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  • richardmitnick 4:29 pm on October 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Analysis of 15 institutions finds NIH favours elite institutions, , NIH, Value per dollar   

    From Nature Index: “Less prestigious institutions deliver better value for grant money” 

    From Nature Index

    18 October 2018
    Catherine Armitage

    Study finds “wasteful” skew in biomedical research funding towards those at the top.


    An analysis of United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant allocations finds that prestigious institutions deliver much lower output per dollar spent than less prestigious institutions, yet get a disproportionate share of funding.

    The study of NIH grants from 2006 to 2015 found that less prestigious institutions produced 65% more publications and had a 35% higher citation impact per dollar of funding than prestigious institutions.

    Even so, prestigious institutions had on average 65% higher grant application success rates and 50% larger award sizes from the NIH, according to the paper by biomedical researcher, Wayne Wahls, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. It is published on the preprint server bioRxiv.

    The institutions were divided into prestigious and less prestigious groups based on their positions in the 2016 US News & World Report Best Medical Schools: Research rankings. The prestigious institutions were Harvard Medical School, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Pennsylvania. The less prestigious institutions included the University of Nebraska Medical Center (ranked 63) and the University of South Dakota (88).

    Previous studies have shown troubling disparities in success rates for NIH applicants based on colour, age, gender and geography. Institutional prestige can now be added to that list, says Wahls.

    Even if the funding disparities weren’t driven by bias, “giving the lion’s share of grant dollars to a small minority of institutions seems counterproductive and wasteful,’’ he asserts in his paper.

    The NIH is the largest source of funding for biomedical research in the world, distributing nearly 80% of its US$37.3 billion budget for 2018 in competitive grants.

    Value per dollar

    Wahls analysed funding and success rates of a cross-section of 15 institutions receiving NIH funding of between US$3 million and US$400 million a year. The analysis took in 41,000 research project grant awards allocated to more than 6,000 principal investigators.

    Over the decade from 2006 to 2015, “each of the prestigious institutions outperformed, by every metric, each of the less prestigious institutions in securing NIH research project grant funding,” the study found.

    For example, as a group, investigators at the prestigious institutions were on average 1.7 times more likely to get each grant application funded than those at the less prestigious institutions. They were awarded on average 2.4 times more funding than those at less prestigious institutions — US$3.5 million versus US$1.5 million.

    The disparities might be justified if the more prestigious institutions added greater value to the scientific research enterprise, Wahls reasoned. But based on 95,000 publications associated with the research grants, he found that the less prestigious institutions each produced more scientific publications per dollar of grant funding than each of the prestigious institutions (8.7 versus 5.3 publications per million dollars of funding).

    Analysis of 15 institutions finds NIH favours elite institutions.

    Source: Wayne P. Wahls

    Wahls does not suggest grant reviewers and NIH officials at large are overtly biased, but rather that they are subject to subconscious bias, which favours “non-meritocratic factors such as the wealth, reputation and selectivity of institutions.”

    Diminishing marginal returns for large grants are well documented from other studies, attributed to the fact that individual investigators have finite capacity, and their productivity declines when the size of their grants exceeds their capacity to manage them.

    Wahls proposes that the NIH adjust success rates and award sizes to establish parity or near parity between institutions in a ratio of success rate to productivity within a target range. “A more egalitarian distribution of funding among institutions would yield greater collective gains for the research enterprise and the taxpayers who support it,” he asserts.

    Critically important

    A spokesperson for the NIH Office of Extramural Research said in an email that the Wahls study dealt with “a critically important issue” but had not yet undergone peer review.

    “We encourage the research community to provide feedback to the author so that the results and analysis can be as strong as possible before it is submitted for publication,” the NIH spokesperson wrote.

    Katz at Harvard took issue with the “return on investment” approach to evaluating science.

    “We pour dollars in and apparently all we care about is how many citations and publications come out. This is a toxic and silly goal. It ends up masking the many important structural problems within academic science, and giving the illusion that with more data, the ‘objective’ metrics can be crafted,” wrote Katz in an emailed response, without commenting on Wahls’s paper specifically.

    “The hard questions about what kind of academic scientific sphere we’d like to have — what kind of science, and what types of scientists, should be given opportunities — are mostly erased in this framing,” wrote Katz.

    Cap plan abandoned

    The NIH in 2017 moved to address inequity concerns by capping the number of grants provided to a single principal investigator, a reform that was calculated to affect only 3% of investigators while freeing up funding for potentially 900 more, but abandoned the plan after an outcry.

    Wahls has been an independent principal investigator since 1995. His research on chromosome dynamics in reproductive cell division (meiosis) is supported by a current NIH grant.

    See the full article here .


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    What is the Nature Index?

    The Nature Index is a database of author affiliation information collated from research articles published in an independently selected group of 68 high-quality science journals. The database is compiled by Nature Research. The Nature Index provides a close to real-time proxy for high-quality research output at the institutional, national and regional level.

    The Nature Index is updated monthly, and a 12-month rolling window (1 February 2016 – 31 January 2017) of data is openly available at http://www.natureindex.com under a Creative Commons non-commercial license.

  • richardmitnick 7:58 pm on June 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antibodies from Ebola survivor could lead to treatments and vaccines, , , , , NIH,   

    From NIH: “Antibodies from Ebola survivor could lead to treatments and vaccines” 

    National Institutes of Health

    June 6, 2017
    Harrison Wein, Ph.D.

    Colorized scanning electron micrograph of filamentous Ebola virus particles (green) attached to and budding from an infected cell (blue) (25,000x magnification).NIAID

    The 2013-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa highlighted the need for an effective treatment or vaccine. Researchers have been making progress on several fronts, but many scientific and logistical challenges loom.

    Viruses from three of the five known ebolavirus species (Zaire, Sudan, and Bundibugyo) have caused large outbreaks in humans, and the other two (Reston and Tai Forest) cause severe disease in primates. The related Marburg and Ravn viruses also cause similar hemorrhagic fevers and serious outcomes in people. An ideal approach would target many, if not all, of the viruses in this family, called filoviruses.

    Scientists have searched for insights from natural antibodies, molecules produced by the immune system that bind to a specific substance, such as an invading virus. Antibodies recognize small, often unique, portions of viruses. Researchers previously discovered an antibody from a mouse that recognizes a common region among multiple ebolavirus species. The antibody proved protective in mouse models of infection.

    A team of academic, industry, and government scientists set out to find similar broadly protective human antibodies. The group was led by Dr. John M. Dye at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Kartik Chandran at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Dr. Zachary A. Bornholdt at Mapp Biopharmaceutical, Inc. Their work was funded in part by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Results appeared in Cell on May 18, 2017.

    The researchers surveyed 349 antibodies derived from the blood of one survivor of the West African Ebola outbreak, which was caused by the Zaire strain of ebolavirus. They searched for antibodies that could neutralize all five ebolavirus species. Two that they found of interest were called ADI-15878 and ADI-15742. Both protected human cells in the laboratory from becoming infected with the three ebolaviruses that cause outbreaks in humans. Neither, however, protected against the more distantly related filoviruses Lloviu or Marburg.

    In animal models of ebolavirus infection, the antibodies protected mice from the Zaire and Sudan ebolaviruses and ferrets from Bundibugyo ebolavirus. However, in ferrets treated with ADI-15742, the researchers found that the virus had developed a mutation that enabled it to escape the antibody’s effects.

    Further study showed that the antibodies recognize a section of a protein found on the surface of ebolaviruses called the GP fusion loop, which is critical for infection. The antibodies don’t prevent the viruses from being engulfed by cells. Rather, they are taken up along with the virus particles and neutralize the viruses as they are being processed within the cell.

    “Since it’s impossible to predict which of these agents will cause the next epidemic, it would be ideal to develop a single therapy that could treat or prevent infection caused by any known ebolavirus,” Bornholdt says. While much work still needs to be done, the identification of this vulnerable shared region on the surface of ebolaviruses is an important step toward creating effective treatments or vaccines.

    See the full article here .

    You can Help Stamp Out EBOLA.

    This WCG project runs at Scripps Institute


    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Visit World Community Grid (WCG). Download and install the BOINC software on which it runs. Attach to the Outsmart Ebola Together project. This will allow WCG to use your computer’s free CPU cycles to process computational data for the project.

    While you are at WCG and BOINC, check out the other very worthwhile projects running on this software. All project results are “open source”, free for the use of scientists world while to advance health and other issues of mankind.


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    The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives.

  • richardmitnick 12:08 pm on May 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , NIH, Snapshots of Life: Fighting Urinary Tract Infections,   

    From NIH via Wash U: “Snapshots of Life: Fighting Urinary Tract Infections” 

    Wash U Bloc

    Washington University in St.Louis



    May 25, 2017
    Dr. Francis Collins

    Source: Valerie O’Brien, Matthew Joens, Scott J. Hultgren, James A.J. Fitzpatrick, Washington University, St. Louis

    For patients who’ve succeeded in knocking out a bad urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotic treatment, it’s frustrating to have that uncomfortable burning sensation flare back up. Researchers are hopeful that this striking work of science and art can help them better understand why severe UTIs leave people at greater risk of subsequent infection, as well as find ways to stop the vicious cycle.

    Here you see the bladder (blue) of a laboratory mouse that was re-infected 24 hours earlier with the bacterium Escherichia coli (pink), a common cause of UTIs. White blood cells (yellow) reach out with what appear to be stringy extracellular traps to immobilize and kill the bacteria.

    For patients who’ve succeeded in knocking out a bad urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotic treatment, it’s frustrating to have that uncomfortable burning sensation flare back up. Researchers are hopeful that this striking work of science and art can help them better understand why severe UTIs leave people at greater risk of subsequent infection, as well as find ways to stop the vicious cycle.

    Here you see the bladder (blue) of a laboratory mouse that was re-infected 24 hours earlier with the bacterium Escherichia coli (pink), a common cause of UTIs. White blood cells (yellow) reach out with what appear to be stringy extracellular traps to immobilize and kill the bacteria.

    Valerie O’Brien, a graduate student in Scott Hultgren’s lab at Washington University, St. Louis, snapped this battle of microbes and white blood cells using a scanning electron microscope and then colorized it to draw out the striking details. It was one of the winners in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s 2016 BioArt competition.

    As reported last year in Nature Microbiology, O’Brien and her colleagues have evidence that severe UTIs leave a lasting imprint on bladder tissue [1]. That includes structural changes to the bladder wall and modifications in the gene activity of the cells that line its surface. The researchers suspect that a recurrent infection “hotwires” the bladder to rev up production of the enzyme Cox2 and enter an inflammatory state that makes living conditions even more hospitable for bacteria to grow and flourish. This suggests that recurrent UTIs might be treated more effectively with drugs that control inflammation. In fact, the researchers already have preliminary evidence that Cox2 inhibitors used to treat arthritis pain and other conditions might do the job.

    The Hultgren lab is also exploring new ways to treat or prevent recurrent UTIs using chemical compounds and peptides designed to prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall and infecting cells. As more bacteria grow resistant to existing antibiotic drugs, this new line of investigation raises hope that it might one day be possible to knock out UTIs out for good, maybe even with no antibiotics required.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Wash U campus

    Washington University’s mission is to discover and disseminate knowledge, and protect the freedom of inquiry through research, teaching, and learning.

    Washington University creates an environment to encourage and support an ethos of wide-ranging exploration. Washington University’s faculty and staff strive to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of the greater St. Louis community, the country, and the world.

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