish shareables about autism and eating disorders. NIMH also participated in several virtual exhibits and events to share resources with the public, providers, and other stakeholders, including the annual National Museum of Health and Medicine’s Brain Awareness Day, where NIMH shared new videos created to educate children and teens about stress and the brain. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, NIMH promoted mental health resources, including its new webpage, Caring for Your Mental Health, through its Mental Health Matters social media campaign. Additionally, NIMH promoted newly revised brochures about children and adolescents for Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
- Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Updates: The newly appointed IACC will hold its first meeting in the summer of 2021. The new committee roster will be released ahead of this meeting. Additionally, the NIMH Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC) hosted two events during Autism Awareness Month. On April 7, 2021, OARC presented An Afternoon of Comedy with Asperger’s Are Us. Asperger’s Are Us is the first comedy troupe composed entirely of people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder; ASD). OARC also hosted a virtual event on April 28, 2021, which featured updates from several federal agencies on COVID-19-related activities, programs, and resources for individuals with disabilities and their families.
Updates and Announcements from NIH
- NIH-Wide Initiatives:
- Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative®
- Transforming Non-Invasive Imaging Technologies: The BRAIN Initiative has invested in many cutting-edge technologies for non-invasive brain functional imaging. To evaluate how these tools may generate new directions or opportunities for neuroscience research, NIH hosted a two-part virtual workshop series in February and March 2021. BRAIN Initiative non-invasive imaging technology development awardees, neuroscience researchers, and industry partners came together to discuss how future neuroscience research could benefit from these BRAIN Initiative-funded projects and identify potential pathways for broader dissemination.
- Transforming Neuroscience Research: Over the next few years, the BRAIN Initiative will launch three large projects to transform neuroscience research. Collectively, these ambitious projects will build a comprehensive atlas of cell types in the human brain; develop and scale up the tools necessary to complete a “wiring diagram” of an entire mammalian brain; and, based on this knowledge, develop molecular and gene-editing strategies to study and treat human neural circuit disorders. The BRAIN Initiative has organized several workshops and released new funding opportunities to inform and support these ambitious projects.
- Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM (HEAL) Initiative:
- 2nd Annual HEAL Initiative Investigator Meeting: On May 17-19, 2021, NIH hosted the 2nd Annual HEAL Initiative Investigator Meeting. The goals of the virtual meeting were to spur scientific advancement through collaborations, identify challenges and opportunities in HEAL-funded research, disseminate research breakthroughs, and highlight cutting edge science. Attendees also learned about the new HEAL Data Ecosystem.
- Creating a Community: HEAL Data Ecosystem Virtual Workshop: On April 20, 2021, the HEAL Initiative hosted a virtual workshop to discuss ongoing efforts to develop the HEAL Data Ecosystem, a cloud-based platform that aims to make it easier for researchers to search for and analyze HEAL results and data. NIH is supporting two expert data resource teams as they build a platform in which data is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR; see HEAL Data Sharing Policy) and consistent with broader efforts outlined in the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science.
- Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative®
- HHS and NIH Updates:
- HHS Leadership News: On March 18, 2021, the Senate confirmed Xavier Becerra as Secretary of HHS. Before joining HHS, Mr. Becerra served as the Attorney General of California and was a member of the House of Representatives for 24 years.
- Leadership Changes at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS): On April 15, 2021, Christopher P. Austin, M.D., stepped down as NCATS Director after nearly a decade at the helm of the Center and almost 20 years at NIH. Dr. Austin was a member of the team that founded NCATS in 2011. Under his leadership, the Center has made great strides in its ambitious vision to transform translation from an empirical process into a predictive science. Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D., will serve as the Acting Director of NCATS while NIH conducts a national search.
- Ending Structural Racism in Biomedical Research: On March 1, 2021, NIH launched a trans-NIH effort to end structural racism and racial inequities in biomedical research through a new initiative called UNITE. UNITE aims to establish an equitable and civil culture within the biomedical research enterprise and reduce barriers to racial equity in the biomedical research workforce. The UNITE initiative has already begun to identify short- and long-term actions that can be taken at NIH. NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., stated his support of this effort and will continue to seek guidance from outside of the agency through the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), informed by the ACD Working Group on Diversity. NIH also recently sought input from the public and stakeholder organizations to strengthen racial equity, diversity, and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce, and advance health disparities and health equity research. On the same day that the UNITE initiative launched, NIMH Director Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., shared his support of this effort and highlighted related changes underway at NIMH.
- NIH in the Spotlight: On February 11, 2021, President Biden visited the NIH campus and delivered remarks recognizing the hard work and outstanding contributions NIH staff have made to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget: On December 27, 2020, then-President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (Public Law No. 116-260) providing funds through September 30, 2021. The law provides $2.11 billion to NIMH (amount includes 21st Century Cures funding), representing a three percent increase over the FY 2020 appropriation. NIMH anticipates awarding more than 550 new and competing research project grants (RPGs) in FY 2021, with an estimated success rate of 21 percent as shown in Figure 1 below.
- Although NIMH does not have a specific pay line, the Institute expects to support most of the applications that have an impact score up to the 10th percentile, many between the 10th and 20th percentiles, and some beyond the 20th percentile. Funding decisions are based on factors such as the Institute’s Strategic Plan for Research, ensuring representation of diverse perspectives, programmatic portfolio consideration, and availability of funds. Moreover, the Institute will give special consideration to certain applications in accordance with the NIH Next Generation Researchers Initiative (NGRI).
- Figure 2 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 2022: On April 9, 2021, the White House submitted its initial FY 2022 discretionary budget request to Congress. The “skinny budget” request for NIH is $51 billion, an increase of $9 billion from the FY 2021 enacted level. The request for NIMH will be provided once the White House submits its full budget request. House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearings will be held at a later date.
NIMH Staff News and Awards
- NIMH Staff News
- Tracy Waldeck, Ph.D., has been selected as the Director of the NIMH Division of Extramural Activities (DEA). Dr. Waldeck’s career spans more than 20 years and includes experience in a broad range of positions. Most recently, Dr. Waldeck served as the Director of the Office of Extramural Policy and Review at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), where she led large cross-cutting administrative efforts both within NIDA and across the NIH. She has in-depth knowledge, experience, and expertise in the implementation of NIH policy; management of scientific and administrative personnel; and, effective resource management both in the public and private sectors.
- Becky Wagenaar-Miller, Ph.D., has been selected as the Deputy Director of the NIMH DEA. Over the past year, Dr. Wagenaar-Miller has served as the Acting Deputy Director of DEA and the Acting Executive Secretary to the NAMHC. She provided outstanding leadership, counsel, and stability during this time of transition. In her previous role as Chief of the Extramural Policy Branch in DEA, Dr. Wagenaar-Miller made many important contributions to NIMH policy and procedures and contributed to many trans-NIH activities.
- Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, Ph.D., was selected as the Deputy Director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Dr. Beckel-Mitchener previously served as the Director of the NIMH Office for Disparities Research and Workforce Diversity (ODWD), where she worked to reduce disparities, promote mental health equity, increase diverse perspectives in research, and support inclusivity in the research workforce. Lauren D. Hill, Ph.D., has been named Acting Director of ODWD. Dr. Hill joined NIMH in 2007, where she directed the Office of Research Training and Career Development in the NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR) before joining the staff in ODWD as Acting Deputy Director in 2020. With Dr. Hill’s appointment as Acting Director of ODWD, Crystal L. Barksdale, Ph.D., MPH, was selected as Acting Deputy Director of the Office. Dr. Barksdale joined NIMH as a Health Science Policy Analyst in the Science Policy and Evaluation Branch in the Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications, and, most recently, served as Chief of the Minority Mental Health Program in ODWD.
- Leonardo Cubillos, M.D., M.P.H., has been selected to serve as Director of the Center for Global Mental Health Research (CGMHR). As Director of CGMHR, Dr. Cubillos will be responsible for providing scientific leadership and direction on research in global mental health relevant to NIMH priorities. Dr. Cubillos will join NIMH in late May 2021 following completion of his current clinical responsibilities at Kaiser Permanente.
- Alex Martin, Ph.D., Chief of the NIMH Intramural Research Programs (IRP) Section on Cognitive Neuropsychology, has been appointed as Acting Chief of the IRP Laboratory of Brain and Cognition. Dr. Martin has been at NIMH since 1990, where his research aims to elucidate the neural circuitry associated with specific perceptual, memory, and social functions. The IRP Laboratory of Brain and Cognition was previously overseen by Leslie G. Ungerleider, Ph.D., who passed away at the end of 2020.
- Departing NIMH Staff
- Denise Juliano-Bult, M.S.W., Chief of the Systems Research and the Equity in Mental Health Services Research Programs in DSIR, retired in April 2021 after more than 35 years with NIMH. Ms. Juliano-Bult began her career at NIMH in the IRP conducting schizophrenia studies on the campus of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in 1985. She transitioned to the Extramural Research Program in 1992 and later became a Program Officer. In this role, she initiated and developed portfolios in research on housing, employment, and other services for people with serious mental illness; cross-systems strategies for people with mental illnesses involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems; and, services for transition-age youth and adults with ASD.
- Jeanne Radcliffe, R.N., M.P.H., Associate Clinical Director and Director of the Office of Regulatory Oversight in the Office of the NIMH Clinical Director, retired in April 2021 after 37 years of government service. Ms. Radcliffe came to the NIH Clinical Center Nursing Department in 1986 to learn more about mental health. Jeanne worked her way up from being a Clinical Center staff nurse in the outpatient clinic as program coordinator for Geriatric Psychopharmacology to being the nurse manager of the inpatient geriatric psychiatry nursing unit. She joined NIMH in 2002 as the Associate Director for Protocol Management and facilitated the development of the Combined Neuroscience Institutional Review Board. In 2009, she became the Associate Clinical Director and directed the Office of Regulatory Oversight in the Office of the NIMH Clinical Director.
- Ann Wagner, Ph.D., Director of the Office of National Autism Coordination, in the Office of the NIMH Director, will retire on June 30, 2021, after more than 20 years with NIMH. Dr. Wagner began her NIMH career in 2001 as a Program Officer in DSIR. In 2005, Dr. Wagner moved to a Branch Chief position in what was then then Division of Developmental Translational Research. In 2018, Dr. Wagner was appointed the National Autism Coordinator by HHS Secretary Alex Azar, assuming the responsibility of coordinating federal autism efforts across the U.S. Government. In 2019, Dr. Wagner moved to the Office of the NIMH Director, where she continued to provide subject matter expertise to NIMH and NIH research efforts in autism and in intervention development and clinical trials.
- Lois Winsky, Ph.D., Chief of the Molecular, Cellular, and Genomics Neuroscience Research Branch, and Chief of the Integrative Systems Pharmacology Program in the Division of Neuroscience and Basic Behavioral Science (DNBBS), will retire at the end of May 2021 after more than 30 years with NIMH. Dr. Winsky began her career at NIMH as an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in 1990 investigating the localization, structure, and function of the calcium binding protein calretinin in brain. She transitioned to the Extramural Research Program in the late 1990s and spear-headed programs in preclinical therapeutics, stress neurobiology, and integrative systems pharmacology. In her role as Branch Chief, she provided oversight for cutting edge programs in basic neuroscience, spanning signal transduction, neurodevelopment, neuroimmunology, neuropharmacology, systems pharmacology, and functional genomics.
- NIMH Legacy News
- We are sad to announce the passing of Stephen H. Koslow, Ph.D., on April 23, 2021. Dr. Koslow worked at NIMH from 1970 to 2005. During his tenure at NIMH, he established the Neuroscience program and launched the Human Brain Project, an initiative that cultivated international collaboration and data sharing towards a greater understanding of the brain.
- NIMH Staff Awards
- Karen Berman, M.D., Chief of the NIMH IRP Section on Integrative Neuroimaging, the Section on Psychosis and Cognitive Studies, and the Clinical and Translational Neuroscience Branch, was awarded the Society of Biological Psychiatry George N. Thompson Award for Distinguished Service. Dr. Berman received the award in honor of her outstanding service to the organization.
Director’s Highlights: NIMH Scientists and Science
NIMH is proud to recognize significant achievements and awards received by our current grantees.
- Several NIMH-supported researchers received awards from the Society of Biological Psychiatry:
- A.E. Bennett Basic Research Award: Vikaas Sohal, M.D., Ph.D. (University of California, San Francisco)
- A.E. Bennett Clinical/Translational Research Award: Alik Widge, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Minnesota)
- Gold Medal Award: Daniel Geschwind, M.D. (University of California, Los Angeles)
- The Schizophrenia International Research Society recently honored two NIMH grantees:
- Research Excellent Award: Margaret Niznikiewicz, Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School)
- Rising Star Award: Katharine Thakkar, Ph.D. (Michigan State University)
- Two NIMH-supported researchers were recently selected as 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Fellows:
- Seth Pollak, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
- Steven Phelps, Ph.D. (University of Texas, Austin)
- NIMH congratulates several newly elected American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellows:
- Axel Brunger, Ph.D. (Stanford University)
- Li-Huei Tsai, Ph.D. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Catherine Woolley, Ph.D. (Northwestern University)
- Deanna Barch, Ph.D. (Washington University in St. Louis)
- BJ Casey, Ph.D. (Yale University)
Notable NIMH Grants
The following is a selection of the Institute’s most recently funded projects that exemplify our efforts to accelerate research on mental illnesses, and to advance the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research.
- The NIMH Biobehavioral Research Awards for Innovative New Scientists (NIMH BRAINS) support research and career advancement of outstanding, exceptionally productive scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers and who plan to make a long-term career commitment to research in specific areas that align with the NIMH mission. NIMH BRAINS award recipient Katherine Nautiyal, Ph.D., (Dartmouth College) aims to examine the brain mechanisms and circuits involved in the maturation of reward sensitivity and impulsive action in mice. Dr. Nautiyal proposes a novel mechanism through which serotonin drives adolescent neural development by modulating plasticity in the dorsomedial striatum (DMS), a region where neurons in the adolescent brain show increased activity in response to rewarding outcomes and actions, compared to adults. Dr. Nautiyal developed a novel apparatus to automate testing and monitor behavior in the mouse’s home environment. She plans to combine behavioral testing with measures of serotonin receptor expression and neural activity in the adolescent DMS to identify the behavioral and neural mechanisms through which serotonin modulates adolescent development. This work complements and is likely to extend research addressing the role of the striatum in reward processing.
- African American individuals living with chronic health conditions are more likely to experience depression and other mental disorders but are less likely to be diagnosed or receive treatment, compared to their White counterparts. An especially vulnerable group is patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), a genetic blood disorder that primarily affects people of African descent. With support from the NIMH Division of Services and Intervention Research, Charles Jonassaint, Ph.D., MHS, (University of Pittsburgh) aims to define the barriers to delivering routine mental health screening and treatment to adolescents and young adults with SCD. Further, Dr. Jonassaint aims to rapidly iterate, test, and evaluate implementation of digital mental health services to develop population-specific implementation strategies that can improve treatment engagement. The study may generate data and infrastructure to support future research on effective, low-cost, and scalable mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults with SCD. It may also inform novel targeted approaches for underserved populations with chronic diseases.
- The NIMH Division of AIDS Research is supporting studies that examine HIV persistence in the central nervous system (CNS). One NIMH grantee, Serena Spudich, Ph.D., (Yale University) plans to combine single cell technology, novel quantification of intact HIV DNA, and single genome sequencing to examine the phenotype of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cells and thoroughly characterize the size, stability, intactness, and sequence diversity of persistent HIV in CSF, compared to blood. Dr. Spudich also plans to rigorously examine differences in neuropsychiatric outcomes related to specific immunological and virological characteristics of the CNS in a diverse cohort of participants with a range of neuropsychiatric comorbidities. Understanding the mechanisms by which HIV impacts the CNS may lead to innovative targeted therapies that could modulate immunological factors or block specific viral effects to improve neuropsychological outcomes, even without total elimination of HIV in the CNS.
For more information on these and other grants selected for funding, visit the NIH RePORTER website.
Featured Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) and Initiatives
NIH electronically posts the NIH Guide, a listing of all NIH FOAs that includes program announcements, requests for applications, and important notices for the scientific community. Below is a description of some types of FOAs and a selection of “Featured FOAs” in which NIMH participates. The Funding page on the NIMH website also has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources. Information about the review process can be found on NIH’s Understand Funding Opportunities webpage.
Program Announcements (PAs) are formal statements about new or ongoing extramural activities or programs. NIH may also make funds available through PARs (PAs with special receipt, referral, and/or review considerations) and PASs (PAs with set-aside funds). These types of FOAs may serve as a reminder of continuing interest in a research area, describe modification to an activity or program, and/or invite applications for grant support. Applications in response to PAs must be received by a standing submission date and are reviewed with all other applications received at that time using standard peer review criteria. PAs are also used to annually solicit applications for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
Featured Program Announcements:
- Practice-Based Suicide Prevention Research Centers (PAR-20-286)
- Clinical Trials to Test the Effectiveness of Treatment, Preventive, and Services Interventions (PAR-21-129; PAR-21-130)
- Pilot Effectiveness Trials for Treatment, Preventive and Services Interventions (PAR-21-131)
- Confirmatory Efficacy Clinical Trials of Non-Pharmacological Interventions for Mental Disorders (PAR-21-132)
- First in Human and Early Stage Clinical Trials of Novel Investigational Drugs or Devices for Psychiatric Disorders (PAR-21-133)
- Development of Psychosocial Therapeutic and Preventive Interventions for Mental Disorders (PAR-21-134; PAR-21-135)
- Early Stage Testing of Pharmacologic or Device-based Interventions for the Treatment of Mental Disorders (PAR-21-136; PAR-21-137)
- Understanding and Modifying Temporal Dynamics of Coordinated Neural Activity (PAR-21-175; PAR-21-176)
- Joint NINDS/NIMH Exploratory Neuroscience Research Grant (PA-21-219)
- NIMH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant (PA-21-235)
Notices of Special Interest
Notices of Special Interest (NOSIs) have replaced Institute-issued PAs to highlight interest in a research area that does not have set-aside funds or special review criteria or review considerations. NOSIs direct applicants to one or more active FOAs (often parent announcements) for submission of applications for the initiative described.
Featured Notices of Special Interest:
- Research on Risk and Prevention of Black Youth Suicide (NOT-MH-20-055)
- Reducing Suicide Risk in Young People in Low- and Middle-Income Countries and Low-Resource Settings (NOT-MH-21-090)
- Adopting Techniques and Tools Developed from the BRAIN Initiative Toward NIMH Strategic Research Priorities (NOT-MH-21-115)
- Administrative Supplements for COVID-19 Impacted NIMH Research (NOT-MH-21-120)
- Translation of BRAIN Initiative Technologies to the Marketplace (NOT-MH-21-125)
Requests for Applications
Requests for Applications (RFAs) are formal statements that solicit grant or cooperative agreement applications in a well-defined scientific area to accomplish specific program objectives. RFAs often list a single receipt date in the announcement and indicate the amount of funds set aside for the RFA. Applications in response to RFAs are reviewed using FOA-specific peer review criteria, which usually includes review by a Scientific Review Group specially convened by the awarding component that issued the RFA.
Featured Requests for Applications:
- Post-Acute Interventions for the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa (RFA-MH-20-500)
- BRAIN Initiative Fellows: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (RFA-MH-20-620)
- Service-Ready Tools for Identification, Prevention, and Treatment of Individuals at Risk for Suicide (RFA-MH-21-110; RFA-MH-21-111; RFA-MH-21-112)
- Mental Health Research Awards for Investigators Early in their Career in Low and Middle-Income Countries (RFA-MH-21-120)
- BRAIN Initiative: Secondary Analysis and Archiving of BRAIN Initiative Data (RFA-MH-21-130)
- BRAIN Initiative: Integration and Analysis of BRAIN Initiative Data (RFA-MH-21-135)
- Systems-Level Risk Detection and Interventions to Reduce Suicide, Ideation, and Behaviors in Black Children and Adolescents (RFA-MH-21-185; RFA-MH-21-186)
- Systems-Level Risk Detection and Interventions to Reduce Suicide, Ideation, and Behaviors in Youth from Underserved Populations (RFA-MH-21-187; RFA-MH-21-188)
NIH periodically issues Policy Announcements (NOTs) to update or clarify policies described in an active FOA. NIH may also use NOTs to solicit information from the extramural or intramural community, such as a request for information (RFI). NIH may also release Notices of Intent to Publish (NOITPs) to alert the grantee community of an upcoming FOA (particularly FOAs that may require coordination by multiple investigators) or if there will be a shorter than normal time from publication of the FOA to the first application receipt date such as with a reissue of an existing FOA.
Featured Policy Announcements:
- Notice of Intent to Publish a Funding Opportunity Announcement for BRAIN Initiative Cell Atlas Network (BICAN):
- Comprehensive Center on Human and Non-human Primate Brain Cell Atlases (NOT-MH-21-260)
- Specialized Collaboratory on Human, Non-human Primate, and Mouse Brain Cell Atlases (NOT-MH-21-261)
- Coordinating Unit for Biostatistics, Informatics, and Engagement (CUBIE; NOT-MH-21-262)
You can subscribe to the NIMH Funding Opportunities ListServ to receive the latest information about NIMH funding opportunities, 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 from the NIH Guide.
Please see the Electronic Research Administration (eRA) Activities section for updates relating to COVID-19.
Future Research Directions
Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives
This list of concept clearances offers the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and potential upcoming funding announcements. 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.
- Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: Development and Validation of Novel Tools to Probe Cell-Specific and Circuit-Specific Processes in the Brain
- Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: Integration and Analysis of BRAIN Initiative Data
- Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: Research on the Ethical Implications of Advancements in Neurotechnology and Brain Science
- Deciphering Neuroimmune Dysfunction in HIV Utilizing Human Cell Derived in vitro and in vivo Systems
- The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative: Secondary Analysis and Archiving of BRAIN Initiative Data
- Understanding and Modifying Temporal Dynamics of Coordinated Neural Activity
For more information about concept clearances, please see recent NAMHC-approved concepts. To send questions about a specific concept, reach out to NIMHinitiatives@mail.nih.gov. For links to past NAMHC meeting agendas, NAMHC meeting minutes, and editions of Inside NIMH (Director’s Report to Council and Grantee Newsletter), see past NAMHC meetings.
- The 12th Annual Julius Axelrod Symposium: On April 16, 2021, NIMH hosted the 12th Annual Julius Axelrod Symposium. The virtual Symposium honored the memory of Julius Axelrod, Ph.D., who was an investigator in the NIMH Intramural Research Programs and a Nobel Laureate. In addition to honoring Dr. Axelrod, the Society for Neuroscience 2019 Axelrod Prize recipient, Huda Akil, Ph.D., and the 2020 Axelrod Prize recipient, Morgan Sheng, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., presented their award-winning work.
- National Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) Meeting: On April 14-15, 2021, NIH and the District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research hosted a EHE meeting. The virtual meeting brought together academic investigators, government scientists, local health department professionals, and community members. Participants shared their data and experiences to establish the scientific evidence-base needed to achieve the goals of the national EHE initiative. The meeting also included updates from the EHE federal partners and presentations from NIH-funded project teams focused on the EHE priorities.
- NIMH Virtual Workshop: Integrating Genomics with the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Initiative to Advance Mental Health Research: On April 6 and April 15, 2021, NIMH hosted a two-part virtual workshop to review the current state of science in psychiatric genomics, convening experts from psychiatric and statistical genetics, clinical psychology and psychiatry, and neuroscience. During the workshop, attendees discussed opportunities and challenges related to integrating genomic analysis to understand dimensional phenotypes associated with psychopathology, in alignment with the mission of the RDoC initiative.
- Global Mental Health Research without Borders Conference: NIMH and Grand Challenges Canada sponsored the 11th Global Mental Health Research without Borders Conference on April 5-7, 2021, which brought together researchers, innovators, and other stakeholders from around the globe. The conference showcased findings from cutting-edge science and explored new opportunities for groundbreaking research. Participants discussed priorities for global mental health for the next decade, with a focus on mental health among youth and integration of mental health care into health systems and beyond.
- NIMH Livestream Event: Bipolar Disorder in Adolescents and Young Adults: In recognition of World Bipolar Day on March 30, 2021, NIMH hosted a livestream event on bipolar disorder in adolescents and young adults. Mary Rooney, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and Chief of the Child and Adolescent Psychosocial Interventions Research Program at NIMH, discussed signs and symptoms, proper diagnosis, and treatments for bipolar disorder in adolescents and young adults. Dr. Rooney also discussed some of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented for individuals living with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.
- Risk, Resilience, and Trajectories in Preteen Suicide: NIMH hosted two research roundtables on March 3-4 and March 31-April 1, 2021 focused on understanding suicide risk and risk trajectories among children and pre-teens. A diverse group of experts discussed what suicidal behaviors and thoughts look like in preteen children and how to screen and assess suicidality in this group; risk and protective factors and how they influence suicidal thoughts and behaviors in preteens; and, the challenges to modeling and analyzing suicide risk in preteens and how to address these challenges. NIMH is planning a final synthesis meeting for summer 2021 to discuss short- and long-term research priorities for identifying at-risk youth, as well as timing and targets for intervention.
- NIMH Livestream Event: Let’s Talk About Eating Disorders: In recognition of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, NIMH hosted a livestream event with NIMH grantee Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., FAED, on February 25, 2021. Dr. Bulik discussed signs, symptoms, treatments, and the latest research on eating disorders. Dr. Bulik also discussed some of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented for individuals living with eating disorders and other mental illnesses.
Electronic Research Administration (eRA) Activities
Electronic Grant Application Submission News
- Reminder: Mandatory Submission of the Federal Financial Report (FFR) in the Payment Management System (PMS): Effective January 1, 2021, NIH implemented a change to FFR requirements to allow recipients to report/certify expenditure data once, through a single entry point, and eliminate the need to report duplicative information across multiple reporting sources (NOT-OD-21-046). FFRs submitted prior to January 1, 2021, must use the FFR module in the eRA Commons based on the previous requirements set forth by the agency (see NIH Grants Policy Statement 184.108.40.206.2). FFRs submitted on or after January 1, 2021 must use PMS. In recognition that some grantees may be unable to submit their FFR in a timely fashion due to PMS errors, NIH will offer leniency, as appropriate (NOT-OD-21-060).
- Upcoming Changes to the Biographical Sketch and Other Application Forms: In an effort to support strong collaboration between federal research agencies, NIH has updated its application forms and instructions to ensure applicants and grant recipients provide full transparency and disclosure of all research activities, foreign and domestic (NOT-OD-21-073 and NOT-OD-21-110). The updated forms and instructions will be required for applications and Research Performance Progress Reports (RPPR) submitted for due dates on or after May 25, 2021.
- Expanding Requirement for eRA Commons IDs to All Senior/Key Personnel: Effective January 25, 2022, NIH will require all individuals listed on the R&R Senior/Key Person Profile Form to have an eRA Commons ID (NOT-OD-21-109). System validation will check for a valid eRA Commons ID. Note, that this requirement also applies to the individual components of multi-project applications as well as the Overall component.
NIH-Wide Grant News
- Updated Guidelines for Enhancing Diversity and Creating Safe Environments in Conferences Supported by NIH Grants and Cooperative Agreements: On January 22, 2021, NIH released updated guidance on enhancing the diversity of NIH-supported conferences (under the R13 and U13 activity codes; NOT-OD-21-053) which replaces previous guidance (NOT-OD-03-066). It also reiterates the expectation that organizers of NIH-supported conferences maintain inclusive, safe, and respectful environments for all attendees and provides examples of strategies to meet this expectation.
- Policy on Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance is Revoked: On January 28, 2021, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum revoking the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” (PLGHA) policy. In response, NIH rescinded guidance previously issued on June 23, 2017 (NOT-OD-17-083) and February 19, 2019 (NOT-OD-19-079) concerning NIH’s implementation of the requirements for PLGHA policy (NOT-OD-21-063). Implementation and enforcement of the PLGHA standard provisions are waived for all current NIH grant and cooperative agreement awards. This applies to grants and cooperative agreement awards to direct recipients, from a non-governmental pass-through entity, or as a subrecipient of a domestic or other foreign non-governmental organization.
- Notice of Fiscal Policies in Effect for FY 2021: On January 29, 2021, NIH released a Guide Notice that lists fiscal operations now in effect for FY 2021 funding levels, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Service Research Awards (NRSA) stipends, Next Generation Researchers Initiative Policy, salary limits, and more (NOT-OD-21-058).
- Announcement of Childcare Costs for Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Fellows: On March 15, 2021, NIH issued a Guide Notice (NOT-0D-21-074) to correct previously provided application instructions (see: NOT-OD-21-069).
- Continued Extension of Certain Flexibilities for Prospective Basic Experimental Studies With Human Participants: Through September 24, 2023, investigators registering and reporting results for NIH-funded research whose primary purpose is basic experimental studies with humans are encouraged to do so via ClinicalTrials.gov, but may instead register and report results on alternative publicly available platforms (NOT-OD-21-088).
- Update on Changes to NIH Requirements Regarding Proposed Human Fetal Tissue Research: On April 16, 2021, NIH issued a Guide Notice (NOT-OD-21-111) to update the requirements for Human Fetal Tissue research review (for previous guidance see: NOT-OD-19-128 and NOT-OD-19-137). The updated Notice informs applicants that HHS/NIH will not convene an NIH Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board but that all other requirements outlined in the original Notices remain unchanged.
- Publication of the Revised NIH Grants Policy Statement (Rev. April 2021) for Fiscal Year 2021: On April 20, 2021, NIH released a Guide Notice (NOT-OD-21-107) to announce the publication of the revised NIH Grants Policy Statement (NIHGPS). The revised NIHGPS includes new and modified requirements, clarifies policies, and implements changes in statutes, regulations, and policies that have been implemented through appropriate legal and/or policy processes since the previous version of the NIHGPS (December 2019).
- New NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) Site: NIH recently updated and modernized the RePORT website. Links from the original RePORT website will automatically redirect to the new website. For more on what the modernized RePORT has to offer, check out this blog from Michael Lauer, M.D., NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research.
For more information on all of these updates, please see the NIH eRA News page.
Questions? Contact the eRA Service desk. Note that contacting this help desk is the only way to document problems with an electronic grant application submission. Evidence of this contact is the only way to be eligible for any special consideration by the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) Division of Receipt and Referral, should you run into a system problem with Grants.gov or with eRA that is beyond your control.
Research Training and Career Development
Here is the latest news about research training and career development at NIMH and NIH:
- Support for Early Career Scientists Impacted by the Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) Pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic, along with related extensive mitigation measures, has adversely affected progress in many biomedical research settings. Evidence from multiple sources, including a survey NIH issued to its extramural research workforce, indicates concerns about career trajectories for early career scientists. Therefore, within existing constraints of available funding, NIH may provide additional support to recipients of F or K awards, particularly those in their terminal year of support, whose career trajectory has been significantly affected by the pandemic. Grantees should consult with their Program Officers to determine whether these opportunities are appropriate.
- Notice of Special Interest: Administrative Supplements for COVID-19 Impacted NIMH Research (NOT-MH-21-120)
- Reminder: Requesting Extensions for Early Career Scientists Whose Career Trajectories Have Been Significantly Impacted by COVID-19 (NOT-OD-21-052)
NIMH’s Director’s Messages provide insights into the latest topics in mental health research:
- Addressing the Needs of the Autism Community During COVID-19 (April 27, 2021): In this message for Autism Awareness Month, Dr. Gordon highlights the specific impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.
- One Year In: COVID-19 and Mental Health (April 9, 2021): Dr. Gordon highlights what we know about Americans’ mental health after one year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- One Year of Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics, and Anticipating New Challenges (March 31, 2021): In this jointly written Director’s Message, leadership from across NIH describes one year of progress made through the RADx initiative and anticipates new challenges in the fight against COVID-19.
- From Brain Mechanisms to Novel Therapies: Understanding and Treating Eating Disorders (February 23, 2021): In recognition of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Dr. Gordon highlights NIMH-funded research aimed at reducing the impact of eating disorders.
- Enhancing and Maintaining a Culture of Inclusive Excellence: The NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) Program (February 16, 2021): In this jointly written Director’s Message, leadership from across NIH encourages the neuroscience community to take advantage of the new NIH-wide FIRST Program, which aims to enhance cultures of inclusive excellence through institutional support for recruitment of diverse “cohorts” of early-stage research faculty.
Here is the latest news about NIMH-supported research:
- NIMH’s Dr. Andrea Beckel-Mitchener Named Deputy Director of NIH BRAIN Initiative (March 5, 2021)
- NIMH Director’s Statement: Our Commitment to Ending Structural Racism in Biomedical Research (March 1, 2021)
- New Experiences Enhance Learning by Resetting Key Brain Circuit (February 24, 2021)
- Study Identifies Risk Factors for Elevated Anxiety in Young Adults During COVID-19 Pandemic (February 12, 2021)
- Gene Readouts Contribute To Distinctness of Mental Disorders (February 9, 2021)
- Adaptive Screener May Help Identify Youth at Risk of Suicide (February 3, 2021)
Please help us spread the word about NIMH-funded research! If you have a manuscript submitted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact the NIMH Press Team at NIMHpress@nih.gov and notify your NIMH Program Official to discuss the possibility of a news release or other form of dissemination. NIMH has several methods for getting the word out: press releases, Institute updates, and social media. All releases and updates are posted to the Science News section of the NIMH website, distributed to the public through a mailing list, and posted on NIMH social media channels. Please also remember to acknowledge NIMH support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications.
Explore research advances and ongoing research supported by or conducted at NIMH:
- Research Highlight: Investigating Unintentional Injury as a Risk Factor for Self-Harm (May 11, 2021)
- Research Highlight: NIMH Addresses Critical Need for Rapid-Acting Interventions for Severe Suicide Risk (April 15, 2021)
These Research Highlights recognize progress the Institute has made across the four Goals of the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research. To see additional Research Highlights, visit our webpage.
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Inside NIMH is produced by the National Institute of Mental Health. For more information about the Institute, visit our website at https://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.