NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Realizing Science’s ‘Amazing Potential’

New Director Convenes 127th ACD Meeting

Bertagnolli, seated at a conference table, gestures with her hands as she speaks. Tabak, seated beside her, looks her way.
NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli (l) addresses the ACD as NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Lawrence Tabak looks on.

Photo:  Credit Marleen Van Den Neste

The advisory committee to the director (ACD) convened for two days late last year for the first time under NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, who began by acknowledging the tremendous promise and challenges currently facing the greater biomedical science enterprise.

“Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to embrace and increase access to innovation,” she said, after sounding the gavel on Dec. 14 to start the 127th ACD meeting, held in-person in Wilson Hall and online. “Has there ever been an environment like we are in right now? Fundamental science remains critical. You will hear a lot from me about application to the clinical environment, but please do not ever think that our commitment to fundamental science is wavering in any way. We just want to see that amazing potential coming out of our research laboratories get to people faster.” 

Two men and a woman sit at a conference table with laptops open in front of them
In Wilson Hall at the recent ACD meeting are (from l) Dr. Kafui Dzirasa of Duke University School of Medicine, Dr. Corey Moore of Langston University and Dr. Alexa Kimball of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Photo:  Credit Marleen Van Den Neste

Addressing one of the speedbumps to getting NIH research to the citizens it’s meant to serve, Bertagnolli spoke briefly about ways to build back faith in the core work.

“I’d like to do everything I possibly can to help restore trust in science,” she said. “I believe that means we have to directly engage people in science, promoting equity in science and leaving no one out. We will go far in restoring trust when people who stand to benefit from our research become our research partners, when we design studies that engage them and respect their needs, and when people see that the results of our science make their lives better. We need to meet people where they are and reach out to people underrepresented in science.”

Also on day one, the group was briefed on NIH’s budget and legislative outlook as well as the UNITE initiative, the agency’s think tank for addressing and eliminating structural racism in the workforce. 

Woman at conference table with laptop open in front of her
Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

Afternoon presentations included reports about NIH’s response to the maternal mortality crisis and the future of ECHO, or Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, now in its seventh year.

The final report of the day included recommendations from the working group on catalyzing development and use of novel alternative methods to advance biomedical research.

ACD day two entertained updates on the All of Us Research Program, Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics initiative and NexTRAC—the novel and exceptional technology and research advisory committee, which provides both recommendations to the NIH director and a public forum to discuss scientific, safety and ethical issues associated with emerging biotechnologies. 

Group photo of five men and three women in Wilson Hall, flanked by the U.S. flag and the PHS flag
In-person attendees gather for the first group photo opportunity with Bertagnolli (fourth from r).

Photo:  Marleen Van Den Neste

The two-day session closed with a report from the ACD working group on re-envisioning NIH-supported postdoctoral training. Attracting, nurturing and sustaining early-career investigators has become a top priority for NIH and the biomedical research community at large.

“We are heading into challenging times financially over the next few years,” said Bertagnolli. “If you ask me what is the single thing that keeps me awake at night as new NIH director, it’s the next generation and how we make sure we support them.”

Recordings of both days of the ACD are archived online at and Find meeting materials at

Photo Gallery

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Assistant Editor: Eric Bock (link sends e-mail)

Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)