NICHD Advisory Council Holds Fall Meeting

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Advisory Council met in person on September 6 and 7. Attendees heard presentations on topics including the NICHD Director’s Report, the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) report, an overview of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and an introductory presentation from the NICHD’s new clinical director Catherine M. Gordon, M.D. [See the full agenda here.]

NICHD Director Diana Bianchi, M.D., welcomed Dr. Jane Simoni, the new National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Director and acknowledged the value of OBSSR in being helpful in co-funding grants. Dr. Bianchi also mentioned some challenges with so many NIH leadership positions that have temporary people. 

In her director’s update, Dr. Bianchi revealed that NICHD will be announcing its new strategic plan for 2025. She emphasized three focus areas: research, stewardship, and management and accountability. The NICHD has been documenting and tracking activities and achievements towards the objectives set by the 2020 strategic plan. Over the next year, she will consult NICHD staff for input on progress and potential new scientific opportunities and data analysis of achievements on current activities and accomplishments. Additionally, the NICHD will solicit external feedback from the scientific and advocacy communities and the general public.

FABBS submitted comments in response to the original strategic plan and will do so again. FABBS welcomes hearing from our members about their experience interacting with the NICHD for their funding. 

Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D., the director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), was invited to share some of NCATS’ specific efforts and accomplishments in genetic sequencing and gene therapy. Dr. Rutter spoke about operational, administrative, and scientific barriers to research translation:

  • In 10,000 diseases, only 5 percent have cures.
  • From early development to medicine in the cabinet, the whole process takes 10-15 years.
  • 9 out of 10 promising therapeutics entering clinical trials fail.

Lastly, Catherine M. Gordon, M.D., M.S., incoming NICHD clinical director, shared highlights from her research on anorexia nervosa and pubertal blockades’ impact on bone density and postpartum depression in teenage mothers. She provided some overarching themes of her leadership in her new position and some of her visions for achieving those themes.