NIGMS - National Institute of General Medical Sciences
NIGMS > About NIGMS > Budget & Financial Management > Fiscal Year 2011 Budget
JUSTIFICATION NARRATIVE
Justification by activity detail

Overall Budget Policy: The FY 2011 request for NIGMS is $2,125.090 million, an increase of $74.118 million or +3.6 percent over the FY 2010 enacted level.

Investigator-initiated research projects and early career investigator research are the Institute's highest priorities. NIGMS will continue to support new investigators and to maintain an adequate number of competing RPGs. Developing a strong scientific workforce is a core element of the NIGMS mission. In FY 2011, NIGMS will support new investigators on R01 equivalent awards at success rates equivalent to those of established investigators submitting new R01 equivalent applications. In addition to our research funding activities, we support this goal through a range of training programs.

In FY 2011, NIGMS also plans to emphasize support of genomics and other high-throughput technologies, translational medicine, benefitting healthcare reform, and reinvigorating the biomedical workforce. Intramural Research and Research Management and Support receive modest increases to help offset the cost of pay and other increases.

Funds are included in R&D contracts to support several trans-NIH initiatives, such as the Therapies for Rare and Neglected Diseases program (TRND), the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet), and support for a new synchrotron at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, as well as increased support for other HHS agencies through the program evaluation set-aside.

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

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 2009, the program's Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) continued to make protein structure determination faster, easier, and cheaper, while contributing to our basic understanding of the relationship between gene sequence and protein structure. In FY 2010, the PSI will enter a new phase of funding that will extend to FY 2014. This third phase, PSI:Biology, will make PSI resources available to the broad scientific community to solve a range of medically relevant problems while developing technology to tackle increasingly complex structures.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for this program is $597.763 million, an increase of $19.350 million and 3 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. 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 2011, CBB will continue to support the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), a project that began in FY 2000 that aims to make protein structure determination a rapid and inexpensive enterprise. CBB will also use FY 2011 funds to support programs in optical imaging and an AIDS-related structural biology program.

Program Portrait: EUREKA

FY 2010 level: $11.8 million
FY 2011 level: $12.1 million
Change: $0.3 million

For science to move forward in leaps rather than in incremental steps, researchers need opportunities to test unconventional, potentially paradigm-shifting ideas. They also need the freedom to try innovative, often risky approaches to solve difficult problems that impede progress. However, applications proposing such research have faced problems in review because they are difficult to evaluate in comparison to more typical investigator-initiated R01 research grant applications that emphasize feasibility over novelty. To address this issue, in 2007 NIGMS developed a new program, EUREKA (Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration). The program has been popular across NIH: The most recent EUREKA re-announcement for funding in FY 2010 involved eight additional NIH Institutes and was the model for an NIH Roadmap Transformative R01 initiative and for an NIAID initiative for innovative approaches to development of effective therapies for AIDS. EUREKA grew from the innovative efforts of NIGMS staff members who recognized that the Institute's "high-risk/high-reward" R21 grant program was not achieving its goals: Both applicants and NIH staff had become confused about the goals of the R21 program. Reviewers, in particular, found it difficult to fairly assess "special purpose" applications alongside standard R01 and R21 grants. Thus, EUREKA was designed with several innovative features. First, applicants must explicitly describe the potential impact of the proposed research, in terms of both the size of the scientific community affected and the magnitude of its impact on that community.

Second, the format of the eight-page EUREKA application is unique in that it discourages undue focus on details of experimental design and has a streamlined biosketch that lists only those publications that demonstrate innovation and the applicant's ability to solve difficult problems. Third, reviewers are told explicitly to focus their evaluation on innovation and significance and to disregard risk unless there is absolutely no likelihood that the project will succeed. To assure a more even review, EUREKA applications are compared only with each other, not with other grant types.

From its inception, the EUREKA program has been popular with the scientific community. In FY 2009, NIGMS staff responded to thousands of inquiries about EUREKA and received almost 150 applications, 19 of which were funded. Although it is too early to evaluate the EUREKA program's ability to un-block scientific progress, the initiative is clearly fulfilling a key goal of giving investigators the opportunity to pursue potentially ground-breaking research projects that are inherently risky in idea or approach.

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 2009, GDB supported research on the basic biology of embryonic stem cells by funding five program project grants. Furthermore, to rapidly exploit the potential of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research, GDB funded administrative supplements to 30 NIGMS grantees wishing to extend their ongoing projects by using iPS cells as models to study differentiation, development and genetic reprogramming. In FY 2009, GDB also funded three new grants in response to an RFA to investigate 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. In FY 2010, GDB will continue this initiative and, to complement the NIH Roadmap's initiative to sequence the human microbiome, GDB will fund new grants that seek to understand the basic principles and mechanisms that govern the symbiotic systems dynamics of microbial communities.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for this program is $548.546 million, an increase of $17.756 million and 3 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. As with FY 2010, most GDB expenditures will support individual investigators seeking fundamental knowledge about life processes. In FY 2011, 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: Induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) Cells-Grant Supplements

FY 2010 level: $0
FY 2011 level: $802 thousand
Change: $802 thousand

One of the most fundamental questions in biology is how a single egg and sperm combine to form an embryo that will eventually develop into a complex human being composed of thousands of distinct cell types. An equally important and medically relevant question is whether this process is reversible. Can adult cells of a specific tissue type be reprogrammed to once again become capable of becoming any cell type in the body? With the discovery in 1999 that human embryonic stem cells could be maintained in laboratory culture, scientists could for the first time study how "pluripotent" stem cells mature into specific cell types. This basic knowledge laid the foundation for the subsequent discovery, in 2007, that adult skin cells could be reprogrammed to become pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which appear remarkably similar to human embryonic stem cells. In addition to gaining a fundamental understanding of this most basic of biological processes, pluripotent stem cell research may lead to stem cell therapies to replace or repair damaged tissues and to treat degenerative conditions, such as diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. To rapidly take advantage of this new scientific opportunity, NIGMS announced its intent in 2008 to supplement NIGMS-funded researchers' grants with funds to enable these scientists to extend their research to include iPS cells. This supplement program gives grantees the chance to focus their ongoing work on improving methods for deriving iPS cells; clarifying the molecular, cellular, and genetic properties of iPS cells; and evaluating the cells' use in screening drugs and bioactive molecules. In response to the Institute's initiative, NIGMS funded 30 supplements in FY 2009. Five of these went to scientific teams, or program project awards, pursuing the basic biology of human embryonic stem cells. NIGMS recently held its third Workshop on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research at which many grantees presented their most recent work on both human embryonic stem cells and iPS cells. The presentations demonstrated that this is a rapidly moving area of study poised to lead to important new scientific insights and therapeutic strategies.

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 2009, the Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics (a partnership between NIH and the Center for Genomic Medicine in Japan) added ten new studies to the Pharmacogenetics Research Network-led consortium of research groups that study how genes affect an individual's response to medicines. The Metabolic Engineering funding initiative, a Federal interagency program, supports research aimed at using living systems to produce useful quantities of substances such as medicines and other health products. In FY 2009, PPBC expanded its effort to develop new methods for the synthesis of carbohydrate molecules and rapidly expand their chemical space.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for this program is $441,023 million, an increase of $14.276 million and 3 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. PPBC will continue to emphasize the support of investigator-initiated research grants. In FY 2011, 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 2009, 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 11 centers, continues to broaden and enhance our understanding of the complex interactions between cells, tissues and organisms.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for this program is $122.371 million, an increase of $3.962 million and 3 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. 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 2011 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. Research support for faculty at minority-serving institutions is now offered at three different levels, dependent upon the applicant's level of development 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 2009, 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 2011 budget estimate for this program is $144.017 million, an increase of $4.195 million and 3 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. In FY 2011, 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 2011, 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.

Research Training: The Research Training program provides research training support 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 grant areas (T32s), which provide broad-based, multidisciplinary research training in several areas of biomedicine. 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 2009, the program continued its new T32 training grant in molecular medicine and made two new awards in its recently established institutional training grant to support basic behavioral scientists (now in its third year). Also in FY 2009, the program continued 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 predoctoral T32 programs. FY2009 saw the start of a new predoctoral fellowship for pharmacy students enrolled in a formally combined PharmD./PhD program in the biomedical, behavioral or clinical sciences.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for this program is $209.221 million, an increase of $11.664 million and 5.9 percent above the FY 2010 Enacted level. Consistent with overall NIH policy, NIGMS will be providing a 6% stipend increase. 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 2011, 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.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for the Intramural Research program is $2.7 million, an increase of $84 thousand and 3.2 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. 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. 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. In FY 2010, RMS funds will be used to support scientific meetings, conferences and workshops to advance biomedical research. RMS funds will also continue to be used to support information technology tools to facilitate the peer review process, conduct portfolio analysis and assist with document management. In FY 2010, RMS funds will be used to develop formal disaster recovery plans for NIGMS' information technology infrastructure, including plans for dealing with sustaining mission-critical operations during a pandemic or other emergency. The Institute also plans to use RMS funds to convert over 80,000 legacy grant files to an electronic format ultimately resulting in enhancements to reporting capabilities.

Budget Policy: The FY 2011 budget estimate for RMS is $59.449 million, an increase of $2.831 million and 5.0 percent over the FY 2010 Enacted level. In FY 2011, 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 2011 RMS funds will develop and maintain an NIGMS information technology architecture that is integrated with NIH enterprise information systems. In FY 2011, 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.

Recovery Act Implementation
Recovery Act Funding: $505.188 million

In FY 2009, NIGMS received $505.188 million under the Recovery Act. Of this amount, $351.8 million was obligated in FY 2009 (nearly 1,600 awards) and $153.4 million will be obligated in FY 2010. In keeping with the NIGMS mission to sustain basic biomedical research that is the engine of innovation, our primary consideration for funding is the quality of a proposed idea. However, because of the unique opportunity created by the Recovery Act, the Institute also considered two other factors: the economic stimulus impact of the funding and the distribution of funds across regions, states and institutions. Most NIGMS Recovery Act funds went to support administrative supplements for active individual investigator awards (R01s and R37s), and a smaller portion funded competitive revisions to current individual investigator awards as well as new, two-year R01 grants. The Institute funded 14 Grand Opportunity grants to scientists in 13 states. These awards will establish new databases, service centers or other resources that will be accessible to the entire scientific community, advancing biomedical research—and possibly medical care—for years to come. In addition, the NIGMS Recovery Act investment includes 19 Challenge Grants in 12 states, projects that focus on overcoming specific scientific and technological challenges in stem cells, molecular imaging, synthetic biology, drug discovery, green chemistry, behavioral research and research training. As a whole, NIGMS Recovery Act awards unleash pent-up creativity and innovation in laboratories in states across the nation, allowing scientists to explore important research questions while stimulating their local economies through job creation, training and purchasing of new equipment.

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