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IC Directors' Meeting Highlights
January 7, 2003
I. Human Stem Cell Characterization Facility in the NIH Intramural Program
Dr. Gottesman presented for Dr. Battey, who heads the NIH Stem Cell Task Force that Dr. Zerhouni established to facilitate research involving human stem cells allowed by the President's August 2, 2002, guidelines by identifying potential roadblocks to moving the research agenda forward. The first work group of the Task Force met on October 24, 2002. The work group concluded that a major roadblock is the lack of standardized characterization and quality control of the human embryonic stem cell lines ready for distribution to the scientific community and recommended that the NIH support an effort that would provide such standards and quality control for the available lines as well as comparison of the properties of these lines with adult stem cells. (Note: As of the date of these Highlights, January 7, 2003, nine lines are commercially available to the scientific community at large.)
As a result of this recommendation, the Task Force proposes that Dr. Ron McKay's laboratory, located in NINDS, house a Human Stem Cell Facility to perform these activities and that a steering committee, chaired by Dr. Battey and including 4 intramural and 4 extramural scientists, govern the facility's activities. Dr. Gottesman pointed out that the facility could be funded either by pro rata usage or by an across-the-board "school tax" of all ICs.
Following discussion, the group agreed that this facility would be widely used and that a "school tax" approach to funding seems the most appropriate.
II. Reporting Significant Items to the Office of the Secretary
In furtherance of the One Department Initiative and to enhance coordination of DHHS activities, I reminded the group that it is critical to report all upcoming significant items through NIH/ES channels to ensure that the best and most current information promptly reaches the Secretary and his senior staff. Dr. Zerhouni asked that everyone cooperate by working with the Executive Secretariat in this important communication effort.
III. Freeze on Administrative Positions
Mr. Leasure discussed the Department's December 16, 2002, announcement of controls on filling administrative positions. He suggested that ICs could continue to recruit but could not actually appoint without a freeze exception. He reminded everyone of the January 15 deadline for NIH to submit to OS its plan to eliminate 250 administrative FTEs.
Dr. Zerhouni noted that the department-wide FTE reduction emanates from OMB's general approach encouraging A-76 and consolidation efforts and that it is incumbent on the NIH to take a hard and rigorous look through bench-marking activities at what target we must have in terms of staffing to continue performing our mission effectively. He asked that Mr. Leasure prepare to come back to the group with specific plans for such an effort.
IV. Information Items
Mr. Leasure announced that effective January 13, Robert Hosenfeld, now with U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior, will be the Director of the NIH Office of Human Resources.
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