ACD Gets Updates on Opioid, ‘Next Gen’ Initiatives

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins (r), alongside
NIH director Dr. Francis Collins (r), alongside NIH principal deputy director Dr. Lawrence Tabak at ACD meeting

Stopping a current crisis and preventing a future one were just two items that packed the agenda of the 115th meeting of the advisory committee to the NIH director (ACD) on Dec. 14-15. Slowing the nation’s opioid abuse/overdose epidemic and reconfiguring grant funding to reward more innovation earlier in young careers were two of the thorniest topics that the ACD considered at its recent 1½-day session.

In opening remarks, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins put the drug abuse issue in perspective. Noting that all government agencies have been called upon to address the epidemic from all angles, he said that, although no additional research funding has been appropriated for the effort, NIH will do its part to “bring the best science to end the opioid crisis…In the course of the last few years, it’s been getting worse and worse… Now something in the neighborhood of 175 people a day are dying of overdoses—most of those from opioids. More people now are dying per day than at the peak of the AIDS epidemic…We have no justification for anything other than all hands on deck.”

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New NCI Director Shares Vision at Town Hall Meeting

Dr. Erik Sorensen
Dr. Norman Sharpless

Call him Ned.

The new director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Norman Sharpless, does not want to be called Dr. Sharpless.

“‘Dr. Sharpless’ is my mother, who was a pediatrician. I don’t like that at all,” he said, with a laugh.

He also doesn’t want to be called Norman.

“I tried that for about a year, when I was at NIH [in 1990, between his second and third years of medical school, when he lived in the Cloister and worked in Bldg. 36 at NINDS while a member of the HHMI-Medical Research Scholars Program]. It was super weird—I didn’t like it.”

Recruited to NCI from directorship of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sharpless spent a lively hour Dec. 11 in Masur Auditorium sharing his perspectives on his new job at what he labeled the first town hall meeting of his NCI directorship.

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