September 14, 2007

Hamm on NIH peer review committee

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Heidi Hamm, Ph.D.

Hamm on NIH peer review committee

Heidi Hamm, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacol-ogy, has been appointed to the Peer Review Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The committee advises the NIH director and other top NIH officials on the evaluation of NIH grant applications. Peer review, NIH officials said, “is the key method NIH uses to ensure that the $20-plus billion it invests in biomedical research grants each year advances the most promising research.”

“This key committee, a 'who's who' of distinguished U.S. scientists, guides NIH policy on the peer review process,” said Jeffrey Balser, M.D., Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research at Vanderbilt. “Heidi's appointment comes at a crucial time, as the NIH is now engaged in a comprehensive reevaluation of its peer review system.”

Her research interests include protein-protein interactions across cell membranes related to metabolic regulation, specifically what is known as the G protein coupled signaling mechanism.

Reevaluating the peer review system is crucial, Hamm said, in light of recent cutbacks in federal funding, coupled with a doubling in the number of grant applications and the increasing complexity of the biomedical research enterprise.

She commended Antonio Scarpa, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR), for “significant innovation,” including decreasing the evaluation time for new investigator research (R01) grants, increasing videoconferencing and electronic chat room review, and increasing input from extramural scientists outside the NIH.

The Peer Review Advisory Committee advises the CSR, which evaluates 70 percent of the research grant applications sent to the NIH. The committee “takes on a broad variety of important issues, and I look forward to (its) very challenging and productive work,” she said.

Hamm is one of five new members who will begin their two-year terms immediately. The others are: R. Lorraine Collins, Ph.D., of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York; Garret FitzGerald, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania; Story Landis, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Jane Steinberg, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health.