Hahn Joins FDA as Commissioner
On December 17, 2019, Stephen M. Hahn, MD, was sworn in as Commissioner of Food and Drugs at FDA. Before joining FDA, Hahn was the chief medical executive at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His training is in medical and radiation oncology, and he has experience in clinical trials and medical product development.
NIH to Create Meaningful Reforms to End Sexual Harassment in Science
Ending sexual harassment in science is a major priority for NIH leadership. In February 2019, NIH established the Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment working group within the Advisory Committee to the Director. In December, the working group delivered its report to the committee. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, announced on December 12 that NIH will work with other federal agencies, such as the HHS Office for Civil Rights, to explore options for implementing the recommendations.
NIH Seeks Public’s Help in Setting Research Directions
NIH has requested public input on a framework for the 2021-2025 NIH-wide Strategic Plan, with comments due by April 1, 2020. The new plan will focus on priorities in biomedical and behavioral science research, scientific research capacity, and scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science. Health disparities, data science optimization, and public health challenges across the lifespan are among the themes to be addressed.
First Annual NIH HEAL Investigator Meeting Convenes 350 Pain & Addiction Experts
In January, the two-day NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) investigator meeting in Bethesda, Md., brought together government officials, patient representatives, and more than 350 researchers who are part of the NIH initiative. In his opening remarks, Dr. Collins called the meeting “a historic gathering” to establish a scientific community that will take on the opioid crisis from all angles. Among the keynote speakers were HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar II and US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH. Meeting topics included basic science, pain assessment, challenges to developing therapeutics, and data sharing.
FDA Finalizes Enforcement Policy on E-Cigarettes Favored by Teens
The Food and Drug Administration announced on January 2 that it will prioritize enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored, cartridge-based e-cigarettes (except for tobacco and menthol products) that appeal to minors, including fruit and mint flavors. E-cigarette use has more than doubled among teens since 2017, according to data from the NIH-funded 2019 Monitoring the Future survey. The results, published in a series of papers between September and December 2019, indicate that vaping of marijuana among teens is also rising at similar rates, and they echo findings from the FDA and CDC’s 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Scientists Activate Latent HIV and SIV In Two Animal Models
In a range of experiments, scientists have reactivated resting immune cells that were latently infected with HIV or its monkey relative, SIV, in cells in the bloodstream and a variety of tissues in animals. As a result, the cells started making copies of the viruses, which could potentially be neutralized by anti-HIV drugs and the immune system. “These new findings help sustain our cautious optimism that an HIV cure is possible,” says Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Denny Starts as Chief Executive Officer of All of Us
Dr. Collins swore in Joshua Denny, MD, MS, as chief executive officer of the All of Us Research Program in January. As CEO, Denny will oversee NIH’s efforts to build one of the largest and most comprehensive precision medicine research platforms in the world in partnership with a diverse network of awardees and participants. Denny comes to NIH from Nashville, Tenn., where he was a professor in the departments of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Ngai Named Director of NIH BRAIN Initiative
John Ngai, PhD, has been named director of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative at NIH. Launched in 2013, the initiative is a large-scale effort to accelerate the development of neuroscience technologies and revolutionize our understanding of the brain in health and disease. Ngai comes to NIH from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was the Coates Family Professor of Neuroscience.