Washington Update

NIGMS Council Discusses Funding Trends and New Strategic Plan

By: Yvette Seger
Wednesday, February 10, 2021

On February 3, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Advisory Council convened to discuss a variety of topics affecting the research community. In his opening remarks, Jon Lorsch, PhD, NIGMS Director, highlighted the steady increase in the number of NIGMS-funded investigators supported by the Maximizing Investigators Research Award (MIRA). Introduced in 2015, the MIRA (R35) offers awardees flexibility to pursue interesting lines of research as part of a broader research program and a slightly longer funding period than a traditional R01 grant. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, nearly one-third of research grants awarded by NIGMS were through the MIRA. Similarly, the majority of early-stage investigators supported by NIGMS — an NIH-wide record of 260 in FY 2020 — are funded by MIRA grants.

Council members were also updated on the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program. Designed to facilitate the transition of researchers of diverse backgrounds from postdoctoral scholar to independent faculty member, MOSAIC consists of two components: a cooperative agreement with scientific societies (UE5) and individual career transition awards (K99/R00s). While the three UE5 partners — including FASEB member American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology — were announced in August, the seven inaugural K99/R00 awardees were revealed in late January. Participants in the program will receive up to five years of mentored career development and research support.

NIGMS staff also provided an update on the status of the 2021 – 2025 NIGMS Strategic Plan. The new plan consists of five goals emphasizing support for research, workforce development, access to research resources, public understanding of science, and continuous improvement of NIGMS programs and processes. Two cross-cutting themes — encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion, and program evaluation and assessment — will be woven throughout the final plan, due to be released in March 2021.