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Dr. Collins Updates the NIH’s SMRB and Council of Councils on Opportunities and Challenges

Legislative Update
June 6, 2012

The weeks of May 28 and June 4, two of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) management committees created by the NIH Reform Act of 2006 met-the Scientific Management Review Board, which makes recommendations on NIH structure and management, and the Council of Councils, which advises on trans-NIH programs, such as the common fund. NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. addressed both groups, updating them on recent NIH actions and requesting their input on key issues.

May 29 SMRB Conference Call Meeting:

Dr. Collins noted that it was the SMRB’s 11th meeting since the group first met in April 2009 and highlighted its accomplishments to date:

  • Issuing recommendations to NIH on the fiscal sustainability and utilization of the NIH Clinical Center. NIH is currently proceeding with implementation of these recommendations, except for having Congress fund the Clinical Center as a line item in the NIH budget as the current process of funding it out of the 27 Institute and Center (I/C) budgets is currently more feasible.
  • Issuing recommendations regarding Substance Use, Abuse and Addiction research at NIH, which includes abolishing the separate Drug and Alcohol Institutes and launching a new National Institute of Substance Use and Addiction Disorders. NIH is currently speaking with stakeholders and developing an integration and strategic plan for release in Fall 2012 for comment.
  • Issuing recommendations regarding Translational Medicine and Therapeutics that have resulted in the creation of the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), which was approved and funded in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012.
  • Forming a working group to consider potential changes to how NIH manages the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. With a budget of $30.7 billion, NIH funds one of the largest SBIR/STTR programs. The working group provided an initial report on its charge, which is to recommend strategies for how NIH can optimize utilization of these programs in keeping with its mission. NIH will hold its first SBIR/STTR Stakeholders Meeting on July 11 to solicit input in that regard.
At the conclusion of the call, Dr. Collins gave the SMRB a new charge-to assist the NIH in developing the metrics to demonstrate its value and return on investment, especially as it interacts with Congress and the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

June 4 Council of Councils meeting:

In his presentation to the Council of Councils, Dr. Collins previewed new messaging about the value of NIH investment in innovation-the four “Ts”: technology, translation, talent, and taxpayer return on investment. He emphasized the importance of a consistent NIH brand image associated with research announcements-even if it is at the expense of I/Cs’ and academic institutions’ identities-since taxpayers need to understand that extramural funding provided to the states comes from NIH central.

In addition to its closed session for review of grants supported by the Common Fund, the public session featured numerous presentations on the use of animals in research.

The Council is comprised of representatives nominated by each of the I/Cs. NAEVR’s James Jorkasky chatted with Council member Mae Gordon, Ph.D. (Washington University School of Medicine), who was nominated by the National Eye Institute (NEI) to represent the vision community.
The Council is comprised of representatives nominated by each of the I/Cs. NAEVR’s James Jorkasky chatted with Council member Mae Gordon, Ph.D. (Washington University School of Medicine), who was nominated by the National Eye Institute (NEI) to represent the vision community.