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The NIH intramural program has been the destination of foreign scientists for five decades, primarily through the NIH Visiting Program. In the 1950s, fewer than 100 foreign postdoctoral fellows and more senior researchers were attached to intramural laboratories. Today, they number more than 2,000, or one-fifth of the intramural community.

The program is one of several international programs administered by the Fogarty International Center (FIC) in collaboration with foreign governments and international organizations, some of which offer reciprocal opportunities for NIH intramural scientists.

Japan: Give and Take

In a program aimed at promoting Japanese-American scientific exchange, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) supports Japanese fellows at NIH and visits (from one week to two years) by U.S. researchers to Japanese laboratories.

NCI's Susanna Rybak, who has pioneered novel therapeutics involving members of the pancreatic RNase A superfamily, was one of last year's recipients. Notice of the fellowship inspired her to contact Masakazu Ueda at the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo, whose related work she'd followed in the literature.

NIEHS' Sharon Bryant credited her two-month stay in Japan with yielding a "groundbreaking role in my research, expand[ing] my perspectives and [teaching] me a lot about my own culture." Her project in the lab of Yoshio Okada's group at Kobe-Gakuin University involved the structural analysis of newly synthesized ligands for the d-opioid receptor using two-dimensional 'H-NMR spectroscopy. Bryant had met Okada at a peptide symposium, and their labs had collaborated in the study of peptides synthesized by Okada's group before the research visit.

Pan American Fellowship

NIH also takes part in two Pan American Fellowship programs, one with Mexico and one with Chile. Under a 1996 agreement signed by NIH and the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico, 14 Mexican postdoctoral scientists have received fellowships to work in NIH intramural and extramural laboratories. In 1997-98, five fellows were placed in intramural labs for research experience in neuropharmacology, cytogenetics, immunotoxicology, cellular biology, and biochemistry. A new agreement between NIH and the government of Chile will bring as many as five Chilean investigators to intramural laboratories.

U.S-Russian Collaboration

NIH researchers also have benefited from a program developed by the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF), a private nonprofit organization authorized by Congress and established by the National Science Foundation in 1995 to facilitate scientific and technological cooperation between the United States and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Financier-philanthropist George Soros provided initial funds of $5 million as an unrestricted gift to the U.S. government. These were matched by another $5 million from the Department of Defense (DoD). In 1996, NIH contributed $1 million for an NIH/CRDF Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences competitive grants program. With additional funds from NSF, DoD, and the Ukraine government, 41 grants were announced in September 1997. CRDF has awarded an additional five grants, supported by funds provided directly from IC budgets. Recently, with DoD funding, CRDF awarded three more grants.

NICHD's Andreas Chrambach, in collaboration with Valery Chestkov of the Medical Genetics Center in Moscow, received a two-year CRDF grant to detect and isolate preapoptotic and early apoptotic cells (lymphocytes) by free-flow electrophoresis. In a mutually beneficial arrangement, the study is being conducted in the Moscow lab, where there is the manpower that Chrambach's group lacks-with NIH's electrophoretic instrumentation, which the Moscow group lacks.

-Irene Edwards, FIC

The deadline for the next round of JSPS fellowships is July 10. Contact Kathleen Michels in FIC's Division of International Training and Research (phone: 496-1653; fax: 402-0779; e-mail: <JSPS@nih.gov>). Applications for the NIH-Chile Pan American Fellowship are due on June 15. Contact Jahna Stanton, FIC Division of International Relations (phone: 496-4784; fax: 480-3414; e-mail: <js264e@nih.gov>).

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