Over the last four decades, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has had an extremely significant and positive impact on the conduct of biomedical research. Central to the Institute’s strategies has been the HHMI Investigator Program, which now supports more than 300 scientists and their teams in more than 70 institutions. HHMI has learned to identify gifted and productive scientists, and then provides them with the resources needed to succeed in their areas of investigation. Dr. Story Landis recently joined the Scientific Review Board, and participates in the review of Investigators and their teams. This responsibility requires the capacity to assess individuals and programs, and insight into genuinely important scientific advance.
Academic institutions vary widely in size, organizational structure, and aspirations. The Oregon Health Sciences University is a rich mix of clinical care, clinical research, and basic neuroscience research. Dr. Story Landis visited January 12, 2015, to participate in an external review and to make recommendations for strategies and planning. Such a review requires the capacity to gauge strengths and weaknesses in individuals, and to understand interactions within a complex organization that will foster continued growth.
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.
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.
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.
Story Landis has joined the Scientific Advisory Board of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. This extraordinary endeavor carries out discovery science, and assembles information essential to a host of other investigators. All the data and tools of this remarkable effort are freely available, and the design of the investigations fosters multidisciplinary, team science.
Story Landis was the featured speaker at the Women of the ANA luncheon during the annual meeting of the American Neurological Association. She addressed the persistent, disproportionate paucity of women in senior academic positions, and how to improve the situation. In a novel and thought-provoking address, she discussed her academic positions, beginning with her service as Director of NINDS, and the preparation and accomplishments that led to each promotion.
New York Stem Cell Science works collaboratively with the Empire State Stem Cell Science Board to implement support of stem cell science in New York. Their goal is “to make grants to basic, applied, translational or other research and development activities that will advance scientific discoveries in fields related to stem cell biology.” This innovative and energetic program has made major contributions toward stem cell biology discovery, implementation of new knowledge, and training of new investigators. Story Landis is now participating in the Scientific Review function, to assure continued growth and success of the program.
On September 29, 2014, friends and colleagues of Dr. Story Landis joined in a celebration of her work and accomplishments in 19 years at the NIH. They filled the vaulting atrium of the Porter Research Building, a remarkable research facility that Story had labored to build. Colleagues expressed their genuine admiration and friendship in cheerful presentations from the podium or in video segments. Two Directors of the NIH praised her work, and all expect continued contributions from her.
Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, on July 31, 2014, announced Story’s impending retirement:
…I also recognize that we are losing one of the true giants at the NIH. Not only has Story led NINDS as its Director ably since 2003…she has had a profound impact on neuroscience across the agency and the broader research community…Story was also a founding co-chair of the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, a highly successful effort to support trans-NIH activities in the brain sciences. In 2007, she was named Chair of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force…In 2013 she was integral to the launch of the BRAIN initiative. Very few can match her towering intellect, boundless energy, commitment to biomedical research, and scientific expertise.