|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||S E P T E M B E R O C T O B E R 1999|
BATTLE'S LINES DRAWN
WHERE APPROPRIATIONS FAIL TO TREAD
text and photos
Constance Battle and Ted Colburn
"WE WANT NIH STAFF TO COME AND
EXPLORE WITH US WHAT THEIR VISION IS
FOR PROJECTS THAT ARE NOT
FUNDEDBECAUSE ALMOST ALL THE
ARRANGEMENTS IN WHCIH WE'VE BEEN
SUCCESSFUL OR ARE CURRENTLY
INVOLVED ARE QUITE IDIOSYNCRATIC.
PERHAPS IN THE FUTURE WE'LL DISCERN
PATTERNS, BUT WE HAVEN'T YET. SO WE
ARE READY TO BRAINSTORM . . . ."
"Were not just going to sit here in this little corner of the Cloister on the NIH campus," says Constance Battle, the new executive director of The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. She contemplates making the roundsbeginning in the fallto meet with all the NIH institute and scientific directors.
Battle wants everyone to know what the Foundation is all aboutthat its an entity created by Congress solely to further the mission of NIH through private-public partnerships.
This mandate could be met in many ways: aiding an individual scientist, an institute program, a trans-NIH initiative, a national consortium that includes an NIH component, or an international project in which NIH participates. In fact, the Foundation is involved in all of the above.
As Battle and Foundation Scientific Director Ted Colburn, former NIAAA deputy SD, explain it, Foundation support for NIH steps in where congressional appropriations leave off.
Certain activities or projects are not embraced in federal NIH funding: "For example, building a residence for fellows is not something for which NIH receives government appropriations, nor could NIH ask for such money," Battle said. The Foundation, however, has two housing projects on its agenda: a guest house for the families of adult patients on protocols at the Clinical Center and a campus residence to house students enrolled in the Foundation-supported and Pfizer-funded Clinical Research Training Program (CRTP).
Meeting other sorts of funding needs through congressional appropriations may be challenging, Battle added, citing bureaucratic delays related to procurement and travel and "timing problems" when congressional monies must be spent within the year for which the money was appropriated. Money that resides within the Foundation, on the other hand, may be used and distributed as needed.
Colburn noted that the Foundation can more smoothly handle cross-NIH training programs, such as the CRTP and the new Biomedical Engineering Summer Internship Program (BESIP), another Foundation-supported program begun this June in collaboration with the Whitaker Foundation (for a glimpse at the research of one of this summers BESIP students, see "Bounty of Summer Students"). In such programs, he said, students are selected on the basis of academic credentials and research interest and then select for themselves the institute in which they would like to work.
He pointed to the biomedical engineering internship as an "interesting example of a program initiated by a donor." The Whitaker Foundation suggested to the NIH Foundation that NIH establish a summer program for undergraduate biomedical engineering students who had completed their junior year. The Whitaker grant and interested NIH staff combined to provide housing and training for 10 weeks for the 12 top candidates in an eligible field of 2,000. Battle and Colburn fully anticipate that the program will continue.
The need for a training program for veterinary students, brought to the Foundations attention by an academic institution, suggested another potential project. Also in the contemplation stage is a role in the Multilateral Initative on Malaria, an international project to which NIH Director Harold Varmus has committed the NIH. Such involvement is "prospective" at the momentan idea that might materialize in the form of the Foundations serving as a fiscal agent for the initiative, a neutral repository for and disperser of funds from disparate organizations with a common mission. The Foundation plays a similar role in the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that is co-chaired by NHGRI Director Francis Collins.
Colburn emphasized that unlike many foundations, The Foundation for the NIH does not have a "pot of money" to distribute, but, rather, works to set up partnerships in which "particular donors can be targeted to particular projects."
"Our primary task," Battle said, "is to identify projects, programs, buildings, other needs at NIH that are not fundedand obtain funds for them. Our purpose, quite simply, is to help scientists with whatever it would take to enable them to further their work. They have to know about us so they can approach us," Battle said, "and we have to be flexible."
Battle succeeded the Foundations first head, Anne Alexander, in May. According to Colburn, her application for the position had sailed upon arrival to the top of a rather tall stackshe was the only seeker of the position who not only had major organizational and fundraising experience but was also a physician with an impressive clinical and academic background, a penchant for mentoring, and a prior connection with NIH.
A professor of pediatrics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Battle says she hopes to continue to spend several evenings a week teaching first- and second-year medical students the art of patient interview and physical examination.
The Foundation may be reached by e-mail or at 301-402-5311 and viewed at its web site.
The Foundation for the NIH participates in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) and, according to Battle, last year received "generous gifts" from NIH employees. The CFC number for those interested in supporting the Foundations mission is 7109.
The Foundation for the NIH will award the first annual Norman P. Salzman Memorial Award in Virology at the November 18 meeting of the Virology Interest Group, to be held at the Cloister. The winnera postdoc fellow or other intramural research trainee in the virology field at an NIH or SAIC labwill deliver a lecture based on the award-winning abstract. The winner will receive a plaque and an unrestricted $2,500 gift; the mentor will receive a plaque. A reception will follow.
The award honors the 40-year career of NIH virologist Norman Salzman and is funded by donations to the Foundation for this purpose.
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