Overall Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for NIGMS is $2,378.835 million, a decrease of $48.354 million or -1.99 percent under the FY 2012 Enacted level.
Developing a strong scientific workforce is a core element of the NIGMS mission. Because the Institute's highest priorities are investigator-initiated research projects, including those conducted by early-career investigators, in FY 2012 and FY 2013, NIGMS will continue to support new investigators and maintain an adequate number of competing research project grants.
NIGMS also supports the IDeA program to broaden the geographic distribution of NIH funding for biomedical and behavioral research. This effort increases the competitiveness of investigators at institutions underrepresented in NIH funding in 23 states and Puerto Rico. IDeA grants support faculty development and research infrastructure enhancements at those institutions.
In addition to its research funding activities, NIGMS supports biomedical research workforce development through a range of research training programs. In FY 2013, NIGMS will provide an across-the-board increase of 2.0 percent in stipend levels under the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) training program, in line with recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences to attain stipend levels that sustain the development of a highly qualified biomedical research workforce.
Intramural Research and Research Management and Support (RMS) programs will receive a modest decrease to promote spending efficiency.
Funds are included in R&D contracts to support trans-NIH initiatives, such as the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network (OppNet) and support for a new synchrotron at the Brookhaven National Laboratory
» Cell Biology and Biophysics
» Genetics and Developmental Biology
» Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry
» Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
» Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity
» Research Management and Support
Cell Biology and Biophysics (CBB): The 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 other novel imaging techniques have deepened understanding of life at the level of molecules and atoms. Critical basic research supported by the CBB program promotes the development of precise, targeted therapies, as well as diagnostics for a range of diseases. In FY 2011, the program continued with the third phase of the Protein Structure Initiative (PSI), PSI:Biology, which makes powerful protein structure resources available to the broad scientific community. PSI:Biology is expected to continue through FY 2015. Also in FY 2011, CBB announced its intent to continue support of the AIDS-Related Structural Biology Program.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the CBB program is $569.902 million, an increase of $589 thousand or 0.10 percent over the FY 2012 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 2013, CBB will support research to develop new information about RNA structure and its role in gene regulation. This research has the potential to lay the groundwork for the development of targeted diagnostics and therapeutics. CBB will also use FY 2013 funds to support programs in single-molecule technologies as well as for an AIDS-related structural biology program.
Program Portrait: AIDS-Related Structural Biology Program
FY 2012 level: $42,788,727
FY 2013 level: $42,385,790
For 25 years, NIGMS has supported basic research on the physical and functional properties of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by funding a variety of types of research and research training grants. The AIDS-Related Structural Biology Program began in 1987, six years after AIDS was first recognized as a serious health issue. At that time, NIGMS began funding research that combined techniques from physics and biology toward the "rational," or structure-based, design of medicines to treat this deadly disease. That initial funding, administered to teams of researchers at universities and at biotechnology companies, was instrumental in the development of antiretroviral drug therapies called HIV protease inhibitors. Other researchers built upon those key findings to develop so-called triple-combination, or highly-active antiretroviral therapy, a life-saving treatment regimen that has dramatically changed the face of HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronically manageable condition. Today, the NIGMS AIDS-Related Structural Biology Program continues to shed light on a broad range of basic scientific questions about this unique virus and its life cycle. In 2008, NIGMS reorganized and refocused its efforts in this area around centers (three of which are currently funded) that study viral-host interactions as targets for drug therapy. The rationale for targeting host factors or their complexes with components of HIV is that elements of the host cell are not subject to the rapid evolution that the virus undergoes and thus represent more stable targets for drug development. It is a formidable frontier, and one unlikely to be explored by industry due to the inherent risks. Thus, at this juncture, NIGMS is supporting challenging AIDS-related structural biology research, with the hope of informing the development of "mechanism-based drug design." Already, in the first few years of funding, NIGMS-funded scientists working in the new centers have identified potential new vulnerabilities in HIV's ability to infect and cause disease. Particularly promising findings include the researchers' construction of a comprehensive "interactome" map of HIV and 435 different ways it interacts with human cells. This new data present a wealth of opportunities for follow-on structural analysis and that may lead to new drugs.
Genetics and Developmental Biology (GDB): The GDB program promotes basic research on fundamental mechanisms of inheritance and development. This research provides a strong foundation for more targeted projects supported by other NIH components. Although much of GDB's investigator-initiated research is performed in model organisms, GDB also plans to expand its support for human research that applies systematic approaches to better understand health and disease. A workshop on this topic was convened in FY 2011, which led to a call for research grant applications for funding in FY 2013. Also in FY 2011, GDB continued to support research on the basic biology of stem cells by supporting eight program project grants, including three new ones focused on the fundamental biology of pluripotency and genetic reprogramming of induced pluripotent stem cells.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the GDB program is $516.413 million, an increase of $535 thousand or 0.10 percent over the FY 2012 Enacted level. As with FY 2012, most GDB expenditures will support individual investigators seeking fundamental knowledge about life processes. In FY 2013, GDB will continue its support for collaborative research for molecular and genomic studies in animal models, as well as research into specific genetic variants within complex disorders. NIGMS expects that this investment will enhance the practice of clinical genetics.
Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry (PPBC): The PPBC program supports fundamental research in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, and physiology that contributes to understanding human biology in health and disease and generates knowledge for new ways to diagnose and treat disease. 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, sepsis, and anesthesia. In FY 2011 and continuing through FY 2012, PPBC launched a trans-NIH, interagency collaboration in glycomics—the study of biological sugars, or glycans, often referred to as biology's "third molecular language" beyond that of genes and proteins (see Program Portrait, page 18). In FY 2011, four postdoctoral fellows in PPBC's Pharmacology Research Program won honors for their work from national societies; this program provides support for NIH intramural fellows who wish to receive advanced training in pharmacology and related sciences.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the PPBC program is $385.306 million, an increase of $399 thousand or 0.10 percent over the FY 2012 Enacted level. In FY 2012, PPBC will continue to emphasize the support of investigator-initiated research grants related to basic physiology, pharmacology, and chemistry that inform the foundation of knowledge in biomedicine. In FY 2013, the Pharmacogenetics Research Network will continue working toward promoting the goal of personalized medicine. PPBC-supported research on the structure and function of natural sugars called glycans is expected to have a major impact on numerous ongoing diagnostic, vaccine, and bio-therapeutics efforts.
Program Portrait: Glycomics: The Grand Challenge of Deciphering the Third Molecular Language of Cells
FY 2012 level: $20,011,587
FY 2013 level: $20,032,331
Vastly diverse, and information-rich, complex carbohydrate molecules called glycans are attached to proteins and lipids in our bodies helping to control the function of these basic building blocks of life. Glycans interact with specific proteins crucial to cellular function and immune defense, including enzymes, hormones, toxins, antibodies, and virtually all disease-causing microorganisms. Glycans and the proteins or lipids they attach to are central to numerous biological processes such as cell growth, recognition, and differentiation. In addition, they are involved in disease processes, including metastasis (the spread of cancer cells), inflammation, and infection. These properties of glycans make them promising targets for drug development and as drug delivery systems, and they may also serve as biomarkers that serve as surrogates for detecting and/or monitoring disease. NIGMS supports studies of the synthesis, structure, and functions of glycans and their binding proteins. In 2001, NIGMS awarded the first NIH-sponsored, large-scale glycomics study, a "glue" grant. This 10-year effort brought together an international consortium of 590 laboratories, and it established valuable resources for deciphering what has been nicknamed the third molecular language of cells, beyond those of genes and proteins. Results from this consortium have greatly improved our understanding of how the immune system functions. NIGMS continues to build on the efforts of this glycomics consortium through its support of new methods for glycan synthesis, a glycan array screening center, and glycomic database development. NIGMS is working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute to leverage resources (enzymes, standards, databases, and fast, efficient assays) for studies of field samples of avian flu, investigations of innate immunity, vaccine development, and biomarker discovery. NIGMS also chairs a trans-agency committee that includes the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Science Foundation; this committee coordinates efforts toward developing chemical and structural standards for the field of glycomics.
Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BBCB): The BBCB program supports research that draws expertise from mathematics, statistics, computer science, engineering, and physics to solve problems in biomedicine. BBCB emphasizes integrated systems approaches that combine computational studies with laboratory-based investigations that authenticate models. The program's Biomedical Technology Research Centers create critical, often unique technologies and methods at the forefront of their respective fields, and apply them to a broad range of basic, translational, and clinical research. In FY 2011, BBCB funded three new projects under NIGMS' Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study that enlist computers to identify strategies to control contagious diseases. Also in FY 2011, BBCB announced its intent to encourage research in the area of modeling social behavior; this research is expected to begin in FY 2012.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the BBCB program is $252.802 million, an increase of $262 thousand or 0.10 percent over the FY 2012 Enacted level. As with all NIGMS programs, highest priority will go to investigator-initiated research that explores complex biological systems. Major initiatives employing FY 2013 funds include the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), which models the spread of infectious diseases; biomedical technology research; and the systems biology centers program.
Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity (TWD): The TWD program oversees and coordinates NIGMS policies and efforts related to research training, and it is the Institute's focal point for facilitating the development of a diverse and inclusive biomedical research workforce. A major activity within the TWD is the training of Ph.D. and M.D.-Ph.D. students as well as postdoctoral fellows through advanced and specialized training in basic, translational, and clinical research. The TWD promotes workforce diversity through innovative approaches, including the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program that supports research infrastructure development at institutions in states that have recieved limited NIH research support. Other TWD programs support institutions serving a substantial number of students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences. In FY 2011, NIGMS issued its Strategic Plan for Biomedical and Behavioral Research Training, and is actively implementing the action items therein.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the TWD program is $586.417 million, a decrease of $50.000 million or 7.86 percent under the FY 2012 Enacted level. The Budget includes $225.438 million for IDeA in FY 2013, $50.519 million below the FY 2012 level, to focus the Institute's resources on other research priorities. Highest funding priority will go to activities that promote diversity in the biomedical research workforce through research training activities that involve undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral students; and other efforts that support institutions that serve a substantial number of students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical sciences.
Intramural: The Institute has a small, but unique intramural research program, the NIGMS Pharmacology Research Associate program, which supports postdoctoral research fellows for up to three years. There are presently 16 fellows in the program. They pursue research under the guidance of a tenured investigator from either an NIH or FDA laboratory and receive specialized training and career mentoring from NIGMS staff. The program is intended for basic or clinical scientists seeking advanced training in pharmacology, or for pharmacology trainees who wish to broaden their skill sets in another area of biomedicine. A number of former program participants have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, industry, and government, and one has won a Nobel Prize. Fellows in this program have recently won special honors for their innovative research in various areas of biomedicine, including stem cell biology, neurodegenerative disease, and immunology.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for the Intramural Research program is $2.793 million, a decrease of $23 thousand or 0.82 percent under the FY 2012 Enacted level. NIGMS will continue its Pharmacology Research Associate Training (PRAT) program, which provides training for outstanding postdoctoral research fellows who conduct research in intramural laboratories of other NIH institutes and centers or in FDA laboratories. After their NIH training, 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 in science and medicine.
Research Management and Support(RMS): RMS provides administrative, budgetary, logistical, and scientific support in the review, award, and monitoring of research grants, training awards, and research and development contracts. The RMS program also encompasses strategic planning, coordination, and evaluation of the Institute's programs; regulatory compliance; and international coordination and liaison with other federal agencies, Congress, and the public. RMS funds improvements in information technology tools to facilitate the peer review process, conduct portfolio analyses, and assist with document and content management. In FY 2013, RMS funds will be used to enable cloud services on the current NIGMS computing virtual environment, which will reduce the Institute's software and equipment costs, as well as enhance flexibility and improve the speed of application deployments to better serve the business needs of NIGMS and its customers.
Budget Policy: The FY 2013 President's Budget request for RMS is $65.202 million, a decrease of $116 thousand or 0.18 percent under the FY 2012 Enacted level. In FY 2013, RMS funds will manage the Office of Emergency Care Research (OECR). The office will serve as the primary NIH coordinating component for emergency care research, coordinate relevant emergency medicine efforts across NIH, and communicate with the extramural community and other federal agencies. RMS funds will continue to contribute to the administration of the NIH OppNet.