NIGMS - National Institute of General Medical Sciences
NIGMS > About NIGMS > Budget & Financial Management > Fiscal Year 2010 Budget
JUSTIFICATION NARRATIVE
Justification by activity detail

Overall Budget Policy: Investigator-initiated research projects and early career investigator research are the Institute's highest priorities. Developing a strong scientific workforce is a core element of the NIGMS mission. In addition to our research funding activities, we support this goal through a range of training programs.

In FY 2010, NIGMS also plans to increase cancer research 4.4 percent over FY 2009. Additionally, Nanotechnology research will increase 1.5 percent over the estimated FY 2009 amount.

Intramural Research and Research Management and Support receive modest increases to help offset the cost of pay and other increases. NIGMS will continue to support new investigators and to maintain an adequate number of competing RPGs.

Program Descriptions and Accomplishments

» Cell Biology and Biophysics
» Genetics and Developmental Biology
» Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry
» Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
» Minority Opportunities in Research
» Research Training
» Intramural
» Research Management and Support
» Common Fund

Cell Biology and Biophysics: The Cell Biology and Biophysics (CBB) program fosters the study of cells and their components. Physics- and chemistry-based technological advances, driven by new types of microscopy, structural biology tools, and many other novel imaging techniques, have facilitated our understanding of life at the level of molecules and atoms. This basic research promotes the development of precise, targeted therapies, and diagnostics for a range of diseases.

In FY 2008, the program's Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) continued to make protein structure determination faster, easier, and cheaper. The average cost per structure is now $57 thousand compared to $94 thousand in FY 2006 and $138 thousand in FY 2005. In FY 2009, the PSI entered a new phase of funding that will extend to 2015. This third, "PSI:Biology" phase will expend 70 percent of its effort on enabling the scientific community to make use of PSI resources to solve problems with high medical or biological significance. In FY 2009 and FY 2010, CBB will also continue to fund research in optical imaging; the fruits of these efforts will make it easier for researchers to study cellular structures and to better understand the basic functions of normal and diseased cells.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $582.034 million, an increase of $7.875 million and 1.4 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. The majority of CBB funds will be used to support investigator-initiated research projects in cell biology, biophysics, cellular imaging, and structural biology. In FY 2010, CBB will continue to support the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), a 10-year project begun in 2000 that aims to make protein structure determination a rapid and inexpensive enterprise. CBB will also use FY 2010 funds to support programs in optical imaging and an AIDS-related structural biology program.

Genetics and Developmental Biology: The mission of the Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB) program is to promote basic research that aims to understand fundamental mechanisms of inheritance and development. This research underlies more targeted projects supported by other NIH institutes and centers. Much of GDB's investigator-initiated research is performed in model organisms, an approach that continues to deepen our understanding of common diseases and diverse behaviors.

In FY 2008, GDB increased its support for research on the basic biology of stem cells by funding three new program project grants (two were funded last year). Furthermore, to rapidly exploit the potential of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, GDB announced the availability of administrative supplements targeted at NIGMS grantees who wish to extend their ongoing projects by using iPS cells as models to study differentiation and development. In FY 2008, NIGMS funded four iPS supplements. In FY 2009, GDB will fund administrative supplements from NIGMS grantees who wish to extend their ongoing projects by using iPS cells as models to study differentiation and development. In FY 2010, GDB will continue to support an initiative to fund systems-based approaches for understanding how genes that contribute to common diseases interact with each other and with external influences to bring about their effects.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $522.396 million, an increase of $7.069 million and 1.4 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. As with FY 2009, most GDB expenditures will support individual investigators seeking fundamental knowledge about life processes.

In FY 2010, GDB will continue to support an initiative to fund systems-based approaches for understanding how genes that contribute to common diseases interact with each other and with external influences to bring about their effects.

Program Portrait: MicroRNAs--Little Molecules, Big Impact

FY 2009 Level: $1.447 million
FY 2010 Level: $1.491 million
Change: $0.044 million

The 2008 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research was shared by three scientists for the discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs). The small size of these molecules belies their big impact on gene control in animals and plants. Two of the Lasker winners, Victor Ambros, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and Gary Ruvkun, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, are long-time NIGMS grantees. Their seminal work illuminating developmental processes in worms provided the first glimpse of how important miRNAs would turn out to be as gene controllers. Unlike messenger RNAs, miRNAs do not themselves make proteins. Rather, a miRNA matches up with a messenger RNA and either destroys it or impairs its ability to make protein. Although originally considered to be an oddity of worms, miRNAs are now known to be widespread in the living world, including in human beings. The discovery of miRNAs, along with gene-silencing RNA interference, or RNAi, has revolutionized scientists' ability to address key problems in biomedicine. MiRNAs, like RNAi, are vital for development, response to infection, and other body processes. Many NIGMS-supported researchers are avidly pursuing fundamental questions of miRNA biology to understand how miRNAs are produced and exert their important functions in tuning genes. What's more, this basic science discovery, fueled by investigator-initiated research, is leading to important advances in diagnosing and treating diseases. For example, researchers have found that certain miRNAs show up in particular tissues and become derailed in cancer. Thus, miRNA screening promises to add an important molecular diagnostic tool for finding tumors and for identifying the tissue of origin of cancers that have spread throughout the body. Clinical studies with cancer patients have demonstrated that miRNA profiles can predict disease progression and thus can help doctors determine the most appropriate therapies. In very recent work, researchers have uncovered tantalizing clues that miRNAs may also control stem cells by impacting their ability to keep dividing and to make many different cell types. Tailoring miRNAs for use in specific tissues of the body could become an important part of making stem cells useful for regenerative medicine. Like RNAi, the discovery of miRNAs is an example of how the NIGMS investment in basic research in a model organism--in this case, research on development in worms--has sparked an explosion of findings that are poised to make important contributions to personalized medicine.

Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry: The mission of the Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC) program is to support fundamental research in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiology that contributes to understanding human biology in health and disease, and that generates knowledge for new diagnostics and therapeutics. PPBC funds the development of new chemistry, understanding of biochemical processes, and the discovery of new pharmacological principles. The program also funds research that explores clinical issues involving whole-body responses in important public health areas such as traumatic injury, burns, wound healing, and anesthesia.

In FY 2008, PPBC led the creation of the Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics, a partnership between NIH and the Center for Genomic Medicine in Japan. U.S. scientists joining the global initiative are members of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network, a PPBC-led consortium of research groups that study how genes affect an individual's response to medicines. In FY 2009, PPBC continued support of five Centers in Chemical Methodology and Library Development that encourage technology development for chemical libraries of greater diversity than currently possible. Also in FY 2009, the program will fund five awards to enhance the study of processes mediated by sugar molecules attached to cell surfaces carbohydrates, in response to a funding solicitation in this area.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $431.322 million, an increase of $5.837 million and 1.4 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. PPBC will continue to emphasize the support of investigator-initiated research grants. In FY 2010, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network, which is working toward promoting the goal of personalized medicine, will advance with the addition of genome-wide association studies through national and international collaborations.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: The Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) supports research that draws expertise from mathematics, statistics, computer science, engineering, and physics to answer problems in biomedicine. CBCB emphasizes integrated, systems approaches that pair computational studies with laboratory-based investigations. Other projects create virtual laboratories that address questions difficult to tackle in the laboratory. CBCB also encourages the development of tools and techniques to acquire, store, analyze, and visualize data.

In FY 2008, CBCB funded one new National Center for Systems Biology to advance the study of the complexity of biology and to train more scientists in this emerging field. This national effort, launched in 2002 and now totaling 10 centers, will broaden and enhance our understanding of the complex interactions between cells, tissues, and organisms. Already, the program is yielding important new insights, such as how bacteria can respond correctly to hundreds of incoming environmental signals. This work is an important first step toward understanding gene-environment interactions in animals and humans.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $108.046 million, an increase of $1.462 million and 1.4 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. Highest priority will be given to investigator-initiated research, since this research will continue to yield information and tools for exploring complex biological systems. Two major initiatives employing FY 2010 funds are the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), which models the spread of infectious diseases, and the Centers for Systems Biology program, which currently funds 10 centers.

Minority Opportunities in Research: The mission of the Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE) program is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities performing biomedical and behavioral research. Through support provided to institutions with substantial minority enrollments, MORE's programs aim to strengthen the pipeline of minority researchers.

Research support for faculty at minority-serving institutions is now offered at three different levels, dependent upon the applicant's performance as a research scientist. Another major change is that these grants will now be administered by program officers across NIH who manage research in the scientific areas of the grants, rather than being administered solely by NIGMS staff. In FY 2008, MORE also funded a workshop grant to promote greater collaboration between biomedical and social scientists testing assumptions and hypotheses that undergird interventions for boosting careers in biomedical and behavioral research.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $123.890 million, an increase of $682 thousand and .6 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. In FY 2010, NIGMS program staff will continue to reorganize existing programs to comply with recommendations issued from a working group of the NAGMS Council that advised the institute to rebalance its MORE portfolio. These efforts will place greater emphasis on student development and training. In FY 2010, MORE will also continue to examine the current state of research on interventions that influence the participation of underrepresented minorities in the biomedical and behavioral science.

Program Portrait: the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award Program Strengthens Diversity

FY 2009 Level: $9.729 million
FY 2010 Level: $9.875 million
Change: $0.146 million

Key to building and sustaining a healthy biomedical research workforce is recruiting scientists who reflect the diversity of the U.S. population. As part of its overall strategy to enhance diversity in biomedicine, in 1999, NIGMS established the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA) program. IRACDA promotes linkages between minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and research-intensive institutions (RIIs) that can lead to further collaborations in research and teaching. The program's goals are to prepare young scientists for academic teaching and research careers while simultaneously enhancing teaching at MSIs. IRACDA fellows from RIIs are energetic, research-oriented teachers who develop and deliver contemporary curriculum at MSIs and serve as role models for MSI students. In this way, the program helps guide undergraduates, contributes to modernizing life-sciences curricula, and creates links between RII and MSI faculty. Among the IRACDA alumni is Andrea Morris, Ph.D., who in 1999 became the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University. As an IRACDA fellow at Emory University, she did cutting-edge research while also teaching and forging connections with talented underrepresented faculty and students at neighboring Morehouse College. Today, as a tenure-track faculty member in the biology department at Haverford College, Morris is continuing to teach while also making significant contributions to the field of neural development. Last year, she received an NIH Career Development Award to Promote Diversity in Neuroscience. NIGMS designed IRACDA based on the premise that postdoctoral fellows who have a research-intensive experience and have an opportunity to teach will perform at least as well as traditional postdoctoral fellows, who primarily do research only. Preliminary results indicate that this is true, and that the relatively young program is already beginning to fulfill its goals.

Research Training: The Research Training program provides research training for the next generation of biomedical and behavioral scientists. In addition to training Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. students, the program supports postdoctoral fellows through advanced and specialized training in basic, translational, and clinical research. This program also features 12 predoctoral institutional training grants (T32s), which provide broad-based, multidisciplinary research training in several areas of biomedicine. This program also emphasizes diversity recruitment and the responsible conduct of research. Independent of institutional training grant activities, the program also supports the training of students and fellows working in individual-investigator laboratories, as well as mentored career development awards in six clinically related areas.

In FY 2008, the program established a new T32 training grant in molecular medicine and made three new awards in its recently established institutional training grant to support basic behavioral scientists (now in its second year). Also in FY 2008, the program launched the Community for Advanced Graduate Training, a Web-based tool to facilitate interactions and recruitment efforts between the NIGMS Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) programs and the Institute's T32 programs. This "matching service" had approximately 75 percent registration by MARC students in its inaugural year, and NIGMS expects full participation in future years.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for this program is $198.036 million, an increase of $1.961 million and 1.3 percent above the FY 2009 estimate. Maintaining a healthy pipeline of researchers is critical to maintaining the vibrancy of the scientific enterprise. NIGMS will continue to support rigorous research training programs that foster intellectual creativity, learning of quantitative skills, and exposure to topics in human health. In FY 2010, NIGMS will continue its new program supporting the research training of basic behavioral scientists and will promote its new molecular medicine program.

Intramural: The Institute has a small, but unique, intramural research program that supports postdoctoral research fellows for up to three years each. The Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) program provides scientists who have backgrounds in the basic or clinical sciences with multidisciplinary training in how drugs interact with living systems. For scientists who are already well-versed in pharmacology, the program offers experience in new fields. A number of former program participants have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, industry, and government, and one has won a Nobel Prize.

In FY 2008 and FY 2009, PRAT scientists made several important advances. One researcher identified a key step in the way breast cancer cells become resistant to treatment. Another conducted an innovative genomic analysis of bacteria in healthy skin, contributing important information toward the understanding of the role of skin in health and disease. In FY 2009, the PRAT program received approximately twice the number of applications than it has received in the last five years. However, no significant funding changes are planned for FY 2009 and FY 2010.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for the Intramural Research program is $2.616 million, an increase of $39 thousand and 1.5 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. NIGMS will continue its PRAT program, which provides training for outstanding fellows who conduct research in intramural laboratories of other NIH institutes and centers or in Food and Drug Administration laboratories. After their NIH training, the PRAT fellows continue their careers as faculty at leading universities, in the pharmaceutical industry, or at government agencies, contributing pharmacology expertise and helping to meet national needs.

Research Management and Support: NIGMS Research Management and Support (RMS) activities provide administrative, budgetary, logistical, and scientific support in the review, award, and monitoring of research grants, training awards, and research and development contracts. RMS functions also encompass strategic planning, coordination, and evaluation of the Institute's programs, regulatory compliance, international coordination, and liaison with other Federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

In FY 2008, the Institute administered more than 4,500 research grants, 4,303 training grants, and 20 research and support contracts. To enhance the efficiency of grants administration functions, RMS funds continued to be used to develop and maintain an NIGMS information technology architecture that is integrated with NIH enterprise information systems. After engaging in intensive strategic planning efforts that included meetings with the scientific community and other outreach efforts, in January 2008 NIGMS published its strategic plan for 2008-2012. This document conveys the Institute's goals and values, as well as provides a framework for its decision-making. In FY 2009 and FY 2010, RMS funds will be used to support scientific meetings, conferences, and workshops to advance biomedical research. RMS funds will also be used to support information technology tools to facilitate the peer review process, conduct portfolio analysis, and assist with document management.

Budget Policy: The FY 2010 budget estimate for RMS is $55.337 million, an increase of $951 thousand and 1.7 percent over the FY 2009 estimate. In FY 2010, RMS funds will continue to support meetings with the biomedical and behavioral research community that will assist NIGMS in assigning priorities and setting its research agenda. To enhance the efficiency of grants administration functions, FY 2010 RMS funds will develop and maintain an NIGMS information technology architecture that is integrated with NIH enterprise information systems. In FY 2010, NIGMS will also promote innovations in administration and management to minimize paperwork and administrative burden, such as a more robust Intranet that will align with NIH-wide enterprise architecture.

Common Fund: NIGMS is the lead institute for the NIH Director's Pioneer Awards initiative and the New Innovator Awards initiative, and it co-leads the Structural Biology initiative, the Molecular Libraries and Imaging initiative, and the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology initiative supported through the NIH Common Fund. Additionally, NIGMS participates in the support of the Interdisciplinary Research initiative funded through the NIH Common fund.

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