Bridging the Sciences Program Launches

The NIH and NSF jointly announced two new research grant programs to bridge the sciences: New Biomedical Frontiers at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences and Transforming Biomedicine at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences  (R01) PAR-10-141. The former focuses on basic research and the latter on clinical and translational research.

Th ese two new programs, in addition to the EUREKA high-risk high-reward grants program that NIH rolled out two years ago, are part of the Bridging the Sciences Demonstration Program, which the Biophysical Society advocated for along with other members of the Bridging the Sciences Coalition. The purpose of that program, and the Coalition’s advocacy, was to provide a dedicated source of funding to cross-disciplinary and upstream research that often falls between the cracks of the basic research funded at NSF and DOE and the biomedical research funded at NIH. Breakthroughs such as x-ray crystallography, CAT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging have had an enormous and important effect on biology. These discoveries were funded by sources, such as the Bell Labs, which are no longer in existence. Thus, it is very difficult for researchers to work on similar breakthrough technologies today.

Th e program announcements for New Biomedical Frontiers at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences and  Transforming Biomedicine at the Interface of the Life and Physical Sciences indicate that many of the specific items the coalition advocated for were included in the programs. Both programs will provide grants of varying sizes and lengths to  accommodate a variety of research, encourage young investigators with novel ideas to apply, and will be reviewed by special review panels that include reviewers from the physical, mathematical, and computational sciences. Applications will be accepted once a year in May through 2012.

For more information on the programs, visit http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-10-142.html and http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-fi les/PAR-10-141.html.

House Bill Would Codify Obama’s Stem Cell Policy

On the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s reversal of limits on embryonic stem cell research, Representatives  Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Mike Castle (R-DE) introduced legislation (H.R. 4808) that would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for human embryonic stem cell research. The bill would codify President Obama’s Executive Order issued March 9, 2009, which permits federal funding of research conducted with human embryonic stem cell lines.

In Representative DeGette’s press release, the Congresswoman said the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act would  “ensure a lasting ethical framework overseeing stem cell research at the National Institutes of Health.” The bill would require NIH to maintain guidelines on all human stem cell research and review those guidelines at least every three years, ban the use of federal funding for human cloning under the NIH guidelines, and require a biennial report to Congress on stem cell research.

In his own press release, Representative Castle stated, “Congress must act to ensure that an over-arching ethical framework is signed into law.”

The bill will be considered by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where Rep. DeGette is the Vice Chair.

Healthcare Legislation Includes NIH Provisions

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. While the debate and news focused on health insurance coverage, costs, and availability, the bill also included two items that impact NIH and the research community.

  • The legislation establishes a Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) at NIH that aims to move promising science  through the “Valley of Death.” Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) introduced the Cures Acceleration Network Act of 2009 as an amendment to the Senate health care bill. CAN, which seeks to cut the time between discovery and  development of drugs and therapies through new grant-making mechanisms at NIH, will be housed within the Offi ce of the Director of NIH and will be overseen by a Board of 24 members. CAN will also work with the FDA to coordinate approval requirements with the goal of expediting the development and approval of products.

The legislation designates the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) at the NIH as an Institute, and requires the NCHMD Director to plan, coordinate, and review and evaluate research and other activities  conducted or supported by the institutes and centers.

The Biophysical Society will continue to monitor the development of these programs and make the information available
to members.

PCAST Releases Nanotechnology Report

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has released a report to the president and  Congress on its assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), which coordinates Federal research and  development activities involving the manipulation of matter at scales smaller than 100 billionths of meter. The report  concludes that NNI—which provided $12 billion in investments by 25 Federal agencies over the past decade—has had a  “catalytic and substantial impact” on the growth of US nanotechnology innovation and should be continued. The report
also makes several recommendations for changes in federal programs and policies, including recommendations for NIH, with the goal of assuring continued US dominance in nanotechnology research and development. The recommendations are intended to help move nanotechnology findings and applications to market.

Read the full report on the PCAST website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-nano-report.pdf.

June 2010 Table of Contents