Category Archives: Policy and Neuroscience

The Next Generation

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have just published a Consensus Study Report, titled: The Next Generation of Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences Researches:  Breaking Through.  Dr. Story Landis was a member of the Committee writing the report.  Her leadership in mentoring and in science policy was essential to the report, and she has made another major contribution to the continued success of neuroscience research.

Continued progress at an important time

As Vice-Chair of the Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Story Landis presided at a recent meeting of the Forum.  The agenda included a review of priorities and plans for future directions of the National Institute of Mental Health, presented by Dr. Joshua Gordon.  Dr. Joshua Sanes led a thought-provoking discussion of the legal implication of new neurotechnologies.  After a presentation by Dr. Carlos Pena on evolving ideas at the FDA, there was a informative discussion of the ideas and attitudes toward new technology at the MRC, led by Dr. David Pardoe.

This review and update session of the Forum was followed by a workshop dealing with Biomarkers of Neuroinflammation.  This posed a great opportunity for scientific interaction, including clinical application, and informed regulatory decision making as well.


Leadership Award

On October 15, 2015, Dr. Story Landis received the Leadership Award from the Hydrocephalus Association at their Annual Vision Dinner.  The award recognized “her work building bridges between patients, advocacy groups, scientists and doctors, during her role as Director of NINDS.”  As part of her commitment to improve cooperation between health advocacy groups and the extramural programs of NINDS, Dr. Landis had met with representatives of the Hydrocephalus Association in 2004.  That led to workshops focused on the disorder, and more extramural funding.  The Hydrocephalus Association became an active partner in the NINDS Non-profit Forum, building and enhancing the continuing cooperation.

Communication and Coordination

Dr. Story Landis is co-Director of the Neuroscience Forum in the Institute of Medicine.  This Forum is supported by 29 groups, including the NIH Blueprint.  The NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience includes 15 Centers and Institutes, and is a mechanism for coordination among those entities to foster a wide spectrum of research efforts..  On June 24, 2015, Dr. Landis visited the NIH, to review with the Blueprint group some of the ideas and planning that have been considered in the Neuroscience Forum.  She emphasized the recent workshop on April 21, 2015, dealing with Developing a 21st Century Neuroscience Workforce. The Blueprint has been in place since 2004, and is well-positioned to consider and take advantage of these insights and recommendations.  This is the first time that the Neuroscience Forum has undertaken to keep the NIH closely informed, and to learn of progress and ideas there as well.

Brains behind BRAIN

The BRAIN (Brain research through  advancing innovative technologies) initiative is a multifaceted, ambitious program launched by President Obama in April, 2013.  At least five federal entities are involved, coordinated and spearheaded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Within the NIH, ten Institutes are actively involved.  This is an enormous array of talent and resources, but it also presents a challenge for achieving optimal coordination and interaction.  The NIH created a “council of councils” –the BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group–to inform and involve the ten participating institutes.  Each institute has asked a member of its own Advisory Council to join this “council of councils”, and in addition there are five at-large members.  Dr. Story Landis serves as one of these at-large members.  Her experience as Director of NINDS, especially her roles in the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, has made her an invaluable member of the Working Group.

Strategies for Rapid Development of Therapeutics

CHDI Foundation is a biomedical research foundation devoted to a single disease:  Huntington’s disease.  Its central aim to to rapidly develop therapeutic agents that will treat or modify the progression of Huntington’s disease.   It provides research support for scientists in academic institutions, supports a group of scientists within the organization, interacts with biotechnical and pharmaceutical companies to develop reagents, and provides a variety of research resources (reagents, transgenic mice, etc.) to investigators entering the field of HD research.  Dr. Story Landis addressed the 10th annual HD Therapeutics Conference in Palm Springs, CA, on February 25.  She described the efforts at the NIH to achieve the similar goals, bringing the perspective of experience with work on a variety of disorders affecting the nervous system.  She emphasized the value of coordination and partnership as the NIH and health advocacy organizations work together toward shared goals.

Institutional Planning for Neuroscience Research

The University of Iowa is planning the organization of its neuroscience research efforts in methodical, thoughtful fashion.  Dr. Story Landis joined four colleagues in January, 2015, to work with leadership at the University of Iowa, and to identify strategies that would take advantage of their strengths, and foster the development of new programs.  Discussions benefited from the perspectives of junior and senior faculty, and senior administration.  Dr. Landis could contribute to these analyses from her personal experience in founding the Department of Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University, and her broader view of neuroscience research across the nation as seen from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.  There is no simple template.  Review and planning are influenced by people, resources, institutional culture, and aspirations.  The University of Iowa now has a better sense for how its programs are viewed from the outside, how efforts elsewhere may inform their planning, and ways in which they may engage with neuroscience research across the nation.

Enhancing Reproducibility of Neuroscience Studies

Clinical research is vital, but is also expensive and often slow.  It is essential that its basic science underpinning be accurate and reliable.  Dr. Landis organized and introduced a symposium at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience November 16, 2014, that addressed the importance of reproducibility, and explored the tools and techniques that can support that goal.  A panel of gifted investigators explored a range of topics, ranging from training to scientific review and publication.

Institute of Medicine workshop on training future neuroscientists

The Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders of the Institute of Medicine conducted a 2-day workshop that addressed “Defining the Expertise Needed for the 21st Century Neuroscience Workforce”.  In the Opening Remarks of the workshop, Story Landis spoke on “Challenges for the Next Generation of Scientists.”  In her roles at the NIH, Dr. Landis had devised and implemented a variety of tools to accelerate the training and scientific maturation of basic and clinical neuroscience investigators.  Preparation for translational studies, for the new tools of “big data” analysis, and for multi-disciplinary investigations will have to embrace new and varied patterns of education and early study.