Fostering intramural collaboration, extramural collaboration and intra-/extramural collaboration.
Traditionally, biomedical research has focused on understanding and defeating specific diseases. This was remarkably successful when the major scourges were infectious diseases, but the world has changed and now the major problems are chronic diseases associated with advancing age, including cardiovascular diseases, neurodegeneration, diabetes, COPD, etc. These are diseases of significantly more complex etiology, and a major risk factor for all of them is aging itself. Impressive progress in understanding the genetics, biology and physiology of aging has allowed the emergence of geroscience, a field focused on unraveling the mechanisms that govern the role of aging on chronic diseases.
The “GeroScience Interest Group” (GSIG) was formed to enhance opportunities to explore the intersection between aging biology and the biology of diseases that are of interest to the various NIH Institutes and Centers. The GSIG is focused on basic biology, but with a longer view towards translation. By developing a collaborative framework that includes many NIH Institutes, we expect to identify major cross-cutting areas of research, to propose coordinated approaches, to identify hurdles, and to envision solutions. By working together, we expect to catalyze the development of new tools, models and paradigms that address the basic biological underpinnings of multiple diseases.
The GSIG includes participation by more than 20 NIH Institutes with an interest in the biological mechanisms that drive the appearance of multiple diseases of the elderly. The group includes both intramural and extramural scientists, and while some activities are performed in collaboration between the two groups, members in each branch have unique capabilities, and collaborations between the two branches are synergistic.
Extramural Strengths: The GSIG developed originally as a primarily extramural activity and thus, most of the work done so far has focused on issues such as development of joint workshops/conferences, publication of multi-IC Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOA, including both PAR and RFA). In addition, discussions among GSIG participants have led to at least one proposal for a Common Fund Initiative.
Intramural Strengths: For the Intramural community, advantages include notification and participation in the quarterly seminars, usually held at Lipsett Auditorium on the Main Campus. Similarly, the Summits have enjoyed participation of both Intramural and Extramural NIH personnel, as well as external scientists. A goal of the intramural GSIG is to promote collaborations among different ICs, including joint scientific research projects and discussion forums. Ultimately, a goal is to cement such collaborations by identifying opportunities for joint mentorship of postdocs and other trainees.