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October 19, 2004 • Volume 1 / Number 40 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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NIH Update

Roadmap Progress Faster Than Anticipated, NIH Director
Tells Staff

A series of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary networks and centers, along with innovative training programs, biocomputing centers, and grant funding for creative-thinking scientists, are among a comprehensive package of strategic funding initiatives being implemented as part of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Roadmap for Medical Research takes shape. This was reported by NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni to employees and partners in a campuswide update on October 14 at Lipsett Amphitheater.

"I think we need to bring good ideas to the table…to stake the ground where science is going to go in the 21st century," Dr. Zerhouni said in his remarks. He reported that early returns from stakeholders show that initial implementation of the Roadmap is being well-received, and it is bringing more "logic and focus" to NIH's research initiatives with "enormous and amazing speed."

Dr. Zerhouni unveiled the Roadmap strategy last year, saying that NIH in the 21st century must "accelerate the pace of discovery" and improve research efficiency. The overarching goal is to move NIH toward a culture of "team science," where NIH researchers from various disciplines work collaboratively and creatively across organizations and disciplines.

The implementation of the Roadmap is occurring along three tracks: New Pathways to Discovery, Research Teams of the Future, and Re-engineering of the Clinical Medical Enterprise. Approximately $129 million in Roadmap projects were funded in fiscal year 2004 in each of these three categories.

In the category of New Pathways to Discovery, NIH is developing a "toolkit" that will help scientists better understand how biological systems work, including providing a detailed look at the combination of molecular events leading up to disease. The priorities for this are building blocks, biological pathways, and networks; molecular libraries and molecular imaging; structural biology; bioinformatics and computational biology; as well as nanomedicine. In addition to funding an initial group of National Technology Centers for Networks and Pathways aimed at encouraging the development of highly novel technologies in proteomics, other NIH projects reported include:

  • A Small Molecule Repository to acquire, maintain and distribute up to 50,000 compounds with diverse chemical structures and known or unknown biological activities
  • A Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network that will provide public and private researchers with small molecules and be linked to a larger database of biological information on small organic molecules (PubChem)
  • High-Throughput Molecular Screening Assay Development to create a continuous stream of biological assays that can be used for automated screening at the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers
  • National Centers for Biomedical Computing, which will create a networked computational infrastructure for national biocomputing needs and help educate and train researchers to use biomedical computing

Under Research Teams of the Future, NIH is rewarding aggressive risk-taking by researchers, encouraging interdisciplinary research and enabling public-private partnerships. The new Director's Pioneer Awards highlight this area, with awards going to individual scientists with non-traditional approaches to biomedical research. The first group of recipients has already been chosen. Other Research Teams' projects include creating centers for interdisciplinary research and training programs for a new interdisciplinary workforce.

The third focus of the NIH Roadmap initiative is to Re-engineer the Clinical Research Enterprise, moving research from bench to bedside as efficiently as possible. Priorities include integrating and expanding clinical research networks and examining the feasibility of a National Electronics Clinical Trials/ Research Network (NECTAR).