July 20, 2004, Summary
NIH Stem Cell Task Force
James Battey, NIDCD (Chair); Arlene Chiu, NINDS; Robert Hammond, NIDDK; Pam Robey, NIDCR; Mark Rohrbaugh, OD/OTT; Richard Tasca, NICHD; Judith Vaitukaitis, NCRR; Marion Zatz, NIGMS
Tony Beck, NCRR; Tom Johnson, OD/OSP; Laura Cole, NIDCD; Walter Schaffer, OD/OER; Lisa Montney, NIDCD; Anne White-Olson, NIDCD; Baldwin Wong, NIDCD
Dr. Battey welcomed the members to the tenth meeting of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force and thanked them for their continued commitment.
II. Approval of April 7, 2004 Meeting minutes
Mr. Wong informed the Task Force that revised text suggested by Dr. Tasca was omitted from the section on "Third-Party Stem Cell Distribution" in the current version of the draft minutes. After reviewing this change, the Task Force approved the remaining text of the April meeting minutes, which will be posted on the NIH Stem Cell website at http://stemcells.nih.gov/policy/taskforce/tfSummaries/2004_04_07tfs.asp.
III. New NIH Stem Cell Initiatives
Dr. Battey informed the Task Force that two new NIH stem initiatives, the establishment of a national stem cell bank and establishment of several Centers for Excellence in Translational Stem Cell Research, were announced by DHHS last week. The Task Force discussed the preliminary steps needed by NIH to how best implement these new initiatives. Although it has not been determined whether input from the Task Force is needed for developing these new stem cell initiatives, the Task Force will do its best to ensure the initiatives are developed conscientiously and money are invested wisely. Although discussed, more specific details of the funding sources, funding mechanisms, and timeline for implementation (in FY05) are needed before the Task Force can proceed in helping develop the initiatives. Dr. Battey asked the Task Force to provide him with input on how NIH could implement these initiatives.
IV. Role of NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee
The role and possible restructuring of the NIH Stem Cell Implementation Committee, which has representation from all ICs with a stem cell research program, was discussed by Dr. Hammond. Originally, the Implementation Committee was established in 2001 by Dr. Wendy Baldwin in the NIH Office of Extramural Research. The initial task of the Implementation Committee was the development of the "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Enhancement Award." With the establishment of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force in 2002, the Implementation Committee has taken a different role. The Task Force is responsible for determining obstacles to stem cell research and making recommendation to overcome these research obstacles. To get input from the research community, the Task Force convened a series of working groups on topics of Career Pathways (including training), Peer Review of Stem Cell Science, Stem Cell Research Resource Access, Supporting Technologies/Research Tools in Basic Research, and Scientific Progress/Community Outreach. Suggestions from the working groups were discussed by the Task Force and are then forwarded to the Implementation Committee for finalization and development into NIH initiatives. Members of the Implementation Committee are also responsible for reporting the end-of-fiscal year stem cell research dollars for their respective IC.
There is some concern that the Implementation Committee has become too much of a discussion group. The Implementation Committee should serve as a body that can not only disseminate information, but can influence their IC's funding of new stem cell research initiatives. The Task Force discussed how to optimize performance of the Implementation Committee to reduce overlap and reduce inefficiency. For instance, a Task Force proposal for supporting Administrative Supplements to Infrastructure grants stalled at the Implementation Committee. The Task Force recommended that the Implementation Committee members have authority to make funding decisions within their IC or have the capability to advise their IC director on such decisions.
The Task Force also suggested 1) informing the IC directors of the current membership of the Implementation Committee so that it can be determined if the correct program person is representing the IC, 2) creating a list of the duties and responsibilities of the Implementation Committee, 3) improving communication lines between the Task Force and the Implementation Committee through the dissemination of Task Force meeting minutes, and 4) convening a subcommittee of the Task Force to work on stem cell issues/implement initiatives.
V. Update on NIH hESC Infrastructure Grants
Dr. Beck announced the review of the recompetition of NIH hESC Infrastructure Grants has been completed. NIDDK conducted the review of applications and NCRR administers the awards. NCRR is in the process of notifying applicants of their award. In FY04, approximately $2.1 million will be expended by NIH for NIH infrastructure grants.
VI. Identification of Issues for Task Force Consideration
Some members of the Task Force expressed concern whether a national Stem Cell Bank will be able to distribute cells at a lower cost than the current providers. The current providers have a huge inventory of frozen vials of hESCs because the customer base is low. This may change as more scientists receive training in stem cell culturing. The Task Force was also interested in learning if the freely distributed hESC lines from Harvard University are receiving many requests for shipment. There was agreement that the proposed NIH Stem Cell Bank should charge a nominal fee for orders of the cells to prevent fraudulent requests.
Members discussed whether the peer review of stem cell grant applications was an obstacle in advancing hESC research. The Task Force discussed the planned NIH coding guidelines for reporting stem cell grants. The new guidelines will not require the ICs to reconcile their stem cell funding information with IMPAC II. OER is in the process of removing the stem cell "flag" in IMPAC II that identifies an application/grant award as hESC-related. This decision was made by the fact that for the past two fiscal years, NIH institutes and centers have been reporting their human embryonic stem cell (hESC) funding by reconciling their institute scientific coding systems with IMPAC II. Because these two systems contained different funding data, it was extremely difficult to resolve end-of-year budget reporting by reconciling between the two systems. In addition, the IMPAC II system did not contain funding data for research contracts or intramural projects. Representatives from the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, Office of Budget and the Office of Extramural Research met to establish a plan whereby future NIH reporting of hESC research projects will be based on the individual IC's scientific coding system instead of IMPAC II. Task Force members were concerned that upon removal of the stem cell flag, tracking of grant applications may be more difficult. The Task Force will invite the NIH Center for Scientific Review to the next Task Force meeting for a discussion.
The next meeting of the Stem Cell Task Force is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, October 21, 2004, 9:00–11:00 A.M., in 31/3C05. The meeting adjourned at 11:00 A.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