NIDDK Director's Update (June 15, 2005) : NIDDK

NIDDK Director's Update (June 15, 2005)

Welcome to the third NIDDK Director's Update.  This periodic electronic newsletter will bring you updates on NIH and NIDDK activities and events of interest.  It will also include NIDDK-specific plans and trans-NIH issues of importance to the Institute.  Whenever possible, we will include internet links to web sites for more information.

New NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI):

On March 9, 2005, NIH Director, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., announced at a House Appropriations/Labor-HHS Subcommittee hearing the creation of a new Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI).  This new office will be housed within the Office of the Director of the NIH and will focus on “creating better institutional tools to analyze, assess, and manage the NIH-wide research portfolio and to provide better information to support priority-setting decisions in areas of common interest to all Institutes and Centers.”  The new Office will focus these efforts and “will include an improved process for collecting data on various diseases, conditions, and research fields, and improvements in data about burden of disease.”

Report of the Blue Ribbon Panel of the Intramural Research Program of the NIDDK:

On March 24, 2005, Dr. Zerhouni received the final documents from the Blue Ribbon Panel (BRP) that evaluated the NIDDK Intramural Research Program (IRP).  The Panel, chaired by Lee E. Limbird, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pharmacology, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at Van derbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, selected four topics for focused evaluation:  1) innovation and impact of the research of the IRP, 2) balance between clinical and laboratory research, 3) quality of postdoctoral training and career development, and 4) effectiveness of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC) Review process.

The Report stated that “overall the BRP found a history of, and evidence for, continuing excellence in training and in discovery, particularly in basic research studies undertaken without immediate linkage to disease or therapeutic interventions.”  The Panel also found that clinical research has not been fostered and sustained to the same degree as basic research and recommended that the NIDDK “invest considerable strategic effort in the strengthening of clinical research.”  On May 19, 2005, Edward W. Holmes, M.D., Dean of the University of California, San Diego, Medical School and a member of the BRP, presented a summary of the BRP's findings to the members of the 168 th meeting of the National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council, followed by a presentation of an implementation plan in response to the BRP report by Marvin C. Gershengorn, M.D., NIDDK Scientific Director. 

NIH Conflict of Interest Interim Final Rules update:

On May 12, 2005, Dr. Zerhouni sent a memo to all NIH staff providing updated information on the interim final conflict of interest rules released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) in February 2005.  Based upon public comments and personal interviews with NIH staff, Dr. Zerhouni, in collaboration with senior HHS staff, OGE officials, and others, will “formulate the appropriate adjustments and put them in place as soon as possible.”  Dr. Zerhouni estimates that the changes will be made within the next few weeks.  He states that he is “determined to ensure that these new conflict of interest rules are fair and reasonable, and that they do not have negative unintended consequences for our staff or for the NIH mission, while also ensuring public trust in all that we do.”  More information is available on the NIH Conflict of Interest Information and Resources web page:

NIDCD Director, James Battey, to Remain at NIH:

On May 18, 2005, James Battey, M.D., Ph.D., announced that he will remain at the NIH as director of the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) and as the head of the NIH Task Force on Stem Cell Research.  Dr. Battey originally declared his intention to leave the NIH in response to the February 2005 release of the NIH interim final conflicts of interest rules.

NIEHS Director, David Schwartz, Joins NIH:

On May 23, 2005, David A. Schwartz, M.D., began his appointment as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP).  Dr. Schwartz is the former director of the Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Division and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Medicine at Duke University.  At Duke, Dr. Schwartz played a principal role in developing three interdisciplinary Centers in Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Genomics, and Environmental Asthma.  More information is available on the NIH web site News Page:

Antonio Scarpa Named New Director of CSR:

On March 14, 2005, Dr. Zerhouni, announced the appointment of Antonio Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D., as the new director of the Center for Scientific Review (CSR).  Dr. Scarpa is currently the David and Inez Myers professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland , Ohio .  He will replace Brent Stanfield, Ph.D., who became acting director of CSR following the departure of Ellie Ehrenfeld, Ph.D., in October 2005.  Dr. Scarpa will join the NIH on July 1, 2005 .  More information is available on the NIH web site News Page:

Leadership Changes at NCRR:

On March 25, 2005 , Dr. Zerhouni announced the appointment of Judith L. Vaitukaitis, M.D., director of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), as Senior Advisor on Scientific Infrastructure and Resources.  At the same time, Dr. Zerhouni announced that Barbara Alving, M.D., former deputy director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), would serve as acting director of NCRR during the search for a new permanent director of the center.  Dr. Alving served as acting director of the NHLBI after the departure of NHLBI director Claude Lenfant, M.D., in August 2003 until the appointment of the new NHLBI director, Elizabeth Nabel, M.D., in February 2005.  More information is available on the NIH web site News Page:

NIDDK Staff Departures:

Robert Hammond, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA) is retiring at the end of June 2005.  Dr. Hammond has served since 2000 as Director of the DEA and as Executive Secretary of the National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Advisory Council.  Before joining the NIDDK, Dr. Hammond served in the Division of Extramural Activities for the National Cancer Institute.

Thomas Hostetter , M.D., Senior Scientific Advisor, NIDDK, and Director of the National Kidney Disease Education Program at the NIDDK, will be leaving the NIH at the end of June 2005 to become the head of Nephrology at Albert Einstein School of Medicine in Bronx, New York .  Dr. Hostetter came to the NIDDK in 2000 from the University of Minnesota , where he was Director of the Division of Renal Diseases in the Department of Medicine.

NIDDK Staff Detail:

Robert Star, M.D., Senior Scientific Advisor, Translational Nephrology, in the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases (KUH) at the NIDDK, is currently on detail to the NCRR as the Senior Advisor on Clinical Translational Sciences to NCRR Acting Director, Dr. Alving.  Star will be working with NCRR's Division for Clinical Research Resources to integrate initiatives from the Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise theme of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research into NCRR programs.  More information is available on the NCRR web site:

NIDDK's Nancy Nossal Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences:
Nancy G. Nossal, Ph.D., Chief of NIDDK's Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the Division of Intramural Research, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Dr. Nossal is among 213 newly elected Fellows – leaders in their fields recognized for their preeminent contributions to their disciplines and to society.  As part of her research on DNA replication, Dr. Nossal identified and characterized the phage T4 proteins essential to DNA synthesis in vitro and elucidated their functions at a molecular level.  Dr. Nossal showed that the mechanisms of many of the viral T4 proteins are similar to those in higher organisms, providing the conceptual basis for protein function in DNA replication throughout nature.  More information about the AAAS and the 225 th class of Fellows is available on the AAAS web site:

Recently Tenured at NIDDK:

Barbara Rehermann, M.D., was recently tenured at the NIDDK.  Dr. Rehermann is a Senior Investigator in the Liver Diseases Branch in the Division of Intramural Research, NIDDK.  Her research interests are the immunobiology and pathogenesis of viral and autoimmune hepatitis.  Her current research includes the use of multidisciplinary approaches with infected patients, transgenic mice, and infectious animal models to increase understanding of hepatitis disease pathogenesis and the role of the virus specific immune response in viral clearance.

New NIDDK Staff Appointments:

NIDDK welcomes several new members to the staff.  Dr. Daniel Appella joins the Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry in the Division of Intramural Research, NIDDK, as a tenure track investigator.  Dr. Guillermo Arreaza-Rubin joins the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, NIDDK, as the Program Director for Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Immunology Research.  Dr. T. Debuene Chang joins the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases, NIDDK, as a Medical Officer.  Dr. Karen Dunlap-Walker joins the Grants Management Branch in the Division of Extramural Activities, NIDDK, as a Grants Management Specialist.  Drs. Xiaodu Guo, Atul Sahai, and Robert Wellner join the Review Branch in the Division of Extramural Activities, NIDDK, as Health Science Administrators.  Dr. Alexandra McPherron joins the Diabetes Branch in the Division of Intramural Research, NIDDK, as a tenure track investigator.  Dr. Yihong Ye joins the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the Division of Intramural Research, NIDDK, as a tenure track investigator. 

NIDDK Health Information Web Sites Rate High in Customer Satisfaction:

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index, published June 14, 2005, by the National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan Business School, rated a group of three NIDDK health information web sites as the second highest in customer satisfaction in the News/Information web site category.  The NIDDK web sites earned a score of 84 out of 100, just one point below the highest score of 85, awarded to the National Library of Medicine's MedLine Plus web site.  The rating was based on the criteria of ease of search, look and feel, functionality, ease of navigation, and content.  National Institutes of Health (NIH) health information web sites scored at the top of the Index, with eight of the top 10 rated web sites belonging to the NIH.

The three NIDDK health information web sites surveyed were the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC), the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), and the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). 

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC):

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC):

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):

More information is available on the ACSI web site:

To download a copy of the second quarter 2005 ACSI E-Government Satisfaction Index:

A Tribute to the Career of Gary Felsenfeld:

On April 29, 2005, the NIDDK Division of Intramural Research held a tribute to the career of Gary Felsenfeld entitled, “DNA and its Complexes,” on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland.  An impressive group of friends, colleagues, and admirers joined together to pay tribute to the man and the scientist and to honor a career that has spanned the past 50 years.  Presentations focused on research involving DNA-protein interactions relating to transcription and touched upon Felsenfeld's own research goal to establish the chronology of reactions that turn genes on and off by elucidating the relationship between chromatin structure and gene expression in eukaryotes.  Participants included Bruce Alberts, Phillip Leder, and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Axel.  Presenters from the NIDDK Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where Felsenfeld is Chief, included David Davies, Martin Gellert, and Kiyoshi Mizuuchi.  I participated, as did Michael Gottesman, Deputy Director for Intramural Research, NIH, and Marvin C. Gershengorn, Scientific Director, NIDDK.

I look forward to continued interaction with those of you who have an interest in the programs of NIDDK.  Comments about this electronic newsletter can be directed to Betsy Singer, Public Liaison for NIDDK at

Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., Director



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