The data on the competition for NIH funding

We all know the NIH budget is not keeping pace with demand and that success rates are at historically low levels but what are the actual numbers that reflect the funding climate? NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer addresses this question in detail in his May 31 Open Mike blog post, “How Many Researchers?

Michael Lauer

Michael Lauer

Using published findings from a workshop held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Kimble et al.) as a starting point, Lauer explores the group’s conclusion that the research community faces two chief problems: “Too many researchers vying for too few dollars; too many postdocs competing for too few faculty positions.”

To examine these issues, Lauer analyzed the number of PIs seeking major independent research awards over time (rather than on a yearly basis to adjust for potential overlap in periods of funding). He and his team found that while the overall number of awardees has remained fairly stable at around 27,500, “the number of unique applicants has increased substantially, from about 60,000 investigators who had applied during the period from 1999 to 2003 to slightly less than 90,000 in who had applied during the period from 2011 to 2015.”

The data for R01s revealed that the number of unique awardees declined by about 5% between 2011 and 2015 while the number of unique R01 applicants substantially increased. Using these two variables, they calculated a “cumulative investigator rate” – the likelihood that unique investigators will be funded over a 5-year window – and found the R01 investigator rate declined from 45% to 34% between 2003 and 2015 (see figure). R21 and P01 awards were also examined.

Figure taken from May 31 Open Mike blog showing cumulative investigator rates for R01s over time

Figure taken from May 31 Open Mike blog showing cumulative investigator rates for R01s over time

Based on his analyses, Lauer concluded:

  • The overall number of unique awardees has remained largely constant, while the number of unique applicants has markedly increased.
  • NIH is supporting fewer unique awardees of investigator-initiated long-term grants such as R01s and P01s but is supporting more unique awardees of short-term grants such as R21s.
  • The number of awardees receiving cooperative agreements, which are often institute-initiated, has increased.

So how is NIH addressing this problem? Lauer cited recommendations from Kimble et al. and other literature as potential solutions: “These efforts include funding opportunity announcements for R35 awards, which focus on programs, rather than highly specific projects; new models for training graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; establishment of an office of workforce diversity; and even what we are doing here, namely drawing attention to numbers of unique investigators and applicants.”

While Lauer acknowledges “the difficulties and challenges brought on by the current hypercompetitive NIH funding environment,” the question of how to address an ever-increasing number of researchers vying for limited dollars remains.

The NIA wants to hear from you!

National-Institute-on-AgingThe National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program (ITP) wants to expand the involvement of the research community in this unique program, which tests in mice compounds that have the potential to promote healthy aging. The program already uses a community approach to strengthen program outcomes, with investigators in the extramural research community proposing many of these compounds.

This approach has proven successful. By tapping into a broad range of expertise, the ITP has benefited from proposals for a wide variety of compounds and dietary interventions. To date, the ITP has found six compounds that gave statistically significant positive effects on lifespan (five are published, one more in press). The investigators whose interventions are tested also benefit by playing an active role as collaborators, participating in data evaluation and publications.

The Collaborative Interactions Program (ITP CIP) is a new phase of community involvement meant to build on the initial program. ITP CIP is looking for collaborators to expand the kinds of health span measurements they conduct on mice, as these are important complements to lifespan studies in phase I testing. They’re looking for people with expertise in mouse physiology and cellular function in particular, who can perform functional and biological tests that will complement those performed by the ITP sites. This added characterization will give them a more robust picture of the effects of the compounds they test.

What’s in it for you? The NIA expects the ITP CIP to help collaborations in several ways, including receiving data, cells, tissues, or live animals from the cohorts that the ITP is treating. They are also developing a tissue repository from treatment and control groups that will include fixed and frozen samples collected at different times and made available to collaborators. Finally, the program has limited numbers of untreated HET3 4-way-cross mice (used by the program to minimize the effect of strain-specific characteristics) of various ages that they can ship to collaborators’ labs to facilitate baseline studies in the HET3 mice.

Get involved by visiting the ITP website. CIP FAQ’s are also available.

NeuroFutures 2016 conference to be held in Seattle, June 19-21

Hey OHSU neuroscientists: Now is the time to register for one of our signature neuroscience events: the NeuroFutures 2016 conference. Hosted by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, in partnership with OHSU, University of Washington, and University of British Columbia, this annual conference explores innovations at the interface of neuroscience and neurotechnology. This year’s NeuroFuture’s theme is “Circuit Structure and Dynamics.” Topics include:

  • novel imaging approaches
  • non-mammalian model systems
  • human and non-human primate circuit function
  • computational modeling of circuits
  • circuits in degeneration
  • circuits in psychiatric disorders

NeuroFuturesMain conference:
June 20 and 21, 2016

Allen Institute
615 Westlake Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109


Cost of attendance is $150 for students & postdocs, and $350 for academic/non-profit participants. A free public lecture given by Anne Churchland, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, entitled “Neural circuits for multisensory decision-making,” will be held on Sunday June 19 starting at 5:30 pm. A panel discussion on “NeuroFutures 2026: How will technology transform our ability to understand the 2026 brain?” will follow the lecture beginning at 6:30 pm, closing with a reception.

Check out the full agenda including information about check-in times and keynote speakers. Register now. Note: Conference Attendees must register separately for the June 19 public lecture.


Summer Vollum writing class starts June 29

The Vollum Writing Class is a six-week professional science writing course open to OHSU graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty.

This class uses short lectures, class discussion, and workshop-style writing assignments to help researchers learn to write better papers and grants. Topics include:

  • The basic elements of good scientific writing style, including sentence and document structure
  • Insight into scientific conventions regarding grammar, punctuation, and usage
  • Strategies for revising
  • Dealing with writer’s block and time management
  • Best practices for writing introductions, results, discussions, and grant proposals

The class runs for six weeks, Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., beginning June 29, 2016. Six individual tutorials with the instructor are included. There are no prerequisites for this non-credit professional development course, but you should not take the class unless you have enough data to write about.

The course carries a fee of $500 per student (unless you are in a Vollum lab or part of certain graduate Ph.D. programs). Questions? Contact

Access Compass to register for the Vollum Writing Class.

Design and analysis surveys workshop, June 3

lahiriThe OHSU-PSU School of Public Health is sponsoring a workshop on design and analysis surveys featuring instructor, Partha Lahiri, Ph.D., professor, Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland and adjunct research professor at the Institute of Social Research.

Friday, June 3, 2016
9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
(with break at  12 to 1:30 p.m.)
OHSU School of Nursing, room 144

Lahiri will present in a non-technical manner basic sampling techniques and explain how freely available software can be used to analyze complex survey data. The course will consist of the following:

1. Introduction
2 Basic sampling designs
3. Different estimators (Horvitz-Thompson, Hansen-Hurwitz, GREG)
4. Nonresponse
5. Weighting
6. Imputation
7. Variance estimation

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand elements of complex sampling designs
  • Learn how to construct survey weights to adjust for unequal selection probabilities, nonresponse and calibration
  • Learn how to compute variance estimates and the associated confidence intervals using complex survey data

Recommended text: Introduction to Survey Sampling, by Graham Kalton, Sage Publications, 1989.

Lahiri’s work has been widely published in leading journals such as the Journal of the American Statistical Association, and Annals of Statistics. He has served on a number of advisory committees, including the U.S. Census Advisory committee and U.S. National Academy panel. Over the years Lahiri advised various local and international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, World Bank, Gallup Organization. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.

OCTRI announces 2017 Catalyst Award recipients

The Oregon Clinical & Translational Research Institute (OCTRI) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 Catalyst Award. This grant is designed to support novel, collaborative research initiatives at OHSU.

“This year’s Catalyst Award is responsive to the need for novel methodologies that can improve and accelerate translational research,” said David Ellison, M.D., professor of medicine (physiology and pharmacology), OHSU School of Medicine, and director of OCTRI. “We are delighted to support these innovative investigators and their projects.”  dorrel

Craig Dorrell, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, Oregon Stem Cell Center, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine
“Assessment of anti-cancer drugs against patient-specific pancreatic cancer organoid cultures”

jacobsPeter Jacobs, Ph.D., assistant professor, biomedical engineering, School of Medicine
“iPancreas: Internet based on-demand artificial pancreas app-generator to accelerate clinical trials research”

      Click here to read project abstracts.

OCTRI’s Catalyst program receives institutional support from the School of Medicine’s Research Roadmap initiative and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. For more information about Catalyst and other pilot award programs, visit the OCTRI funding opportunities web page.

Visit OCTRI’s webpage for more information on resources and services.

TTBD Industry Spotlight: GE Healthcare and OHSU

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare

OHSU continues to collaborate with industry giants, pushing the boundaries of medicine and health care forward. In 2013, OHSU partnered with Intel to create computer architectures for sequencing cancer genomes and personalizing cancer care. In 2015, OHSU joined with Apple, Inc. to create a technology that detects the warning signs of melanoma through photographs taken with an iPhone. This year, OHSU and GE Healthcare are finalizing collaborations on numerous health care projects, including cardiovascular research, imaging, and big data.

One particular project that attracted GE Healthcare to OHSU was the development of a new technology to improve heart attack detection. Invented by Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, the Myocardial Contrast Echocardiography (MCE) technology has been used on over 5 million patients around the world and has since attracted many prospective industry partners to OHSU. For example, GE Healthcare has expressed interest in collaborative studies including, but not limited to, the investigation of ultrasounds as a health care tool in rural and underserved communities as well as the testing of magnetic resonance pulse sequences to enhance neurovascular studies. Inspired by the MCE technology, GE Healthcare’s pursuit of partnership with OHSU is just one example of how innovative discoveries continue to bring industry partners to OHSU’s doorstep.

During his keynote address at the 2016 OHSU Startup Symposium on March 31, John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, stressed the importance of partnerships between industry and academic institutions.

“We are very impressed by and excited about the history of this institution. There really is a deep history here of science and health care innovations,” said Flannery. “We see a lot of things that we can do with OHSU in life science, in molecular imaging, in cardiology, in data and analytics. We would like very much to be a partner in the future of the business.”

Executives from both OHSU and GE Healthcare have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on health care projects, with plans to finalize the terms of this agreement by July 2016. This memorandum will include a collaboration agreement for OHSU’s commercialization efforts and will give GE Healthcare the opportunity to provide mentorship and support to OHSU through the MedTech Alliance, Biomedical Innovation Program, and Startup Symposium.

“We hope to spin out more startup companies and create even more excitement among our faculty to find innovative solutions to address a number of medical challenges,” said Abhijit Banerjee, Ph.D., OHSU’s director of business development.

As OHSU continues to create ties with industry partners, an environment of open shared knowledge and expertise grows. This enables an accelerated rate of innovation in medical technology and overall improvements in patient care. The partnership between OHSU and GE Healthcare demonstrates collaborative effort toward a common goal: Improving health care for the global community.

OHSU researcher’s discovery paves way for improved treatments for hearing-impaired

A team led by Lina A.J. Reiss, Ph.D., assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine’s Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery Department, has discovered that as many as half of individuals wearing bilateral hearing devices experience abnormal processing of sounds that worsens their auditory perception, particularly speech recognition.

Much progress has been made in the treatment of hearing loss with the development of hearing aids (HA) and more recently, cochlear implants (CI). In particular, combining acoustic and electric hearing from a HA and CI in opposite ears has led to improved speech perception in a noisy environment over CI alone. And yet, over the last half century, scientist and clinicians have observed that some patients have better outcomes wearing a single device. Until now, the reasons for this have remained unknown.

Reiss and her colleagues published the results of their study that shed light on this phenomenon in the May 24 edition of the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology. “Two ears are not always better than one: Mandatory vowel fusion across spectrally mismatched ears in hearing-impaired listeners,” describes the changes in central auditory processing that occurs in some patients with bilateral hearing aids or cochlear implants. Subjects were asked to identify vowel sounds under various conditions using their personal HAs and/or CIs. Pitch-matching and fusion tests were also conducted using headphones and/or direct stimulation. What the team discovered was abnormal processing of sound in the brain that results in a reduced ability to recognize speech, particularly when background noise is present.

People with normal hearing fuse similar sounds between the ears. In the hearing-impaired auditory system, however, the two ears are often mismatched in pitch, leading to discordant information between ears. As such, the researchers found, many hearing-impaired listeners fuse sounds that are both similar and different between ears, such as a low-frequency sound – a man’s voice, for example – in one ear with a high-frequency sound – like a woman’s voice – in the other ear. For some patients, this fusion only distorts a few speech sounds.  However, for other individuals, fusion distorts the majority of speech sounds, and listening with two ears is so difficult they choose not to use a second hearing device.

This is the first study to investigate a potential underlying cause of binaural interference in hearing-impaired listeners at the phoneme (distinct units of sound) level. Because testing was done on single-vowel identification, further research is needed to fully understand how these interference effects arise and to extend the findings to consonant classification as well as to more complex listening situations such as those involving multiple talkers. Once the underlying mechanisms of interference are fully understood, new auditory training or device reprogramming approaches can be used to reduce these effects and maximize speech perception with two ears.

Lina A.J. Reiss, Ph.D. was first author on this paper. Her coauthors are Jessica L. Eggleston, Au.D., C.C.C.-A, Emily P. Walker (former student in the Reiss lab), and Yonghee Oh, Ph.D. (post-doctoral researcher in the Reiss lab).

This research was supported by grants R01 DC013307, P30 DC010755, and P30 DC005983 from the National Institutes of Deafness and Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health. 

2016 OHSU Startup Symposium draws regional attention to life science innovation

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, keynote speech

John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, keynote speech

“You are never too old or too big to think like a startup.” Thinking like a startup can mean different things to different people, though most would agree that successful startups are idealistic, persistent, and have a goal in mind that they relentlessly strive to achieve. However, as time passes and companies grow, they can lose that startup mentality. This advice was one of many compelling points made by John L. Flannery, president and CEO of GE Healthcare, during his keynote address at the fourth annual OHSU Startup Symposium. The theme for the symposium addressed the successes and limitations of Connecting the Pacific Northwest Life Science Ecosystem, discussing possible strategies and collaborations that may attract additional investors and resources to the region.

Over 300 symposium attendees visited the OHSU campus and the Collaborative Life Sciences Building on March 30 and 31. Visitors included regional investors, community partners, and startup company executives, along with OHSU faculty and staff members. In partnership with the OHSU Department of Surgery, the two-day event kicked off with an evening fireside chat featuring life science investors followed by Startup 101 workshops for OHSU clinicians. The second day included the popular “reverse pitch” series, where a panel of industry collaborators and investors engaged the audience in a candid discussion of what they look for when evaluating new companies and innovations. Other noteworthy sessions included investment strategies, understanding your customer, market research, and Pacific Northwest resources for early-stage life science companies.

The symposium also hosted the inaugural company showcase and poster session competitions in partnership with the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator. OHSU startup opportunity to pitch a 5-to-10 minute presentation to an audience that included elite investor and industry partners as well as a panel of . The presenters were evaluated based on the company’s stage of development, market & commercial opportunity, scientific merit/disruptive technology, business & commercialization plan, funding received, probability to follow-on funding, and the overall quality of the presentation. The winners of each competition walked away with a $1,000 check for their company. UrologyDx, Inc., a San Francisco-based genomics company, developing enhanced methods for monitoring an individual’s genome through their urine (their trademarked slogan is “Just Pee in a Cup!”), took home the prize for the company showcase. Yecuris, Inc., a Tualatin-based biotechnology company focused on the utilization of humanized model systems for preclinical drug development and human disease modeling, took the top spot in the poster session.

The event came to a close with a robust networking session that introduced OHSU faculty, staff, students, and post-docs to industry representatives from companies such as GE Healthcare, Welch Allyn, Takeda Ventures, Pfizer, Intel, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Cambia Health, and many others, giving OHSU the opportunity to showcase its talent and innovative environment to potential community partners and investors.

The office of Technology Transfer and Business Development (TTBD) hosts the OHSU Startup Symposium annually. The next symposium is scheduled for fall 2017.

Who’s new at OHSU? Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D.

Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D., is an assistant professor of medicine (hematology and oncology), OHSU School of Medicine, and member of the Knight Cancer Institute. He focuses on treating and diagnosing patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and various lymphomas. He has been at OHSU for a year, arriving in October 2014.


Alexey Danilov, M.D., Ph.D.

Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Russia, but I did most of my training in the New England area of the U.S. I arrived in 2001 and completed my residency in medicine at Brown University and then followed that on with a fellowship at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. I then moved to Dartmouth as my wife was finishing her studies there, so I ended up as a senior fellow in Murray Korc’s lab working on pancreatic cancer. A year after I arrived, Dr. Korc left. Luckily, I received some support to work independently. This presented an opportunity to do what I wanted to do. I continued with my clinical and research interest in B-cell malignancies, and, with support of my clinical colleagues, I set up my own independent translational program in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

What brought you to OHSU?
I moved here for a variety of reasons. Some were personal – my wife is a pathologist and was able to find a position at the VA. But more importantly, I found a many like-minded people here, people who want to bring novel therapies into the clinic. As a physician-scientist, I am eager to bring novel therapies into clinical world. So, I constantly operate at the interface between the lab bench and the clinic, meaning that I work with drugs in the pre-clinical setting and usher them into early-stage clinical development. OHSU is one of the institutions that is good at this kind of work. This is a very complicated setting, requiring depth of both basic and translational science, and OHSU has it figured out. Therefore, this was just the right place for me.

What got you interested in this particular line of research?
I was drawn to hematology oncology because of the high translational relevance of the work. It’s important to me that I work with primary human samples, so that my work is immediately relevant to the clinic. In CLL and some lymphomas, there is access to biologic material which can be used in translational studies. This is very different than studying solid tumors where access to diseased tissue may be very limited. Not only do lymphomas interest me clinically, the ability to work with lymphoma samples provides immediate relevance to my work in the lab. Another unique feature of working with blood cancers is the ability to make diagnosis on the slides. While I’m not a pathologist, I have the benefit of seeing the actual patient and that very tangible visual connection with the patient’s disease.

My specific focus in studying lymphoma is to target the leukemia cell interaction within the cell’s micro-environment. At the time I entered the field, there were a couple of new agents that targeted certain pathways, mostly the B-cell receptor signaling pathway. However, our team discovered that in addition to this pathway, there are a multitude of extraneous signals which support the life of a malignant B-cell in its niche – its niche being the lymph node of the bone marrow, not necessarily in the blood. So we have modeled the lymph node micro-environment in vitro and screened for different survival strategies of the neoplastic B-cell to identify what can be targeted in these micro-environmental conditions. Of particular interest to my team was targeting the NF-kB transcription factor, which is one of the key transcription factors induced by multiple soluble factors in the micro-environment. NF-kB works independent of B-cell signaling, the pathway of which is the primary target of current approved drugs.

What specific area of research are you working on now?
We’ve identified the new strategies outside the B-cell signaling pathways – which I describe above – and our data suggest that not only can the new strategies work by themselves, but they can work as strong sensitizers to the drugs that are already available. So we’re looking into the details of how the NF-kB pathway can be targeted. There are multiple complexities in terms of how the NF-kB pathway is induced. In addition, there are several branches within the pathway, so we’re trying to figure out which are important and which aren’t. We have a number of clinical trials underway for patients with CLL and lymphoma, some of which I based on the pre-clinical work performed by my team. The trials provide good options for folks who have just been diagnosed or those who have progressed through different treatments that haven’t been completely successful.

What do you do when you’re not at work?
Let me start by saying that I’ve lived in many places: Central Russia, throughout New England, and I’ve never been as happy as I am living in Portland. There is just so much to do – too many distractions actually. It’s almost too much for one place! We love the hiking, skiing, food, theater, biking, great music scene. This is also a great area for kids – from OMSI and Playdate PDX to kid-friendly hikes – almost too much of a good thing.

Welcome to the Research News Blog

Welcome to the Research News Blog

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