Summary of January 2023 Advisory Council Meeting

Funding News Edition: February 15, 2023
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The 203rd meeting of NIAID's Advisory Council took place virtually on January 30, 2023. If you couldn’t catch it live, check out the archived Video Recording of the NIAID Advisory Council Meeting.

NIAID Acting Director Dr. Hugh Auchincloss introduced the open meeting with a synopsis of key staffing changes, budget news, and scientific research updates. Council’s guest speaker was Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, the first Director of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). Council also approved concepts for new funding initiatives.

Key Staffing Changes

Dr. Auchincloss welcomed new NIAID Council Members Emily Brown and Drs. Mary Estes, James Gern, Guy Palmer, Laurence Morel, and new ex officio member Dr. Daniel Jernigan.

Next, Dr. Auchincloss highlighted the recent retirement of Dr. Anthony Fauci after 38 years as NIAID Director and 54 as an NIAID physician-scientist. The Acting Director read a note of thanks from President Biden for Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health. The vacancy announcement for a new NIAID Director closed on January 17, 2023, but NIH will continue to accept applications and interview candidates until the position is filled. 

He described several other high-level NIH position changes since the September Council meeting:

  • President Biden selected Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the first Director of ARPA-H.
  • Dr. Joni Rutter was named Director of NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
  • Dr. Nina Schor was appointed as NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) in the NIH Office of the Director after Dr. Michael Gottesman stepped down.
  • Dr. Roger Glass has stepped down from his positions as Director of the Fogarty International Center (FIC) and NIH Associate Director for International Research. FIC Deputy Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx is serving as FIC Acting Director while FIC searches for a new Director.
  • Andrea Norris retired from her positions as NIH’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Director of the Center for Information Technology (CIT).

As for NIAID staff, Dr. Auchincloss offered thanks and best wishes to the following:

  • Gray Handley retired from his position as NIAID Associate Director for International Research Affairs. Since 2006, his work greatly expanded and improved NIAID’s international portfolio.
  • Greg Folkers and Laurie Doepel both stepped down after more than 25 and 30 years of NIAID service, respectively, in leadership and communications roles under the NIAID Director.
  • Dr. Matthew Fenton retired after 11 years as the Director of the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA). DEA Deputy Director Dr. Kelly Poe is serving as the Acting DEA Director until a permanent DEA Director is selected.
  • George Kennedy is the new Director of the NIAID Office of Acquisitions within DEA. He replaces Charles Grewe, who retired after 44 years of federal service at the NIH. 
  • Dr. Michael Ison is the new Chief of the Respiratory Disease Branch in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID).
  • Dr. Andrew Vernon joined the Division of AIDS (DAIDS) as the Chief of the Tuberculosis Clinical Research Branch in the Therapeutics Research Program.
  • Dr. Jim McNamara stepped down as Chief of the Autoimmunity and Mucosal Immunology Branch (AMIB) in the Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT). Dr. Ellen Goldmuntz is acting in his stead.
  • Mary Smolskis is the new Director of the Office of Planning and Operations Support in the Division of Clinical Research.

Dr. Auchincloss congratulated Dr. Cliff Lane, who received the 2022 Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal, and Alex Rosenthal, who was honored with a Presidential Rank Award.

As an organization, NIAID was honored with the 2022 Patents for Humanity award in the COVID-19 category. Science magazine’s list of top 10 2022 Breakthroughs included NIAID research. Dr. Auchincloss also briefly covered NIAID staff meetings with international visitors and participation in the Ninth Global Health Workshop with the Gates Foundation.

Budget Overview

Dr. Auchincloss shared NIH and NIAID budget news with Council starting at the 18-minute mark of the video linked above. He covered the fiscal year (FY) 2024 President’s budget request and a Budget Data Comparisons by Institute and Center slide to illustrate the distribution of NIH’s $47.7 billion FY 2023 budget.

He discussed NIAID’s Financial Management Plan and the interim R01 Paylines posted on January 23, 2023. Dr. Auchincloss predicted no adjustments to noncompeting and competing grants, cuts of up to 20 percent for competing research initiatives, and application success rates around 18 to 22 percent.

His slides also detailed Congressional funding directives (earmarks) for AIDS, antimicrobial resistance, food allergy research, universal influenza vaccine, and the distribution of COVID-19 funds.

Legislative Activities

Dr. Auchincloss covered recent NIAID participation in Congressional hearings and the HIV/AIDS Caucus on World AIDS Day. NIAID staff also provided many other briefings to staff in Congress on COVID-19, mpox (formerly monkeypox), the Sudan Ebolavirus outbreak, Paxlovid rebound, and other topics. Dr. Auchincloss also briefly discussed changes in Senate and Congress leadership.

Scientific Updates

Starting at the video’s 28-minute mark, Dr. Auchincloss listed examples of infectious disease outbreaks inside and outside of the United States in 2022.

To summarize the past 3 years of COVID-19, he presented slides on case and hospitalization graphs, strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, key therapeutics, NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, the four U.S. COVID-19 vaccines and updated booster, hospitalizations by vaccination status, variants of concern, next generation vaccines, and NIAID awards to support pan-coronavirus vaccine development.

Dr. Auchincloss also provided updates on developments in other research areas: HIV/AIDS, malaria, Ebola, a promising Marburg vaccine, universal flu vaccine efforts, non-viral asthma attacks, monoclonal antibodies to target Epstein-Barr virus, and human antibody response to vaccinations.

Council members then discussed his presentation, pandemic preparedness, bipartisan support for HIV/AIDS research, and other topics.

ARPA-H Overview

Guest speaker Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, Director of ARPA-H, covered the new organization’s mission and current status. Find her presentation at the 50-minute mark of the video.

She shared how her experiences at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Ginkgo Bioworks related to infectious diseases, then described the ARPA-H Mission, remarks from President Biden, the Agency’s organizational structure, and approach to spurring health breakthroughs. ARPA-H Program Managers will identify challenges, define problems, and launch programs. The ARPA-H Model addresses four initial focus areas: health science futures, scalable solutions, proactive health, and resilient systems.

Dr. Wegrzyn closed her presentation with a summary of recent ARPA-H milestones, then answered Council members’ questions on hiring program managers, how mature ideas move forward, and project funding decisions.

Approved Concepts for Upcoming Funding Opportunities

Check the Council-approved Concepts for Potential Opportunities from the January 2023 meeting:

Learn how the concepts can help you gain support at Understand NIAID Research Priorities.

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