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September 20, 2002, Summary

NIH Stem Cell Task Force

Members Present

James Battey, NIDCD, (Chair); Wendy Baldwin, OD/OER; Arlene Chiu, NINDS; Robert Hammond, NIDDK; Della Hann, OD/OER; Robert Strausberg, NCI; Richard Tasca, NICHD; John Thomas, NHLBI; Judith Vaitukaitis, NCRR


Baldwin Wong, NIDCD; Anne White-Olson, NIDCD; Frank Holloman, PMI

Dr. Battey welcomed the members to the first Working Meeting of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force and described the charge to the group, which is to "focus solely on the science" of stem cell research. There are barriers to working with stem cells, especially human embryonic stem cells. Two major challenges are the availability of cell lines, and scientists who are trained in this field.

In addition to Task Force meetings, five Working Groups of the Task Force, that includes extramural and intramural researchers, are planned throughout the year. The first Working Group meeting is scheduled for October 24 and the topic of the meeting will be Stem Cell Research Career Pathways. Dr. Battey and Dr. Ron McKay will co-chair this Working Group meeting. Dr. Zerhouni expressed interest in meeting with the Working Group Members to discuss the challenges of stem cell research and to encourage them to engage investigators in that effort.

Dr. Battey distributed a flow chart illustrating the Task Force within NIH. (Link to Flow Chart). The Working Groups will provide suggestions to the Task Force. The Task Force will develop initiatives and coordinate these with the ICs through the NIH Stem Cell Research Implementation Team.

  • Dr. Battey discussed his experience with working on the Trans-NIH Mouse Working Group, which is an example of a successful collaborative effort among the Institute/Centers.

  • He mentioned that the Senate Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Stem Cells that will take place on September 25. Senator Arlen Specter, (R-PA) will chair the hearing and Dr. Zerhouni will be testifying.

Dr. Baldwin mentioned that there have been a few reports that there appeared to be a considerable time lapse between the President announcing federal funding for stem cell research on derivations of existing lines and when the stem cell registry was introduced. After the President's announcement, OSP hosted a series of meetings and traveled the individuals involved with each source to Bethesda to discuss the development of the Registry and how they would interact with the NIH. These meetings took some time to schedule and complete. The events of Sept. 11 were another issue to contend with but during that time the registry was developed, a tracking system developed and documentation received from each source ensuring conformance with the President's policy.

Each Member explained the current and planned research activities at their IC.

Among the topics:

  • Dr. Baldwin announced that researcher training is the biggest need and that more money needs to be obligated to this area. Twenty existing labs are expanding hesc through administrative supplements. NIH will continue to issue administrative supplements into the next year.

  • Dr. Strausberg mentioned that he will study gene expression of several different stem cell lines and generate cDNA libraries and gene sequences for community access. These libraries will be part of the NIH Mammalian Gene Collection program. This information will be integrated with public genome and gene expression databases.

  • Dr. Chiu described NINDS' interest in stem cell research since 1996. NINDS has a history of funding research on precursor cells in the nervous system, and has recently awarded $850,000 for work in human embryonic stem cell research, in the form of 13 administrative supplements and a R01. NINDS has also sponsored meetings and workshops on stem cell research,and maintains a longstanding collaboration with the FDA on stem cell issues.

  • Dr. Hammond is a member of the Stem Cell Implementation Team. He reported that the NIDDK is currently supporting stem cell research through administrative supplements (7), RFAs specific to NIDDK, and participation in trans-NIH initiatives such as the infrastructure and career/training award programs. Dr. Hammond also announced that the NIDDK supports one embryonic germ cell pilot project through the Beta Cell Biology Consortium.

  • Dr. Tasca is a member of the Stem Cell Implementation Team. NICHD is interested in the basic biology of a variety of stem cells, including embryonic stem cells, embryonic germ cells, trophoblastic stem cells and spermatogonial stem cells, as well as stem cells of many organ-forming areas of the developing embryo and fetus. NICHD has participated in the trans-NIH funding of the Infrastructure grants and the Training grants. Dr. Tasca also noted that the NICHD can support human embryonic stem cell research through administrative supplements to funded grants as well as the full range of other NIH funding mechanisms, from individual grants to NICHD-specific center grants.

  • Dr. Vaitukaitis discussed Infrastructure awards. NCRR contributes logistical support for stem cell research both human and non-human.

  • Dr. Thomas spoke about NHLBI's numerous research activities and announced Short-Term Courses in Human Embryonic Stem Cell Culture Techniques (PA-02-054); 3–5 applications are expected for an October 23, 2002 receipt date.

Dr. Battey discussed the Medical Research Council (MRC) meeting held in Britain on September 11 and its plans for stem cell research. The British have a different arrangement on stem cell research than the U.S. in that researchers must apply to the government to obtain a license to work with embryos. In addition, the British Government is paying for embryo derivations and stem cell line research, therefore the cell lines are publicly owned. It appears, however, the British repository has not yet drawn a lot of interest. So far, there have been only two licenses with one derivation reported. Again, the limiting factor in this field is the availability of trained scientists.

The issue was raised about whether the ICs can contribute to administering and funding the next round of infrastructure awards. NCRR has been responsible in the past; however, it isn't quite "fair" that NCRR be tasked with all of the work.

Dr. Baldwin raised the issue that since applications for R01s are going to different review groups, and asked if this was working for stem cell research. It was suggested that NIH might want to consider another model to create a special emphasis panel to review stem cell applications. Dr. Battey will speak to Dr. Ehrenfeld about clustering the reviews in one place.

Dr. Chiu mentioned that in Sept 2003 the Swedes are planning an international conference on stem cell research. In partnership with the organizers, NINDS is planning a satellite meeting to promote collaborations between U.S. neuroscientists and their counterparts abroad in developing stem cell treatments for neurological disorders. NIMH as well as other institutes are invited to join in this initiative.

The meeting adjourned at 1:00 p.m.


If you have questions about the Task Force, please contact:

Science Policy and Planning Branch
National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders, NIH
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 402-2313
Fax: (301) 402-2265