Seventh Annual Public Interest Organization Meeting

January 30-31, 2006 – Bethesda, Maryland

NHLBI: Vision for the Future

Dr. Nabel presented the framework for planning at the NHLBI. She discussed the contexts for NHLBI research, the importance of partnerships, and a new strategic planning process. Dr. Nabel noted that the NHLBI mission is to ensure that research is of the highest quality and that it effects real change in patients' lives.

Context for NHLBI Research

The NHLBI vision for research embraces basic biomedical research, clinical investigations and trials, longitudinal population studies, outreach programs to promote health, training and education, efforts to eliminate health disparities, international programs, and intramural research conducted at the NIH. A two-part translational effort includes translation of basic research findings to clinical studies and translation of research results to the public. The fundamental values governing all these activities are excellence, innovation, integrity, respect for each community served by the NHLBI, and compassion for individuals.

The NHLBI seeks to:
  • Stimulate discoveries of the causes of disease
  • Speed translation of discoveries to clinical applications
  • Facilitate communication between scientists and physicians
  • Effectively communicate advances to the public.
Dr. Nabel elaborated on each of the four themes, giving examples of the advances NHLBI has made.

Discoveries of the Causes of Disease

Investigator-initiated basic science research is the foundation of the NHLBI portfolio, and it must be strongly protected and nurtured. Basic research enables discovery of the causes of disease, and this knowledge leads to critically needed new treatments.

Translation to Clinical Applications

The NHLBI is speeding translation to clinical applications so that individuals can benefit as quickly as possible from discoveries that scientists make. The effort includes translational research studies, clinical trial networks, gene-based clinical trials, and genome-wide association studies of population cohorts.

Communication between Scientists and Physicians

The NHLBI facilitates communication between teams of scientists and physicians so that new ideas can be generated, shared, and advanced. Specific activities are focused on
  • Developing collaborative research teams
  • Supporting research and training for new investigators
  • Allowing co-principal investigators on grants
  • Training and mentoring research scientists.
In FY 2006, the NHLBI adopted a New Investigators Policy to ensure the continuing vigor of the research enterprise through support of new investigators.

Communication of Advances to the Public

Effective communication of research advances to the public is a major component of all NHLBI activities. The NHLBI uses many different media (e.g., radio, television, publications, the NHLBI Web site) to convey new and promising science to the public. The NHLBI regularly disseminates publications on evidence-based medicine. In addition, the NHLBI develops "tool kits" for investigators and individuals interested in education about heart, lung, and blood diseases, sleep disorders, and blood resources. PIOs are encouraged to partner with the NHLBI to disseminate information on research studies and progress and to highlight research opportunities and gaps.

Strategic Planning Process

The NHLBI has embarked on development of a scientific plan, or blueprint, for the next decade. Development of the plan will be a community-based process. Dr. Nabel noted that the NHLBI will ask participants to focus on the most pressing and promising scientific challenges and opportunities, obstacles to progress, operational changes at the NHLBI to foster promising research, and the NHLBI's unique position for engaging communities in addressing future challenges. The plan will include both intramural and extramural research and will incorporate implementation and evaluation.

Discussion

The PIO representatives asked questions about the strategic planning process and the training of new investigators. They encouraged the NHLBI to integrate psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of disease into the research themes identified in the strategic plan. Dr. Nabel said that the NHLBI plan will focus on overall themes, such as inflammation and immune function, rather than specific diseases. She noted further that the NHLBI is emphasizing prevention, which includes attention to psychosocial risk factors, as an integrating theme across research on heart diseases.

Dr. Nabel encouraged the PIOs to communicate their particular interests to investigators who participate in the strategic planning process and/or apply for NIH research grants. The PIOs could, for example

  • Encourage submission of investigator-initiated research applications to the NHLBI
  • Provide seed funds to investigators for research in the PIOs' areas of interest
  • Encourage investigators to respond to specific NHLBI initiatives—program announcements (PAs), requests for applications (RFAs), and requests for proposals (RFPs).

New Investigators

Dr. Nabel encouraged the PIOs to visit the NHLBI Web site for information on NHLBI opportunities for research training. She noted that each NHLBI division has at least one contact who can answer questions about training.

Last updated: June 15, 2006

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