I’m very pleased to announce that the Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group (GSIG) and partners will host its second summit in 2016. The “Disease Drivers of Aging: 2016 Advances in Geroscience Summit” will take place on April 13–14 at the New York Academy of Sciences in New York City. Members of the Geroscience Interest Group from the NIH, with essential collaboration and support from the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Federation for Aging Research, and the Gerontological Society of America, have developed a theme and program for a second geroscience summit requested by the research community.
We’re excited about participating in the upcoming annual meeting of the American Geriatrics Society May 14–17 at National Harbor, just outside of Washington, DC. And, we’re hoping to see many of you at the sessions featuring NIA staff, who will be talking about research funded and conducted by NIA, as well as funding opportunities and applying for grants. Please add these sessions to your schedule in the conference app. Or, print this out to bring with to you the meeting.
Geroscience—a field that looks at the relationship between aging and disease—has gained lots of traction within the scientific community. I think this is a good thing. Anybody who heard me talk recently would be excused if they were to think that this is now the primary focus of NIA’s Division of Aging Biology… Well, not so! The centerpiece of work funded by the Division of Aging Biology remains basic research into the biological roots of aging. The application of this research to human health and disease is a welcome addition—“icing on the cake,” if you will.
This is an extremely difficult time in aging research, among the most challenging since I came to the NIA in 1993. Last week, we announced a funding line policy with the lowest payline in our history. NIA is spending just as much money on research grants as last year, and funding just as many grants, but a great increase in the number of applications has resulted in a lower payline. The energy of our robust and growing field is meeting the reality of budgets that have failed to keep pace, in real terms, over time. Yet, our mission on Alzheimer’s disease is receiving increased public attention and garnered additional financial support, and, even with the struggle in our general payline, we are grateful for more flexibility there.
In a special session at this year’s Gerontological Society of America (GSA) meeting in Washington, D.C., NIA Director Richard Hodes, along with NIA’s scientific leadership, intramural scientists and grantees, advocates, and alumni, will reflect on major accomplishments in research to improve the health of older people since the establishment of the Institute in 1974. If you are attending the GSA meeting this November, please join us for this symposium on Saturday, November 8, from 3 – 6 p.m. GSA has made this symposium open to all, including non-registrants. We look forward to seeing many of you who helped build NIA and aging research, past and present, at this very special event.
When the dust cleared on our budget this year, the NIA was blessed with a 12.5%, $130 million increase over fiscal year 2013’s sequester-dictated funding. As the NIH as a whole received a 3.4% increase, NIA’s 2014 funding reflects extraordinary recognition from Congress. In fiscal year 2013 (October 2012 to September 2013), we saw our worst success rate ever for research project grant applications—R01s, R21s, R03s, etc. NIA’s success rate was noticeably below the NIH average success rate, which was also among the lowest ever for NIH as a whole.
Optimism and pessimism compete with each other as we contemplate the future for research and research funding. The prospects for important breakthroughs in NIA’s primary areas of medical research—aging and Alzheimer’s disease—have never been brighter. We receive thousands of applications each year, many deemed exceptionally worthy after peer review. On the other hand, we at the NIA and across the NIH are constrained by a budget that, in real terms, is shrinking dramatically.