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Freedom of Information Act Office

IC Directors' Meeting Highlights

December 21, 2005

To: IC Directors
From: Director, Executive Secretariat
Subject: IC Directors' Meeting Highlights — September 22, 2005

Discussion Items

I. Human Resources Restructuring

Ms. Barros gave a presentation on the National Academy of Public Administrators (NAPA) study that evaluated NIH HR operations and offered recommendations to improve service delivery. Ms. Barros provided an overview of the study and identified the top issues raised by NIH staff and NAPA’s resultant suggestions in order to improve HR operations, including —

  • clarification and documentation of OHR, OSMP, and IC roles;

  • resolution of issues with Quickhire, EHRP, and approval of 14/15 positions;

  • expansion of communication efforts;

  • emphasis on on-site services;

  • one position to serve as the Director of OHR and OSMP;

  • transfer of personnel security function from OHR to ORS; and

  • continued organizational changes to improve services.

She also emphasized that the NIH Steering Committee recommended an additional 68 FTEs by November 15, 2005, to rebuild the HR function at NIH and summarized the various actions completed and under way. After announcing that OHR proposes to set performance standards for NIH recruitments, the implementation of which is anticipated to be January 1, 2006, she concluded that the revitalization of NIH HR requires a partnership between OHR and the ICs. She closed by expressing appreciation for the guidance and resources provided by the Strategic Advisory Committee, the Management and Budget Working Group, and the NIH Steering Committee.

II. HapMap Consortium Update

Dr. Collins updated the group on the International HapMap Consortium, a public-private partnership of scientists and funding agencies from Canada, China, Japan, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The U.S. component of the $138 million international project is led by National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) on behalf of the 20 institutes, centers and offices of the NIH that contributed funding.

Phase II of the HapMap, for which the data has already been generated and analysis is under way, will be an even more powerful tool than the Phase I version, which was completed last February. The Phase II HapMap will contain nearly three times more markers than the initial version and will enable researchers to focus their gene searches even more precisely on specific regions of the genome.

As was the case with all of the data generated by the Human Genome Project, HapMap data are being made swiftly and freely available in public databases. Researchers can access this data through the HapMap Data Coordination Center (www.hapmap.org), the NIH-funded National Center for Biotechnology Information's dbSNP (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/SNP/index.html) and the JSNP Database in Japan (http://snp.ims.u-tokyo.ac.jp).

Dr. Collins noted that HapMap is a powerful resource paving the way for research efforts aimed at identifying the genetic roots of specific diseases that have long eluded gene hunters.

Scientific Presentation

I. The Role of NIH Research in Pandemic Influenza

Dr. Fauci noted that influenza is both a re-emerging disease (seasonal influenza) and a newly emerging disease (pandemic influenza), distinguishing between the two. Seasonal influenza currently causes between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths globally each year; approximately 36,000 deaths and over 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually are related to influenza. He explained that emergence of new influenza subtypes occurs through minor mutations (antigenic drift) or major changes (antigenic shifts). Past antigenic shifts resulted in the 1918 Spanish influenza, the 1957 Asian flu, the 1968 Hong Kong flu, the 1976 swine flu, and the H5N1 bird flu that now augurs a possible pandemic. Since 1997, several strains of avian flu have caused close to 70 deaths overseas, with the H5N1 strain alone causing 59 deaths since late 2003. The compounding probabilities for a pandemic that have occurred or have appeared to occur over the past few years are —

  • Virus appears in birds in restricted geographical setting,

  • Virus spreads to birds in wider geographical setting,

  • Virus infects other mammals,

  • Virus jumps from bird to human inefficiently,

  • Virus more efficiently spreads from bird to human, and

  • Inefficient human-to-human transmission of virus.

As of yet, there has been no evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission, but because of the potential devastating impact of an influenza pandemic, HHS offices and agencies are focusing basic and vaccine research and resources toward preparedness. Dr. Fauci reviewed NIH research in this area, discussing basic research, therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics, surveillance and epidemiology, and expansion of research capacity. He concluded by noting that on September 14, 2005, President Bush announced an International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza in a speech at the United Nations.

Dale Johnson

cc: OD Senior Staff

This page last reviewed on June 28, 2011

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