More than a year ago, I asked the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) community to pause and imagine a world where we are able to prevent or cure heart, lung, and blood diseases and the enormous burdens associated with them; a world where we are able to capture the promise of predictive health, preventive care, and precision medicine.
With this charge, the NHLBI launched a collaborative process unlike any we had ever done before. We reached out to people from across the United States and around the globe, and more than 4,000 individuals answered the call to identify the most critical research questions and challenges for the next decade. Our community submitted over a thousand compelling questions and critical challenges, which the Institute then refined to create the set of research priorities that we are proud to share today. The final result of our collective efforts can be found here.
I invite you to explore the website, where you can review and search NHLBI’s research priorities. You will find that the research priorities support the NHLBI’s four cross-cutting goals, which are to understand and promote health, stimulate discoveries in the causes of disease, enable the translation of those discoveries into clinical practice, and foster the next generation of scientists and physicians. In addition, on the website, you will see that eight objectives provide the framework for the NHLBI’s research priorities for the coming decade.
As you review the Strategic Vision, consider also the opportunities presented by the era we are currently in for behavioral and biomedical research. The convergence of innovations in areas such as computational biology, data science, bioengineering, and high-throughput “omics” technologies is paving the way for a new appreciation of human health and disease. We now have unprecedented opportunities to better understand the complex interplay of environmental, behavioral, and molecular factors that promote health; a clearer picture of the earliest point of disease development; and the ability to repair damaged tissues with stem cell and tissue engineering techniques. The strength of the Vision rests in the understanding that so many of these ideas are so broadly applicable within the heart, lung, blood, and sleep sphere that specific mention to any particular disease will be the exception. There is good reason to be hopeful about the future, and, by capitalizing on these developments, the NHLBI’s Strategic Vision will give us the best chance of achieving significant progress in improving health for all.
To implement our Strategic Vision, the NHLBI will design Institute-solicited research programs that support the crosscutting research priorities captured within the Strategic Vision.
But even as we create and then announce these research opportunities, we will continue to honor our tradition of investing the majority of our funds in investigator-initiated discovery science. Extramural investigators, of course, are welcome to propose research projects that address the Research Priorities within the NHLBI Strategic Vision, but the Research Priorities are not intended to limit the scope of subjects and questions that researchers can explore.
While NHLBI’s Strategic Vision has been defined by your collaborative efforts, rest assured that the door on fresh ideas has not closed. Given the continually evolving nature of science, we will continue to engage our NHLBI community to identify new scientific questions that require attention, to alert us to new challenges that must be addressed, and to highlight new opportunities to accelerate our progress. I offer my most sincere gratitude for your incredible efforts, responsiveness and thoughtful deliberations in helping to shape NHLBI’s scientific agenda for the coming decade.
You have imagined a healthier world. Together, we can make it a reality.