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


Anticipating the millennial divide, fellows in the NCI Division of Clinical Sciences hosted their first symposium, in July, on "Research in the 21st Century: Challenges for the Next Generation of Biomedical Investigators."

Some of the research challenges of the next millennium, as remarked upon by NCI speakers Philippe Bishop, Ed Liu, and Susan Lord, sounded familiar: weathering the effects of public policies and politics on the conduct of research; and vectoring ideas between the clinic and the lab, a two-way street for both basic and clinical scientists, to conquer diseases.

Research fellows lucky enough to enter the millennium at NIH, however, will have access to "big science," like vaccine development, gene therapy, genome mapping, transgenic modeling, and bioinformatics, Liu pointed out.

And NCI’s Michael Gottesman presented a David Letterman-like "top 10 list of biomedical research challenges ‘til the year 2009 (see below)" His list, he said, was not meant to be complete—omitting such broad areas as infectious diseases and vaccine development, for instance—but rather to "appeal to DCS fellows" and also to reflect his "own personal research agenda."

Cynthia Delgado, NC


Top Ten Research Challenges

–10. Accurately predict a protein’s tertiary structure from its amino acid sequence.

–9. Use the knowledge of a protein’s structure to predict its interactions with other proteins.

–8. Describe how transcription factors and post-transcriptional regulation affect gene expression for each human gene.

–7. Provide the complete directory of genes with altered expression or function in each of the common cancers.

–6. Write a complete time course for all gene products expressed at each stage of mammalian development.

–5. Develop highly effective and specific anti-cancer drugs based on the knowledge of altered gene products in cancer.

–4. Stimulate stem cells to differentiate into specific tissues for use in tissue remodeling and organ transplantation; develop biomimetics for the same purpose.

–3. Introduce genes specifically into cells to correct genetic defects.

–2. Apply information about cell and molecular biology to treat degenerative diseases of the central nervous system and the major psychoses.

And: the top biomedical challenge for 2009 [add a drum roll and a little levity, please]:

–1. Devise a molecular/integrative description of the brain functions involved in thinking about the Top Ten Biomedical Challenges for 2009.

Michael Gottesman






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