A Summary of September’s Advisory Council Meeting

Funding News Edition: October 08, 2020
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For the second time, the open session of NIAID’s Advisory Council meeting was live and virtual. If you missed seeing it on September 14, go to NIAID Advisory Council Meeting—September 2020.

Director’s Remarks

Dr. Fauci’s opening welcome included thanking retiring Council members Drs. Mark Feinberg, Stanley Lemon, and Robin Patel. Though they could not gather for a photo, Dr. Fauci assured them that their plaques were on the way. Dr. Fauci also expressed his appreciation to Dr. Eugene McCray for his long-standing service as an ex-officio member of the AIDS Research Advisory Committee.

To acquaint—or reacquaint—yourself with those serving on Council, go to Biographical Sketches of NIAID Council Members.

In NIH staff news, several people can add “Institute Director” to their title:

At NIAID, Greg Gendron and Suzanne Spisso are new branch chiefs in the Division of Clinical Research’s Program Planning and Analysis Branch, and Intramural Clinical Management and Operations Branch, respectively.

The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) has two new lab chiefs. To see who they are, see the section below on DIR Director Dr. Steven Holland’s presentation.

Speaking of new staff, our Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office welcomed Dr. Surekha Vathyam as its new deputy director.

On a sad note, Dr. Uli Siebenlist, a molecular immunologist, passed away in August. Dr. Siebenlist joined Dr. Fauci’s Laboratory of Immunoregulation in 1984, became the founding Chief of the lab’s Immune Activation Section, and made seminal contributions to the molecular immunology field. As Dr. Fauci commented, “He gave so much to our scientific community, and we feel his loss profoundly.”

A Favorite Topic: The Budget

The President’s budget request for FY 2021 proposes a decrease for NIH of 7.0 percent, or $2.9 billion below the FY 2020 enacted level. Most institutes received reductions of 8 to 9 percent. NIAID’s budget remained flat from FY 2020 to ensure that the Institute has necessary resources to continue critical basic and applied research on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Since the release of the President’s FY 2021 budget request, the Senate continues to work on marking up a FY 2021 budget. The House, however, passed a spending package proposal in July that provides NIH with a $5.5 billion increase over the FY 2020 enacted amount, which brings the NIH budget to $47.2 million. Included in that amount includes $5.0 billion—available until FY 2025—in emergency funding to help current grantees recover from COVID-19-related delays in their research.

Taking into account the emergency funding, the overall increase for NIH is 13.3 percent with most institutes receiving 7.3 percent increases. NIAID’s budget amount increases by 8.6 percent, which includes $40 million for research on a universal influenza vaccine, and a $10 million increase to the Institute’s Centers for AIDS Research.  

Until the President receives and signs a consolidated budget package, FY 2021 will begin under a continuing resolution. Update: On September 30, the President signed a continuing resolution that extends operations of the U.S. Government through December 11, 2020.

Interim Financial Management Plan

Our provisional payline for FY 2021 would be set at the 10 percentile with new investigators funded at the 14 percentile. NIAID does not plan programmatic cuts to noncompeting and competing grants. Competing programmatic research initiatives have been cut up to 20 percent from their planned budget levels. We've since updated our Paylines & Funding pages to match.

Our estimated overall success rates will be 19 to 22 percent.

COVID-19 Funding

Through the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, NIAID received supplemental appropriations of $1.5 billion in funding available through September 30, 2024.

As of the Council meeting, NIAID has allocated this funding as follows:

  • $670 million was awarded to support both extramural and intramural investigators to address the scientific areas that are most critical to understanding the disease and advancing medical countermeasures. 
  • $629 million has been allocated to support basic research, epidemiological studies, vaccines, therapeutics and vaccines.  Specific allocations among these categories will be determined by the need to address gaps in scientific understanding about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 as well as inform decisions related to the public health response, such as containment and mitigation.
  • $233 million has been committed to address infrastructure needs at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda and our Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. Allocating the remaining balance depends on many factors and will be awarded to address the most urgent public health and scientific research needs.

Additionally, using funds from the CARES Act, HHS provided NIAID with $767 million to support Operation Warp Speed-endorsed Phase 2/3 clinical trials of vaccine and therapeutic candidates.

Legislative and Outreach Activities

Dr. Fauci’s appearances included testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Outside of Hearings, Dr. Fauci engaged in COVID-19-related discussions with members of Congress; notably, he joined NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins to speak with the Congressional Black, Hispanic, Asian Pacific American, and Native American Caucuses about the COVID-19 Prevention Network and NIH’s efforts to encourage members of minority populations to enroll in COVID-19 research. 

Dr. Fauci’s busy schedule also included several appearances to talk about COVID-19. These included participating in public health forums, fireside chats, and social media interviews.

On the topic of the pandemic, Dr. Fauci provided information such as the number of cases and deaths in the United States; manifestations of severe COVID-19 disease, e.g., neurological disorders, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children; manifestations in “long haulers,” and selected vaccine candidates.

Guest Presentation: Division of Intramural Research

Dr. Steven Holland touched on several topics, including FY 2020 spending, future plans, and staffing changes, including Dr. Yasmine Belkaid, who was named chief of the new Laboratory of Host Immunity and Microbiome, and Dr. Pamela Guerrerio, who was chosen as Chief of the Laboratory of Allergic Diseases.

Additionally, Dr. Holland spoke about the important cross-NIH institute program at the Clinical Center on bone marrow transplantation and cellular and gene therapy. The program encourages collaboration and co-focus of institute staff on the same set of patients. 

To view Dr. Holland’s presentation, start after the 45 minute mark in the NIAID Advisory Council Meeting—September 2020 videocast.         

Subcommittee Summaries

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 September concepts, and subcommittees discuss them in the following videocast recordings.

Find text summaries of the approved concepts on these webpages:

For a list of other approved concepts, see Concepts—Potential Opportunities. To receive an email when we post new concepts, sign up at NIAID Email Alerts Subscription Center.

Save the Date

The next Advisory Council meeting will be on January 25, 2021. We hope you will tune in.

Contact Us

Email us at deaweb@niaid.nih.gov for help navigating NIAID’s grant and contract policies and procedures.

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