Welcome to the Summer 2007 edition of Inside NIMH. Over the past few months, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has been involved in several noteworthy activities, which I am pleased to share with you in this newsletter.

Thomas R. Insel, M.D.
Director, National Institute of Mental Health

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Inside NIMH: Funding News for Current and Future NIMH Awardees

I. Message from the NIMH Director

As we approach the final quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2007, I want to provide an overview of the funding strategy and considerations we’ve been following to advance innovative research from the science of mental illness to clinical care, as well as summarize several important Institute updates.

By implementing the NIH fiscal policy for non-competing grant awards, the Institute has been able to maintain the number of new and competing research-project grants (RPGs) at levels similar to those in FY 2004-2005. We continue to assume that all new and competing research project applications that fall below the 20th percentile are scientifically meritorious and seek to fund up to three-fourths of these. Council and program staff may selectively recommend payment of applications that fall in this range, as well as beyond, based on: 1) Institute and division priorities; 2) balance in the existing research portfolio; 3) new investigator status (see below); and 4) availability of funds.

In making these funding decisions, we also are taking into consideration periods of known vulnerability in the research cycle: the first independent R01 award; the first renewal for new grantees; and renewals for established grantees who would otherwise lose outstanding laboratories due to insufficient support. In the case of newly independent grantees seeking an R01 award, NIMH will maintain the number of awardees at levels comparable to the average over the past five years — around 80-95 per year. In some cases, this could mean that a research application from a new investigator may be funded out of order and at percentile scores the same or higher than applications from established investigators not selected for payment.

For renewal awards, the newly announced NIH Director’s Bridge Award (NDBA) was designed to provide continued but limited funding. New and established grantees who submitted a competing renewal grant application yet just missed being paid are eligible for the NDBA. The continued funding will permit the Principal Investigator additional time to strengthen a resubmission application. The Guidelines for this award are similar to those described for the High Priority, Short-Term Project Award (R56) (see http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-04-047.html). NDBA recipients will receive R56 awards for a single year.

The Institute has also been involved in a relatively busy season of Congressional hearings this spring. Starting in March with the House and Senate budget appropriations hearings, NIMH has participated in seven hearings, which included special sessions on mind, brain and behavior, autism, post-partum depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These hearings underscore the growing public interest in understanding and treating mental illnesses.

Finally, it is with great pleasure that I announce the appointment of two new directors within the extramural program. Dr. Molly Oliveri has agreed to become the permanent Director of the Division of Pediatric Translational Research and Treatment Development (DPTR). Dr. Oliveri’s career with NIMH spans two decades, starting in 1987 when she joined the Institute as Chief of the Personality and Emotion Program. Since then she has held a variety of increasing responsibilities, including Chief of the Behavioral Science Research Branch, Deputy Division Director of DPTR, and, most recently, Acting Director of DPTR. Prior to joining NIMH Dr. Oliveri was a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine from 1975-87.

In addition, Dr. Wayne K. Goodman will be joining NIMH as Director, Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development (DATR), starting July 1. Dr. Goodman has been at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, where he served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry. He is a pioneering researcher in the field of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) and is the principal developer of the Y-BOCS, the gold standard for rating OCD. A graduate of Columbia University with a BS in electrical engineering, Dr. Goodman received his medical degree from Boston University and completed his internship, residency, and a research fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine.

II. New Announcements about Funding Opportunities

Each week, NIH electronically distributes the NIH GUIDE, a listing of all NIH Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs), which include requests for applications (RFAs), program announcements (PAs), and important notices for the scientific community. Below are samples of FOAs in which NIMH is participating. The Research and Funding page on the NIMH website has links to listings of all NIMH FOAs and other resources.

Note: You can subscribe to regular weekly e-mails of the NIH GUIDE.

NIMH-Administered Requests for Applications

Prevention of Trauma Related Adjustment and Mental Disorders in High-Risk Occupations

NIMH invites applications that will contribute directly to the goal of establishing empirically-demonstrated methods of preventing the development of trauma-related disorders among high trauma exposure occupational groups, for example, civilian employees and military personnel who regularly encounter traumatic situations. From a scientific perspective, occupations that involve exposure to trauma at higher than average frequency present unique opportunities for testing the effectiveness of preventive interventions designed to minimize posttraumatic adjustment disorders. From a public health and national security perspective, attending to the mental and behavioral health of individuals and groups who respond to emergencies, provide disaster relief, defend national interests, participate in peacekeeping missions, and maintain a civil society can be viewed as strengthening our national infrastructure. This RFA is being issued under the R01 and R34 mechanisms.

Release Date: April 12, 2007; Expiration Date: November 22, 2008

National NeuroAIDS Tissue Consortium (NNTC)

The NNTC was established in 1998 with the purpose of providing neuroAIDS researchers with high-quality brain and fluids samples from well-characterized HIV-infected patients in terms of their neuromedical and neuropsychiatric antemortem status. Two FOAs have been issued for this initiative in order to continue and expand the scope of projects at the four currently funded NNTC sites, and invite applications for a Data Coordination Center (DCC) to support the NNTC sites.

NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) have issued a Limited Competition RFA to continue support for the patient characterizations and associated collections of brain, tissue, and fluid samples for research currently being accomplished at the NNTC sites, as well as to foster the development of an NNTC-based scientific agenda. NIMH is also seeking applications for a DCC from organizations that (1) have database capabilities that allow them to effectively collect, organize, manage, and interpret and share data through clinical and brain banking operations and (2) can provide scientific expertise in HIV epidemiology and biostatistics and facilitate the development of a neuroAIDS scientific agenda based upon the NNTC data and cohort.

Release Date: May 18, 2007; Expiration Date: September 5, 2007

Mechanisms of HIV Neuropathogenesis: Emerging Domestic and Global Issues

NIMH and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are seeking applications for research in two key emerging areas relating to studies in HIV neuropathogenesis. One key area relates to understanding the mechanisms that regulate the changing phenotype of HIV-associated central nervous system (CNS) disease in the era of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). A second area of emphasis are studies of viral (clade diversity) and host genetic mechanisms regulating HIV neuropathogenesis from a world wide perspective. Both basic and clinical research applications are encouraged. Multidisciplinary research teams and collaborative alliances are encouraged, but not required. This RFA is being issued under the R01 and R21 mechanisms.

Release Date: May 25, 2007; Expiration Date: September 5, 2007

Methods of Statistical Analysis of DNA Sequence Data for Studies Relating Variation to Disease

NIMH seeks applications related to the development of novel methods of statistical analysis of DNA sequence data in studies that aim to relate genetic variation to disease. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, designing sequencing studies and statistical methods for relating the variation to phenotype; assessing the significance of the associations; incorporating population genetic factors such as population history, admixture, and natural selection; and finding sets of variants that may include functional variants.

Release Date: June 21, 2007; Expiration Date: September 21, 2007

NIMH Program Announcements

Since the beginning of March 2007, NIMH has published more than a dozen program announcements highlighting areas of research interest, which span topics in genetics, basic neuroscience, behavioral science, translational research, interventions, and mental health services research. The NIMH website has a full listing of these program announcements.

NIH Roadmap Initiatives

The NIH Roadmap is a set of transdisciplinary initiatives that seek to transform all of biomedical research and accelerate its discoveries. All NIH Institutes, including NIMH, participate in the Roadmap, and funding opportunities are open to all investigators.

Institutional Clinical and Translational Science Award

The ever increasing complexities involved in conducting clinical research are making it more difficult to translate new knowledge to the clinic, and back again to the bench. These challenges limit professional interest in the field and hamper the clinical research enterprise at a time when it should be expanding. The purpose of this Roadmap initiative is to assist institutions in creating an academic home for clinical and translational science that has the resources to advance a cadre of well-trained multi-disciplinary investigators with access to innovative research tools and information technologies to promote the application of new knowledge and techniques to patient care.

Release Date: March 22, 2007; Expiration Date: October 25, 2007

Roadmap 1.5

On May 18, 2007, the NIH Institute and Center Directors met to review and prioritize specific proposals for Roadmap 1.5. Four topics were chosen to move forward as Major Roadmap Initiatives. Two of these, the Microbiome and Epigenetics Programs, were approved for immediate implementation as five year programs. The Protein Capture Tools and Phenotyping Services/Tools Programs were approved for staged implementation. Phase I programs will be implemented initially, with further funding for Phase II programs contingent on the outcomes of the first phase. RFAs that are relevant to these topics will be released on a variable timeline, but the earliest are expected to be released this fall, with awards made in summer 2008. Updates to will be provided as detailed implementation plans are developed.

NIH Neuroscience Blueprint Initiatives

The Neuroscience Blueprint is a framework to enhance cooperative activities among 15 NIH Institutes and Centers that support research on the nervous system. The Blueprint aims to develop research tools, resources, and training and to make them available to the neuroscience community.

Since January, several activities under the Blueprint have moved forward:

  • Neuroplasticity Workshop Team
    Team Leaders: Nancy Pilotte, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); and Chiiko Asanuma, NIMH
    To seek input from the extramural community on neuroplasticity initiative topics for FY09, the project team is planning a neuroplasticity workshop for August 2007.
  • Neurodevelopment Workshop Team
    Team leaders: Beth-Anne Sieber, NIMH; and Bob Riddle, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
    Based on a neurodevelopment-focused workshop held in November 2006, several concepts are being developed.

Notice of Availability of Administrative Supplements for Neuroimaging Informatics Software Enhancement for Improved Interoperability and Dissemination

This notice announces the availability of supplemental funding, provided by the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, to modify, document, or otherwise make more adoptable, interoperable, and usable existing neuroimaging informatics tools and resources. This administrative supplement gives eligible grantees support to make existing tools and resources in this field usable by a wider community. These improved tools and resources will enhance the Clearinghouse for Neuroimaging Software and Data.

Release Date: May 4, 2007

III. Future Research Directions

National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) Concept Clearances for Potential New Research Initiatives

This listing of potential future initiatives is meant to provide the earliest possible alert to the field of our research interests and of potential upcoming announcements to solicit that research. While NIMH plans to proceed with these initiatives, their publication and timing are not certain and depend on sufficient funding. The titles and brief descriptions are consistent with the information available at the time of concept clearance. The resultant FOAs may differ from the concepts in the final wording of their titles or other aspects. To send questions about a specific concept, follow the “Submit Comments” link at the bottom of the description.

Related Information

Summaries of NIMH-Sponsored Scientific Meetings

Research workshops and scientific meetings are some of the best forums in which to identify research gaps and to stimulate new areas of mental health research. Below are brief descriptions of meetings that NIMH has sponsored over the past several months. You should send questions about a specific meeting to the program contact listed in the description.

IV. Update on Electronic Submission of Grant Applications

NIH achieved a smooth transition to electronic R01 submissions on February 5, 2007, though a few challenges arose for the March 5 resubmission/renewal R01 receipt date. Approximately 4,000 new R01s and 4,800 resubmission/renewal R01s were received. For more details, see the Electronic Receipt News Website.

Later in 2007, Grants.gov plans to have available a “New Grants.gov 2007 Solution,” incorporating Adobe-based forms and Google search functionality. The new forms need adequate testing before they can be deployed, but their deployment will be announced widely when the timeline is known. All funding opportunity announcements will be updated to link to the new forms when available. For more information, see the Electronic Submission Website. You can also subscribe to the NIH Electronic Receipt Listserv at http://era.nih.gov/ElectronicReceipt/listserv.htm to receive periodic updates on the electronic grant application program.

V. Recent NIMH News Releases

Please help us spread the word about the results of NIMH funding by acknowledging our support of your research, for example, in journal articles (citing your NIMH award by number when possible) and other communications. NIMH has two primary methods of getting the word out:

  • Press releases — promoted through distribution to major media; posted on the NIMH website
  • Science updates — highlight recently published findings; also posted on the NIMH website

These are all also distributed to the public through the NIMH ListServ, which now has more than 20,000 subscribers.

If you have a manuscript accepted for publication that describes an especially significant finding, please contact your NIMH program director to discuss the possibility of a news release or other forms of dissemination.