July 8, 2016

Washington’s Week in Science

Policy News and Selected Funding Opportunities

Top Stories of the Week

  • White House: Administration Announces New Actions to Advance Precision Medicine
  • Congress: House Appropriations Committee Acts on NIH Funding Bill
  • NIH: Specialized Centers Announced for Mental Illness
  • Homeland Security: Countering Violent Extremism Grants Announced
  • Climate Change: White House Seeks Public Comment on 4th National Climate Assessment

White House

A key feature of the Precision Medicine Initiative announced by the President in January 2015, is the establishment of cohort of up to one million volunteers participating in a longitudinal research effort to amass data on genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle.  Now the Administration has announced an investment of $55 million to build partnerships with health care providers including regional medical centers, community health centers and the Veterans Administration.  Regional centers include Columbia University, Northwestern University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Pittsburgh.  The community health centers are expected to assist in recruitment efforts for the research cohort.

Associated with this, the NIH has also announced awards for a data and research support center, and a participant technologies center, both of which involve university-private sector partnerships. Also included is a Food and Drug Administration initiative to streamline its oversight of genomic tests while continuing to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Read More: Boston Globe Op Ed.


In an effort to advance as many appropriations bills as possible before October 1, the House Appropriations Committee released the Labor, HHS, Education bill and moved it through Subcommittee.  It provides $33.3 billion for the NIH, $1.25 billion above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.25 billion above the President’s discretionary budget request.  Similar to the Senate counterpart, it provides targeted funding for specific medical research programs such as Alzheimer’s disease, Precision Medicine, and the BRAIN initiative, but does not explicitly acknowledge the Cancer Moonshot.  However, each NIH research unit, including the National Cancer Institute, would receive general increases under the bill.  Unlike the Senate counterpart, the House bill does not restore year-around Pell Grants.

This action marks the 12th and final appropriations bill to move through the House Appropriations Committee. In the limited time remaining, Congress will face the task of passing these individual bills, developing a single omnibus piece of legislation, or passing a continuing resolution of up to six months to keep the Government operating until the next administration.

Read More: STAT, AAU Statement


The National Institute of Mental Health has announced a (P50) specialized center funding opportunity for Advanced Laboratories for Accelerating the Reach and Impact of Treatments for Youth and Adults with Mental Illness (ALACRITY).  The intent of each center is to optimize the effectiveness of therapeutic or preventive interventions for mental disorders; optimize the delivery of mental health services within real world treatment settings; and improve the quality, impact, and durability of optimized interventions and service delivery within diverse care systems.  The centers are also intended to provide opportunities for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and new investigators to participate in translational mental health research.   Grants are envisioned to be for $1 million for four years.

Read More: NIMH Strategic Plan

Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism grant program is available to university researchers as well as local communities.  It seeks to address domestic and international terrorism, and prevent recruitment or radicalization to violence.  The program focuses on identifying the early signs of radicalization to violence and providing appropriate interventions through civic organizations and research insights.  FY16 priorities include the development of efforts to counter the on-line recruitment of violent extremists aimed at U.S.-based individuals. University based proposals should address two specific focus areas: challenging the narrative; and, building capacity of community-level non-profit organizations active in countering violent extremism.

Challenging the narrative proposals could include online awareness campaigns addressing the causes and consequences of terrorism and violent extremism; efforts to engage on-line radicalization narratives with positive counternarratives; speaking tours featuring credible counter-narrative voices; video, audio or digital media campaigns promoting community resilience to violent extremists’ propaganda; and marketing and dissemination of on-line and traditional media counter-narrative campaigns.

Building capacity proposals should address research, evaluation, assessment, data-analytics, marketing, or professional skills to enhance the missions of third-party community-level non-profit organizations that counter terrorism.

Read More: DHS Press Release

Climate Change

The Global Change Research Act of 1990 requires the federal government to produce a national climate change assessment report and update it periodically. The US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has led three major climate change assessment reports since 2000, with each report becoming more detailed in its description of research needs, regional impacts, and adaption strategies. The USGCRP has now formally requested public input on the content and scope of the 4th such assessment.

Among other report objectives, the draft outline released by the USGCRP includes a section that will deal with the relative costs of mitigation actions and opportunities. The comment period is open until July 29th.


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