Summary of January 2023 Advisory Council Meeting | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Summary of January 2023 Advisory Council Meeting

Funding News Edition: February 15, 2023
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The 203rd meeting of NIAID’s Advisory Council took place virtually on January 30, 2023. If you couldn’t catch it live, check out the archived Video Recording of the NIAID Advisory Council Meeting.

NIAID Acting Director Dr. Hugh Auchincloss introduced the open meeting with a synopsis of key staffing changes, budget news, and scientific research updates. Council’s guest speaker was Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, the first Director of the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). Council also approved concepts for new funding initiatives.

Key Staffing Changes

Dr. Auchincloss welcomed new NIAID Council Members Emily Brown and Drs. Mary Estes, James Gern, Guy Palmer, Laurence Morel, and new ex officio member Dr. Daniel Jernigan.

Next, Dr. Auchincloss highlighted the recent retirement of Dr. Anthony Fauci after 38 years as NIAID Director and 54 as an NIAID physician-scientist. The Acting Director read a note of thanks from President Biden for Dr. Fauci’s many contributions to public health. The vacancy announcement for a new NIAID Director closed on January 17, 2023, but NIH will continue to accept applications and interview candidates until the position is filled. 

He described several other high-level NIH position changes since the September Council meeting:

President Biden selected Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the first Director of ARPA-H.
Dr. Joni Rutter was named Director of NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
Dr. Nina Schor was appointed as NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) in the NIH Office of the Director after Dr. Michael Gottesman stepped down.
Dr. Roger Glass has stepped down from his positions as Director of the Fogarty International Center (FIC) and NIH Associate Director for International Research. FIC Deputy Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx is serving as FIC Acting Director while FIC searches for a new Director.
Andrea Norris retired from her positions as NIH’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Director of the Center for Information Technology (CIT).
As for NIAID staff, Dr. Auchincloss offered thanks and best wishes to the following:

Gray Handley retired from his position as NIAID Associate Director for International Research Affairs. Since 2006, his work greatly expanded and improved NIAID’s international portfolio.
Greg Folkers and Laurie Doepel both stepped down after more than 25 and 30 years of NIAID service, respectively, in leadership and communications roles under the NIAID Director.
Dr. Matthew Fenton retired after 11 years as the Director of the Division of Extramural Activities (DEA). DEA Deputy Director Dr. Kelly Poe is serving as the Acting DEA Director until a permanent DEA Director is selected.
George Kennedy is the new Director of the NIAID Office of Acquisitions within DEA. He replaces Charles Grewe, who retired after 44 years of federal service at the NIH. 
Dr. Michael Ison is the new Chief of the Respiratory Disease Branch in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID).
Dr. Andrew Vernon joined the Division of AIDS (DAIDS) as the Chief of the Tuberculosis Clinical Research Branch in the Therapeutics Research Program.
Dr. Jim McNamara stepped down as Chief of the Autoimmunity and Mucosal Immunology Branch (AMIB) in the Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT). Dr. Ellen Goldmuntz is acting in his stead.
Mary Smolskis is the new Director of the Office of Planning and Operations Support in the Division of Clinical Research.
Dr. Auchincloss congratulated Dr. Cliff Lane, who received the 2022 Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal, and Alex Rosenthal, who was honored with a Presidential Rank Award.

As an organization, NIAID was honored with the 2022 Patents for Humanity award in the COVID-19 category. Science magazine’s list of top 10 2022 Breakthroughs included NIAID research. Dr. Auchincloss also briefly covered NIAID staff meetings with international visitors and participation in the Ninth Global Health Workshop with the Gates Foundation.

Budget Overview

Dr. Auchincloss shared NIH and NIAID budget news with Council starting at the 18-minute mark of the video linked above. He covered the fiscal year (FY) 2024 President’s budget request and a Budget Data Comparisons by Institute and Center slide to illustrate the distribution of NIH’s $47.7 billion FY 2023 budget.

He discussed NIAID’s Financial Management Plan and the interim R01 Paylines posted on January 23, 2023. Dr. Auchincloss predicted no adjustments to noncompeting and competing grants, cuts of up to 20 percent for competing research initiatives, and application success rates around 18 to 22 percent.

His slides also detailed Congressional funding directives (earmarks) for AIDS, antimicrobial resistance, food allergy research, universal influenza vaccine, and the distribution of COVID-19 funds.

Legislative Activities

Dr. Auchincloss covered recent NIAID participation in Congressional hearings and the HIV/AIDS Caucus on World AIDS Day. NIAID staff also provided many other briefings to staff in Congress on COVID-19, mpox (formerly monkeypox), the Sudan Ebolavirus outbreak, Paxlovid rebound, and other topics. Dr. Auchincloss also briefly discussed changes in Senate and Congress leadership.

Scientific Updates

Starting at the video’s 28-minute mark, Dr. Auchincloss listed examples of infectious disease outbreaks inside and outside of the United States in 2022.

To summarize the past 3 years of COVID-19, he presented slides on case and hospitalization graphs, strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, key therapeutics, NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, the four U.S. COVID-19 vaccines and updated booster, hospitalizations by vaccination status, variants of concern, next generation vaccines, and NIAID awards to support pan-coronavirus vaccine development.

Dr. Auchincloss also provided updates on developments in other research areas: HIV/AIDS, malaria, Ebola, a promising Marburg vaccine, universal flu vaccine efforts, non-viral asthma attacks, monoclonal antibodies to target Epstein-Barr virus, and human antibody response to vaccinations.

Council members then discussed his presentation, pandemic preparedness, bipartisan support for HIV/AIDS research, and other topics.

ARPA-H Overview

Guest speaker Dr. Renee Wegrzyn, Director of ARPA-H, covered the new organization’s mission and current status. Find her presentation at the 50-minute mark of the video.

She shared how her experiences at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Ginkgo Bioworks related to infectious diseases, then described the ARPA-H Mission, remarks from President Biden, the Agency’s organizational structure, and approach to spurring health breakthroughs. ARPA-H Program Managers will identify challenges, define problems, and launch programs. The ARPA-H Model addresses four initial focus areas: health science futures, scalable solutions, proactive health, and resilient systems.

Dr. Wegrzyn closed her presentation with a summary of recent ARPA-H milestones, then answered Council members’ questions on hiring program managers, how mature ideas move forward, and project funding decisions.

Approved Concepts for Upcoming Funding Opportunities

Check the Council-approved Concepts for Potential Opportunities from the January 2023 meeting:

Division of AIDS (DAIDS) Concepts
Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Transplantation (DAIT) Concepts
Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (DMID) Concepts
Trans-Divisional Concepts
Learn how the concepts can help you gain support at Understand NIAID Research Priorities.

— Read on

NIH Quietly Edits Section of Website on Gain-of-Function Research

NIH Quietly Edits Section of Website on Gain-of-Function Research

NIH Quietly Edits Section of Website on Gain-of-Function Research

The National Institutes of Health edited a section of its website explaining gain-of-function research this month as scrutiny over the research the NIH funded in Wuhan, China intensified.

The original page, seen on the Wayback Machine, displays several sections including Potential Pandemic Pathogens, Gain-of-Function Research, U.S. Government Funding Pause, HHS P3CO Framework, Research Within P3CO Scope, Research Outside P3CO Scope, and a Timeline.

The Gain-of-Function section stated:

The term gain-of-function (GOF) research describes a type of research that modifies a biological agent so that it confers new or enhanced activity to that agent. Some scientists use the term broadly to refer to any such modification. However, not all research described as GOF entails the same level of risk. For example, research that involves the modification of bacteria to allow production of human insulin, or the altering of the genetic program of immune cells in CAR-T cell therapy to treat cancer generally would be considered low risk. The subset of GOF research that is anticipated to enhance the transmissibility and/or virulence of potential pandemic pathogens, which are likely to make them more dangerous to humans, has been the subject of substantial scrutiny and deliberation. Such GOF approaches can sometimes be justified in laboratories with appropriate biosafety and biosecurity controls to help us understand the fundamental nature of human-pathogen interactions, assess the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents, and inform public health and preparedness efforts, including surveillance and the development of vaccines and medical countermeasures. This research poses biosafety and biosecurity risks, and these risks must be carefully managed. When supported with NIH funds, this subset of GOF research may only be conducted in laboratories with stringent oversight and appropriate biosafety and biosecurity controls(link is external) to help protect researchers from infection and prevent the release of microorganisms into the environment. (NIH)

Now the page lists only Potential Pandemic Pathogens, ePPP Research, and Oversight.

The edits come as Sen. Rand Paul is calling for Dr. Anthony Fauci to resign for lying about gain-of-function research.

“He should be fired,” Paul told “Axios on HBO” in an interview that aired Sunday. 

“The thing is, is just for lack of judgment of nothing else, and I, you know, he’s probably never going to admit that he lied, he’s going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth,” he added.

While Paul has been making this case for awhile, the sentiments were renewed after Lawrence Tabak, the principal deputy director at the NIH, revealed new details in a letter about an NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance, which conducted research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Fauci under fire for ‘puppy experiments that saw beagles locked in cage with hungry sandflies that would eat them ALIVE’


The White Coat Waste Project claims some of the dogs allegedly had their vocal cords removed to muzzle their barkingCredit: ALAMY

Fauci under fire for ‘puppy experiments that saw beagles locked in cage with hungry sandflies that would eat them ALIVE’

  • Updated: 23:18 ET, Oct 23 2021

DR Anthony Fauci is under fire for allegedly funding experiments where beagle puppies were locked in cages with hungry sandflies that would eat them alive.

The non-profit organization White Coat Waste Project has accused the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of funding a project that had beagles infected with disease-causing parasites in order to test an experimental drug.

Non-profit organization White Coat Waste Project has accused Dr Anthony Fauci of using tax-payer money to fund cruel experiments on puppies in TunisiaCredit: Splash

The Hill reports that a bipartisan group of 24 House Representatives has written a letter demanding that Fauci answer to the claims by the nonprofit.

The organization claims that as many as 44 beagle puppies were used as part of the cruel experiment in a Tunisia laboratory.

The NIAID spent directed $1.68million in taxpayer money to these experiments, according to documents obtained by the non-profit Credit: Getty

“Our investigators show that Fauci’s NIH division shipped part of a $375,800 grant to a lab in Tunisia to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sandflies so that the insects could eat them alive,” White Coat Waste told The Hill.

“They also locked beagles alone in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies, they added. 

The NIAID spent directed $1.68million in taxpayer money to these experiments, according to documents obtained by the non-profit

The NIAID spent directed $1.68million in taxpayer money on these experiments, according to documents obtained by the non-profit.

The letter was signed by some Democrats such as Representatives Cindy Axne from Iowa and Jimmy Gomez from California.

However, it was mostly signed by Republican lawmakers, including Rep Nancy Mace from South Carolina, who’s leading the effort.

“The dogs were all between six and eight months old. The commissioned tests involved injecting and force-feeding the puppies an experimental drug for several weeks, before killing and dissecting them,” said the lawmakers’ letter, according to Newsweek.

“Of particular concern is the fact that the invoice to NIAID included a line item for ‘cordectomy.’ As you are likely aware, a cordectomy, also known as ‘devocalization,’ involves slitting a dog’s vocal cords in order to prevent them from barking, howling, or crying.”

“This cruel procedure – which is opposed with rare exceptions by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Animal Hospital Association, and others – seems to have been performed so that experimenters would not have to listen to the pained cries of the beagle puppies. This is a reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds.”

Among the questions the lawmakers want answered is how many drug tests have been done on dogs since January 2018 and how much they have cost.

They also want to know why these tests were performed if the FDA does not require new drugs to be tested on dogs.

Fauci, who is also President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, has previously found himself under hot water after being accused of lying to the American public after documents seemed to contradict his claims that his agency did not fund research of coronaviruses in a Wuhan, China, lab.

Lawmakers want to know why these tests were performed if the FDA does not require new drugs to be tested on dogsCredit: REUTERS