October 1, 2008
IC Directors
Ann Brewer, Director, Executive Secretariat
IC Directors’ Meeting Highlights – August 14, 2008

Discussion Items

I. Standard Operating Procedures for Recusals, Sally Rockey, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Office of Extramural Research, Office of the Director

Dr. Rockey reviewed the procedures for managing recusals for IC Directors and extramural staff that include the legal obligations for disqualifications when you have a personal or imputed financial interest in a grantee institution. The Office of Extramural Research (OER) has asked that each IC Director please review his or her disqualifications every six months, and update the list when necessary. When reviewing your list of recusals you should:

  • Identify organizations with whom you have a financial conflict of interest
  • Identify individuals with whom you have a professional collaborative relationship as a result of official duties
  • Make COIs known to individuals above you and those below you so that proper management will occur
  • Update recusal list as things change

OER is developing a secure online database where information can be placed and updated — they will also append any recusal documents. Points to remember when managing recusals:

  • Signature authority cannot be delegated down — only up
  • Submit information to DDER when recused from particular applications, proposals, or from entire RFA/RFP DDER will sign and return to IC
  • Recusal will be kept for record where it is only accessible to the DDER and Deputy Director, NIH

Dr. Rockey shared the IC Director Conflicts of Interest Recusals Flow Chart (found on the OER Web site), however she stressed that all cases of official duty COIs for NIH staff cannot be resolved using this. They are proposing a sub-committee of NEAC be formed called the NIH Official Duty Input Group (NODIG). The purpose of the NODIG is to provide guidance and review certain proposed Official Duty activities that cannot be resolved using the existing guidance in the chart. Dr. Rockey’s best advice is to be careful and use good judgment, but not overreact.

II. NIDA Scholastic Addiction Science Awards, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse

Dr. Volkow shared information regarding the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair explaining that it is the world’s largest high school science fair and the only international student science fair representing all life sciences. She further explained that more than one million students enter at 500 local level affiliated fairs and that there are 1500 finalists representing 50 countries. It is sponsored by Intel Corporation and the non-profit Society for Science and the Public. In 1999, it joined with Discovery Channel for The Young Scientist Challenge (NIH participates with this).

The ISEF has two award categories — Grand Awards and Special Awards. Dr. Volkow explained that the NIDA Addiction Science Awards were part of the Special Awards. They had no funding authority for this, but worked with NIH Counsel in establishing a partnership with the publisher Scholastic. By doing this, NIDA was able to create an MOU between Scholastic and Society for Science and the Public.

Dr. Volkow then discussed the NIDA awards winners and how they followed-up with them by sending information to Congress members and Senators, bringing the winners to NIH, placing video clips of winners on NIDA’s Web site, and inviting them to the Society for Neuroscience. Interestingly, the winners explained during their visit to the NIH that when they went back to school, their awards were not even mentioned. Dr. Volkow noted that in many other countries, these awards are front page news.

She then made recommendations on what the NIH can do and how we can participate:
  • Need to work with schools to place more emphasis on recognizing students’ science achievements (more in line with sports-related achievements)
  • Need to work with schools to provide more recognition/incentives for good science teachers
  • Contact ISEF about NIH sponsorship of the Health and Medicine category
  • Send teams of scientists from a variety of ICs to talk to ISEF participants and to judge entries
  • Invite winners to the campus to tour facilities and meet NIH leadership and scientists
  • Invite winners to the NIH Research Festival
  • Offer summer internships to work with NIH scientists

Dr. Volkow concluded by stating that we need to make science “cool” by bringing attention to and recognizing young scientists.

III. Scientific Presentation: Inflammation and Hereditary Familial Fevers, Dan Kastner, M.D., Ph.D., NIAMS

Dr. Kastner began by explaining the rationale for studying relatively rare auto-inflammatory diseases and the reasons why it may assist in our understanding of why some people develop seemingly spontaneous episodes of fever and inflammation. The rationale for studying these diseases includes the following:

  • Advances our ability to diagnose and treat these specific conditions
  • Shows that sometimes they turn out to not be so rare after all
  • Increases our understanding of inflammation in general
  • Brings together the unique clinical resources of the Clinical Research Center (CRC) with cutting-edge basic science

He then discussed many of the different diseases classified as auto-inflammatory and how genetic studies have given scientists many insights into their familial origin. The different diseases he reviewed and showed cases of were:

  • Familial Mediterranean Fever caused by the mutated protein Pyrin, which is the protopype for a family of molecules that regulate inflammation and cytokine production
  • The TNF Receptor-Associated Periodic Syndrome that is characterized by prolonged inflammatory attacks probably caused by misfolding of mutant TNFR1 molecules
  • Neonatal-Onset Multisystem Inflammatory Disease that is caused by activating mutations in cryopyrin, a key molecule in the inflammasome
  • Deficiency of the IL-1 Receptor Antagonist that is a newly discovered deficiency

Dr. Kastner added that patients with known and as yet undiagnosed auto-inflammatory diseases are regularly seen in the inpatient wards and the outpatient clinics of the CRC. He concluded by noting that molecular insights have directly and significantly impacted diagnosis and treatment of these auto-inflammatory disorders, as well as increased our understanding of innate immunity.

Ann Brewer
Cc: OD Small Staff

This page was last reviewed on October 21, 2008 .
skip main navigation National Institutes of Health - Transforming Health Through Discovery U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Information Page NIH Grants News and Events Research Institutes and Centers About NIH