Strategic Plan Nears the Finish Line

Dr. Bianchi standing at a podium.

Source: NIH Photography

After more than a year of discussion, substantial public feedback, and more discussion, I am happy to say that we have a final draft of the NICHD Strategic Plan. It has been a long journey, and I sincerely appreciate all the efforts of our staff and external stakeholders who worked hard to get us to this point. We now go to the layout and proofing phase of the document, where we put the finishing touches on the look, feel, and language of the plan. Then, off we go to the printers. We hope to have print and PDF versions of the document in September.

Discussing Down Syndrome

This month, I had the honor of joining NIH Director Francis Collins and fellow institute directors Richard Hodes of the National Institute on Aging and Gary Gibbons of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute for a meeting with members of the House Down Syndrome Caucus. We discussed NIH’s INCLUDE (INvestigation of Co-occurring conditions across the Lifespan to Understand Down syndromE) project, which focuses on the need for scientific discoveries aimed at improving the health of individuals with Down syndrome as well as the health of those without Down syndrome who share common co-occurring conditions . We were able to have an in-depth conversation with Caucus Co-Chair Cathy McMorrisRodgers (R-WA) and Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH). Representative McMorrisRodgers has a 12-year-old son with Down syndrome.

Also this month I made two quick trips to give keynote lectures at annual meetings that are attended by many of our stakeholders. The first was to the Society for the Study of Reproduction in San Jose, CA, where I talked about how cell-free DNA sequencing has changed clinical practice in obstetrics and what biological insights we have gleaned from those developments. NICHD program staff from the Contraception Research Branch and the Fertility and Infertility Branch were also at the meeting. Just a few days ago, I returned from the Society for Developmental Biology meeting in Boston, where I presented on the possibilities for prenatal treatment of Down syndrome using mouse models. This is a key meeting for the NICHD’s Developmental Biology and Structural Variation Branch.

Looking Ahead

On August 22 and 23, I will be chairing the next meeting of the Task Force on Research Specific to Pregnant Women and Lactating Women (PRGLAC). The group’s charter was extended to March 2021 by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The charge to PRGLAC for this second phase is to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary on implementing the recommendations outlined in its September 2018 report (PDF 7 MB).

Visit PRGLAC’s meeting site  to learn more about the agenda for the August meeting and to register.

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