Directors Messages

The end of a decade – and the start of a new one – brings a certain state of reflection that can differ from the usual year-to-year perspective. As I look back on the last decade, and particularly in the last year, I am heartened and encouraged by the significant strides that NINDS has made and continues to make through funding awards, facilitating collaborations, launching new initiatives, and transitioning leadership roles.

I am incredibly pleased to announce the recent launch of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Knowledge Portal. NIH has joined forces with public, private, and non-profit partners to provide a platform that will lower barriers to identifying and validating biomarkers that could be used in PD diagnosis, prognosis, mapping disease progression, and finding new therapeutic targets.

There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the BRAIN Initiative, especially now that the NIH ACD BRAIN Initiative Working Group 2.0, and the BRAIN Neuroethics Subgroup (BNS) have delivered their final reports.

September is Pain Awareness Month, and amid a dual national crisis of inadequate pain management and opioid misuse and addiction, it is important to remember that those suffering from pain face a deeply personal crisis.

For this Director’s Message, I’m delighted to share this stage with NINDS Deputy Director Dr. Nina Schor, who is heading up the enormously important process of developing the next Strategic Plan for our Institute.

NIH is deeply committed to ensuring research integrity. There have been a number of high-profile stories in the media involving undisclosed foreign support and/or affiliations on applications for NIH funding, and, in some circumstances, diversion of proprietary information in NIH grant applications.

I often wonder why different investigators have gone on to reach different levels of scientific achievement. I do not have an easy answer. Some have extraordinary talent and creativity; some were in the right scientific place as a field was breaking new ground; some are so passionate about their science that they persist through any and all difficulties. However, I feel that guidance from mentors may be the most impactful common thread.

Recently, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins announced his intention to accept speaking invitations at meetings and conferences only if meeting organizers have taken diversity and inclusiveness seriously in selecting  speakers and developing the agenda.

May is Stroke Awareness Month—a good opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made in stroke prevention and treatment and also think about challenges and opportunities.

This week, along with many of my NINDS colleagues, I am joining members of the neurology community in Philadelphia for the 71st annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The meeting brings together an important and vital group of researchers and clinicians who are essential to the NINDS mission.

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