111TH ACD MEETING
Ambitious Agenda Engages Advisors to NIH Director

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy Dr. Kathy Hudson, at the ACD meeting Dec. 10-11
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins and NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy Dr. Kathy Hudson, at the ACD meeting Dec. 10-11

Setting the Precision Medicine Initiative in motion, unveiling the first NIH-wide Strategic Plan in 20-plus years and finetuning HIV/AIDS research priorities were just three of the hefty items packing the Dec. 10-11 agenda of the advisory committee to the NIH director (ACD). The group’s 111th meeting convened just a day before the latest temporary federal funding mechanism was due to expire, potentially triggering a government shutdown. However, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins expressed confidence and optimism about NIH’s financial outlook.

“It has been very gratifying for me to see over the course of this entire year the strong bipartisan support for the importance of biomedical research,” he said, opening the ACD meeting, “for the advances that it makes possible in human health, for the way it encourages the economy and for the ways it encourages American competitiveness. The latter is an issue of considerable concern to many members [of Congress]. Almost without exception, this has been a year where, regardless of people’s political views on other matters, the topic of medical research resonated as one that needs to have more attention.

“We’ve gone through a pretty tough time here since 2003—since the end of the doubling, where [grant funding] success rates have continually fallen,” Collins continued, describing his dozens of meetings, briefings and hearings with congressional decision-makers, many of whom have also visited the NIH campus. “This is not a healthy situation for the United States and needs to be attended to…hopefully all of the statements and expressions of goodwill will translate into something we will all be able to celebrate next week.”

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Fast-Acting Drugs Could Revolutionize Depression Treatment

Dr. Carlos Zarate
Dr. Carlos Zarate

Most antidepressants take weeks to work. Dr. Carlos Zarate hopes to develop one that works within hours.

Zarate is senior investigator and chief of the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch and section on neurobiology and treatment of mood disorders, NIMH. At an Astute Clinician Lecture in Masur Auditorium recently, he reviewed progress in developing the next generation of antidepressants and described some of the challenges remaining in bringing them to market.

Mood disorders such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder are among the leading causes of disability worldwide. Zarate said people with these disorders “have disturbances of mood, behavior, circadian rhythms and activity levels, which cause severe impairment in the ability to function.”

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