July 2022 Notes from the Director

As noted above, several of us attended the NIEHS Core Center Directors meeting hosted by Mt. Sinai Medical Center P30 Center in NY City. The meeting was very informative and we learned about the new directions for the NIEHS. Despite not receiving the extra $100 million to support climate change research in its budget, Dr. Woychik indicated that he intends to emphasize the topic. He pointed to the webpage on the NIH Climate Change and Health Initiative, three NOSI’s (NOT-ES-22-006, NOT-ES-22-009, NOT-ES-22-010) and an RFA (RFA-ES-22-003) related to climate change and encouraged people to apply.

The Climate Change and Health topic was explored in a session featuring short talks by Early Stage Investigators. Our own Dr. Natasha DeJarnett presented her work on assessing extreme temperatures and heart health highlighting the effects of heat islands. Dr. Carina Gronlund from University of Michigan (M-LEEaD) discussed the ramifications of flooding in Detroit noting that incidents were not simply related to proximity to rivers and low elevations. Dr. Rima Habre from University of Southern California (USEHSC) presented on health effects of wildfire smoke exposure highlighting the complexity of wildfire smoke plumes and the difficulty in modeling chemistry and dynamics. Dr. Jacob Simmering from University of Iowa (EHSRC) presented his study on increased incidence of kidney stones associated with warmer weather and the sex dependence of stone occurrence. Dr. Robbie Parks from Columbia University (CEHJNM) focused his presentation on the health impacts of tropical cyclones and that the impacts include long-term effects in addition to the acute effects.

Dr. Woychik also spent some time discussing the initiative in personalized environmental health. This concept is championed by Drs. Dana Dolinoy (U. Michigan Ann Arbor), Andrea Baccarelli (Columbia University) and Cheryl Walker (Baylor College of Medicine), all EHSCC Directors. The definition integrates Genes x Epigenetics x Data x Exposome. The goal is to understand how genetic susceptibility modified by epigenetics interacts with environmental exposures throughout the lifespan and to use ‘big data’ approaches. It is no coincidence that the CIEHS goals share much with this concept. Now if the study sections would only get on board! :)

Looking toward the future NIEHS emphasis on these topics, we are looking to promoting research with the current voucher solicitation and a second RFA for pilot awards later this year. Bear in mind that pilot award applications must convince reviewers of their potential to generate data to support and NIEHS R01 application. Thus, preliminary data are needed. If you have a good idea but no preliminary data, a medium research voucher application would be appropriate