Funding News Edition: June 17, 2020 See more articles in this edition
On June 1, the open session of the 195th NIAID Advisory Council meeting went live and virtual for the first time*, making Institute history and illustrating the new reality of conducting business during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Though having to interact in a different way, Council participants—NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vaccine Research Center (VRC) Director Dr. John Mascola (guest speaker), Council members, and Institute staff—accomplished what was needed and covered the usual agenda topics, a few of which we cover here. To watch or re-watch the proceedings, go to NIAID Advisory Council Meeting—June 2020.
*Dr. Fauci noted that in January 2016, the Advisory Council meeting was also virtual but not live.
First, a Big Thank You
Before we get to what transpired at the meeting, we acknowledge those who helped make the virtual session a real success. We highlight a few below, and though we can’t name everyone, we appreciate the efforts of all who contributed.
Staff in our Offices of Extramural Research Policy and Operations (OERPO) and Committee Management partnered with the NIAID Meet group to run several Zoom sessions: three concurrent sessions in the morning, three concurrent sessions in the afternoon, and the public pre-recorded remarks from Drs. Fauci and Mascola in the open session along with live questions and answers.
Working closely with NIAID Meet, the division coordinators from our Division of AIDS (DAIDS); Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT); and Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID) managed and worked out the details of their individual subcommittee meetings.
The open session began with Dr. Fauci welcoming five new Council members: Drs. Monica Gandhi, Paul Goepfert, Harry Greenberg, Audrey Pettifor, and Kenneth Stuart. Learn more about them and their counterparts at Biographical Sketches of NIAID Council Members.
In staff news, Dr. Andrea Wurster is now director of the Office of Extramural Research Policy and Operations and Susan Cooper is the new director of DAIT’s Office of Program Planning, Operations, and Scientific Information.
Meetings and Events
In light of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci’s busy schedule has gotten busier. He spoke briefly about the following:
- Being a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force
- Conducting various media appearances to communicate the latest scientific developments and provide mitigation guidance
- Hosting President Trump at the VRC and updating him on the Center’s current COVID-19-related work from staff, including Dr. Mascola and Deputy Director Dr. Barney Graham
- With Dr. Mascola and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, briefing Vice President Pence on NIH’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts
A Favorite Topic: The Budget
In comparing the fiscal year (FY) 2020 enacted budget with FY 2019’s final budget, Dr. Fauci pointed out that NIH received an overall increase of 6.4 percent while NIAID received a 6.0 percent increase, which includes $50 million for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria research and $60 million for developing universal influenza vaccines.
Another item of note: three COVID-19 supplemental funding bills passed into law in March and April provide NIH with more than $3.5 billion in funding, which is available until the end of FY 2024. Approximately 40 percent, or $1.5 billion was allocated to NIAID. For more information, see our May 20, 2020 Funding News article “Supplemental Appropriations Bolster NIAID’s COVID-19 Response.”
In the FY 2021 budget request that was released in February, President Trump proposed a 7.2 percent decrease of NIH’s overall budget, which is $3 billion below the FY 2020 enacted level.
However, Congress has not yet determined NIH’s FY 2021 budget, and there will likely be a delay in deliberations since Congress is also working on legislation focused on addressing public health and economic needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the FY 2021 final budget is passed, and if proposed cuts are enacted into law, NIAID will set paylines and program levels conservatively and prepare contingency plans to minimize the impact to our extramural research community.
Other Important Items
Dr. Fauci discussed items of legislative interest, including testifying with Dr. Collins before the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee on the President’s FY 2021 budget request for NIH, providing over 30 COVID-19 briefings to Congress from January to June, and testifying in several COVID-19 hearings.
Dr. Mascola focused on three main areas of VRC’s COVID-19 response:
- Structure-based vaccine design
- Rapid development of an mRNA candidate vaccine and rapid development into clinical trials
- Isolation and development of therapeutic antibodies
In his discussion, he spoke about the importance of using structural data of the SARS-CoV-2 viral surface protein in designing highly immunogenic vaccines; VRC’s development of the investigational vaccine mRNA 1273 through collaborations with Moderna, Inc. and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; and Phase 1 studies of several monoclonal antibody (mAb) products.
To view Dr. Mascola’s presentation, start after the 33 minute mark in the NIAID Advisory Council Meeting—June 2020 videocast.
At each Council session, scientific subcommittees review and approve concepts for NIAID initiatives: targeted research funding opportunities. While not all approved concepts become funding opportunities later, concepts highlight NIAID research interests and can be good topics for investigator-initiated applications.
NIAID scientific staff present our June concepts, and subcommittees discuss them in the following videocast recordings:
- AIDS Research Advisory Committee
- Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation Subcommittee
- Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Subcommittee
Find text summaries of the approved concepts on these webpages:
- June 2020 DMID Council-Approved Concepts
- June 2020 DAIT Council-Approved Concepts
- June 2020 DAIDS Council-Approved Concepts
- June 2020 Trans-Divisional Council-Approved Concepts