NIMH Strategic Plan Update, New BRAIN Initiative Director

February 12, 2020

The Advisory Council for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) met on Tuesday, February 4. NIMH is currently in the process of updating their strategic plan. A request for feedback went out to the community on December 2, 2019 with comments due on January 1, 2020. NIMH then provided an two additional weeks to comment, pushing back their timeline to present their revisions to Council to their next meeting on May 19th, 2020.

Dr. Gordon, NIMH Director, explained that, due to the two-week extension, and over 6,000 comments that they received, NIMH staff is still working to incorporate the feedback. FABBS submitted comments on the strategic plan and encouraged FABBS members to do so as well. Dr. Gordon only said a few words about the nature of the comments received, including encouragement to ‘expand and expound’ Goal 1 to better include both genomic and non-genomic factors. See the webcast here (strategic plan comments around minute 20).

In his Director’s report, Dr. Gordon presented on NIMH efforts to promote equity in research, identify gaps and develop strategies, and provided an update on NIMH appropriations and success rates. During the agenda item on science highlights, Dr. Gordon gave high praise to Katie McLaughlin, Harvard University, and her work on the neurobiological markers of resilience and cognitive control of emotion. Dr. McLaughlin was one of the FABBS scientists who met with Rep. Clark in her district this past August.

John J. Ngai, Ph.D. has been selected as the new Director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative . Dr. Gordon and Dr. Walter J. Koroshetz, NINDS Director, had been co-leading the Initiative in the absence of a designated Director. Dr. Ngai plans to continue the momentum of the initiative, and implement the vision laid out in BRAIN 2.0 From Cells to Circuits Towards Cures. Dr. Ngai comes to NIH from the University of California, Berkeley, where he is the Coates Family Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.