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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

March 2016

Council members support new NIEHS initiatives

At the February meeting, the advisory council heard updates on programs gave a thumbs-up to three newly proposed initiatives.

The NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council meeting Feb. 23-24 brought council members up to date on developments in some of the institute’s newest, and oldest, programs. The council also gave a thumbs-up to three new initiatives.

New business

The council unanimously approved development of three new concepts.

  • Exposures during preconception and health across the lifespan — designed to examine the effects of environmental exposures on male and female germ cells.
  • Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) phase two — an NIH Common Fund program designed to enhance capacity for genomics research in Africa by African scientists.
  • Collaborative research in environmental mixtures — a proposed research consortium to develop statistical and bioinformatic tools to study exposures to mixtures of chemicals.

The latest news

  • Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) and Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) — David Balshaw, Ph.D., and Claudia Thompson, Ph.D., briefed the council on the new programs. CHEAR provides the grantee community with access to laboratory and data analyses, to add or expand the inclusion of environmental exposures in their children’s health research. The first CHEAR grants were awarded in September 2015. ECHO will investigate the influence of environmental exposures before and after birth on pediatric development and health outcomes. The first ECHO grants are scheduled to be awarded in September 2016.
  • Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) — Caroline Dilworth, Ph.D., BCERP lead, gave an update on the joint NIEHS-National Cancer Institute program that consists of six transdisciplinary research projects that focus susceptible periods of life.
  • NIH-EPA Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research — Symma Finn, Ph.D., provided an update on the Centers of Excellence, which are five centers that study environmental health disparities, supported by NIEHS and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.
  • NIEHS and EPA Children’s Centers for Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research — The Children’s Centers lead, Kim Gray, Ph.D., summarized recent outreach activities in this long-standing program, which currently has three renewed centers and two new ones.
  • Tox21 — According to Richard Paules, Ph.D., program lead, Tox21 is entering its third phase, which will focus on improving the biological coverage and human relevance of scientific results by incorporating new tools and methods (see sidebar).

(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)

Edward Postlethwait, PH.D and Lisa Conti D.V.M. Council members Edward Postlethwait, Ph.D., left, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Lisa Conti, D.V.M., from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, joined in applauding two retiring NIEHS employees. Both Postlethwait and Conti were participating in their last meeting, as retiring council members. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Bill Suk, Ph.D. speaking “[SRP] has training, it has community engagement, and it has research translation,” said Bill Suk, Ph.D., director of the Superfund Research Program (SRP). “This allows us to do multiproject, multidisciplinary research, and we require people to have biomedical research as well as engineering and environmental sciences research before they even qualify.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Andrew Feinberg, Ph.D.  Suggestions from council member Andrew Feinberg, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, helped refine the proposed program on preconception exposures. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Marie Lynn Miranda Ph.D. Council member Marie Lynn Miranda, Ph.D., from Rice University, commented on the H3Africa proposal. Looking on was concept presenter Kimberly McAllister, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Kevin Elliott, Ph.D. and Habibul Ahsan, M.D. listening to comments during the meeting Council members Kevin Elliott, Ph.D., left, from Michigan State University, and Habibul Ahsan, M.D., from the University of Chicago, listened closely to comments from colleagues during the meeting. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Balshaw listening to comments Balshaw described the extraordinary effort to get the CHEAR program up and running in record time. “What’s normally a three or four-year process, we did in nine months,” he said.   (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Climate Change and Environmental Exposures Challenge winners

Council members heard the first public announcement of the winners of the challenge, which is the first of its kind. Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., from the NIEHS climate change challenge team, revealed the awards made for tools that serve needs in two categories — local and national.

First place, national — PIE Viz, Populations, Infrastructures, and Exposures Visualization Tool, submitted by Julia Gohlke, Ph.D.; Samarth Swarup, Ph.D.; and Dawen Xie from Virginia Tech. No second place was awarded in this category.

First place, local — Effects of Climate Change on the Future of Local Communities, submitted by Yi Wang, Ph.D., of the ichard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Second place, local (tie) — The San Francisco Climate and Health Profile, submitted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health Climate and Health Program.

Second place, local (tie) — Up With the Waters, submitted by Amanda Koltz from Washington University in St. Louis, and Steve Koltz, NYC web development fellow from the Flatiron School in Brooklyn, New York.

Read more about the winners and the new tools in the April Environmental Factor.

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