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Vol. LXIII, No. 23
November 11, 2011
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‘Bread and Butter of NIH’
Annual Research Festival Celebrates Silver Jubilee

On the front page...

Photo of Dr. Michael Gottesman
NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman talks about some of the tech advances at this year’s Research Festival, including the use of a QR code (shown above at top right corner) on promotional material.

Smartphones. The World Wide Web. PubMed. NHGRI. The Children’s Inn. For just a brief time at the opening plenary session on Oct. 24, NIH’s Research Festival marked its quarter century by remembering things the world didn’t have 25 years ago, when the annual science celebration was born.

“The program has grown considerably since our first Research Festival in 1986,” acknowledged NIH deputy director for intramural research Dr. Michael Gottesman. “Just going by the numbers, this is a really impressive week.

” In addition to the 6 presentations on opening morning, there were 4 concurrent symposia featuring 20 topics and 120 talks, and 4 poster sessions with more than 400 posters. A 2-day scientific equipment show ended the 5-day event.




Continued...

Now and Then

“This is the time we set aside every year to marvel at our own intramural research accomplishments, to strut our feathers, learn more about the breadth of research and resources here and renew our confidence in the fact that the NIH Intramural Research Program is the best research program in the world,” Gottesman said.

He also noted that this year’s festival was more technologically savvy than ever. The event’s web site was completely revamped. For the first time, program schedules and other details were accessible via QR, or quick response, code and viewable on smartphones and other mobile devices. “We’re hoping to set a standard for scientific meetings here,” he said.

At the first Research Festival—called “NIH Intramural Research Day” and held from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. all on one day—2 symposia with 8 talks, 20 workshops and 95 posters were capped off with an evening picnic and jazz music.

Festival poster sessions were held on two floors of the Natcher Conference Center. Dr. Percy Pui Sai Tumbale (r), a postdoctoral fellow in NIEHS’s Laboratory of Structural Biology, traveled from North Carolina to discuss her poster. Dr. E. Emily Joo (r) of NIDCR’s Laboratory of Cell and Developmental Biology chats about her work. Joo is a 2011 winner of a Fellows Award for Research Excellence. One of the Research Festival’s cochairs, Dr. Robert Wiltrout, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, introduces a speaker at the opening plenary session, which was held in Masur Auditorium.
Festival poster sessions were held on two floors of the Natcher Conference Center. Dr. Percy Pui Sai Tumbale (r), a postdoctoral fellow in NIEHS’s Laboratory of Structural Biology, traveled from North Carolina to discuss her poster. Dr. E. Emily Joo (r) of NIDCR’s Laboratory of Cell and Developmental Biology chats about her work. Joo is a 2011 winner of a Fellows Award for Research Excellence.


One of the Research Festival’s cochairs, Dr. Robert Wiltrout, director of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, introduces a speaker at the opening plenary session, which was held in Masur Auditorium.

Photos: Bill Branson

“The Research Festival has since become critically important to our scientific staff—particularly early and mid-career scientists—in getting recognition for their work, to generate discussions between labs, between buildings and between institutes,” Gottesman concluded. “Many of us have little sense of the common ground we share and bringing everyone together is an opportunity to share that common ground. I’d like to thank [former NIDR scientific director Dr.] Abner [Notkins] for starting this fine tradition. I would like to thank all of you—the bread and butter of NIH research—who keep this tradition alive.”

‘Pursue Disruptive Innovation’

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, in a recorded video, also noted how far the science world has come in recent years and lamented having to miss the “spirit of excitement” surrounding a festival “packed with the best that NIH has to offer.”

Photo of NIDDK's Minoo Shaloury-Elizeh (c) and NINDS’s Dr. Jean Tiong-Koehler Photo of Dr. Jonathan Lam (r) of NHLBI discusses his work with Rajat Singh of NINDS.
At left, NIDDK's Minoo Shaloury-Elizeh (c) and NINDS’s Dr. Jean Tiong-Koehler (r), who are members of the NIH Environmental Management System’s sustainable laboratory practices working group, share information on the Labs Go Greener effort with Ningna Huang of NIAID; at right, Dr. Jonathan Lam (r) of NHLBI discusses his work with Rajat Singh of NINDS.

He said dramatic advances in technology have led to better understanding of human biology and the mechanisms of disease, “but clinical advances have been frustratingly slow to arrive.” In fact, he noted, “medical therapies currently exist for just 250 of those approximately 4,000 conditions with well-defined molecular causes.

“Serious economic challenges currently confronting the private sector may make it hard to capitalize on new translational opportunities,” he acknowledged. “That’s why one of my leading priorities as NIH director is to pursue disruptive innovation in the translational sciences. I know many of you share that dream and see the NIH intramural program as a particularly appropriate place for such high-risk, high-reward research.”

Describing the proposed National Center for Accelerating Translational Sciences, Collins said, “The time is right to subject translational research to the same kind of bold innovation that has characterized other branches of biomedical science.”

He called NCATS a “new entity to shape and sharpen this new vision” that will involve both extramural and intramural components and will “serve as a catalytic hub for new ideas about how to improve translation.”

IRP ‘Pretty Impressive’

A display on the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid was one of several special exhibits on resources for intramural research.
A display on the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid was one of several special exhibits on resources for intramural research.

Touting the overall excellence of NIH’s intramural science community, Collins shared a recent experience he had while attending the Lasker Awards ceremony.

He recalled that during presentation of the Lasker- Bloomberg Award for Public Service to the Clinical Center, Institute of Medicine president Dr. Harvey Fineberg asked the audience of distinguished medical research leaders to raise their hands if they’d ever been part of NIH’s IRP.

Collins said he looked around, taking an unofficial survey. How many of the group had hands in the air?

“By my count, about one third—pretty impressive,” he concluded.

Collins also congratulated the three NIH intramural scientists who recently received Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers honors from President Obama, and addressed all of the young researchers at NIH.

“You truly are the future of NIH science,” he concluded. “Let’s keep up the good work. Enjoy this year’s Research Festival and then go on to show the world that even in tough times, NIH intramural is more committed than ever to pursuing the very best science for the benefit of all those out there whose hopes are pinned on the work that we do here.” NIHRecord Icon


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