Director’s Update: Promoting NICHD’s Role in Biomedical Research

Esther Eisenberg, Lisa Halvorson, David Weinberg, Alan DeCherney, Diana Bianchi, Zhaoxia Ren

NICHD staff attended the Society for Reproductive Investigation meeting in Paris, France, providing attendees with information on NICHD research to advance reproductive health research. From left to right: Esther Eisenberg, M.D., program officer in the Fertility and Infertility Branch; Lisa Halvorson, M.D., chief of the Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch; David Weinberg, Ph.D., lead of the Human Placenta Project; Alan DeCherney, M.D., senior investigator in the Division of Intramural Research; Diana Bianchi, M.D., NICHD Director; and Zhaoxia Ren, M.D., Ph.D., program officer in the Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch.

March 2019 was busy with meetings aimed at informing researchers and stakeholders about NICHD’s important role in supporting and conducting biomedical research.

The month started with the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs meeting in Savannah, GA. I answered a range of questions in a “fireside chat” setting. Despite the 7 a.m. start time, it was standing room only. The audience was quite engaged, and the session ran longer than scheduled. One chair liked the format so much that she wants to replicate it when I visit her institution later this fall.

Another highlight was the Society for Reproductive Investigation (SRI) meeting in Paris, France. NICHD was well-represented at this conference, which focuses on research to advance women’s reproductive health. Dr. Lisa Halvorson of NICHD’s Gynecologic Health and Disease Branch participated in a panel to advise new investigators, and Dr. Esther Eisenberg of the NICHD Fertility and Infertility Branch presented information on NICHD’s Reproductive Medicine Network, which carries out large, multicenter clinical trials of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for male and female infertility, as well as reproductive diseases and disorders. I gave a presentation on my lab’s research on apigenin as a prenatal treatment to improve neurocognition in Down syndrome and moderated a session on noninvasive prenatal testing. We then joined fellow NICHDers Drs. Alan DeCherney, David Weinberg, and Zhaoxia Ren to host a table at the “Connections Corner” event to facilitate conversations with attendees who might be interested in careers in government.

Later in the month, I had the opportunity to present to the annual Society for Research in Child Development meeting in Baltimore. I talked about NICHD research on child development, our support for trainees, and—of course—our strategic planning process.

Strategic Planning Update

Teams of NICHD staff are evaluating proposed themes for our upcoming strategic plan, taking into account the large volume of comments from the Request for Information (RFI) and information from the many meetings and brainstorming sessions that we have held thus far. The teams are identifying possible objectives, along with any changes that should be made to the scope or framing of each theme. They are also discussing what partnerships, training, and infrastructure might be needed to achieve some of the suggested objectives. In parallel, a small sub-group has generated a list of candidates for our refreshed mission and vision statements that will be the subject of further discussion.

As a preview of coming events, next week along with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and a few other NIH institute directors, I will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. We will be answering questions about the Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal and sharing information about the exciting and impactful science that NIH supports. I’m hopeful that I will be able to highlight several of NICHD’s most important research areas.