HHS’S PROGRAM SUPPORT CENTER (PSC) HAS CLOSED ITS SILVER SPRING HHS’s data center in support of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which is designed to eliminate waste by consolidating federal data centers the administration no longer feels are needed. In operation since 1997, the Silver Spring data center housed more than 2 terabytes of information in four IT production systems and several test and development environments. This 2,900-square-foot data center enabled PSC to operate and manage HHS applications systems, such as time and attendance, payroll, human resources, financial management, procurement, invoicing and billing. HHS plans to close at least 38 of its 181 data centers by 2015 and to make significant reductions in server and rack assets. Sixteen of the 38 targeted data centers already have been consolidated or decommissioned.
NINE STATES WILL RECEIVE GRANT AWARDS FROM THE $500 MILLION RACE TO THE TOP Early Learning Challenge fund. The competitive grant program is administered by HHS and the Department of Health. The nine states are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will support the work of the state grantees to develop new approaches to improve quality at early-learning centers and to close the school-readiness gap. Awards will invest in grantees’ work to build statewide systems of high-quality early learning and development programs. These investments are intended to affect all early-learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-K, childcare and private preschools. Key reforms will include aligning and raising standards for existing early-learning and development programs, improving training and support for the early-learning work force through evidence-based practices, as well as building robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help parents make informed decisions. Through the competition, 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have created plans to increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families, providing more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond. The number and list of winners was determined both by the quality of the applications and the funds available.
THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF GENERAL MEDICAL SCIENCE (NIGMS) HAS ESTABLISHED two new divisions. Each will administer existing NIGMS programs and programs transferred to NIGMS from the former NIH National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). The new Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity merges NIGMS’ research-training programs with activities previously in the institute’s Division of Minority Opportunities in Research (MORE). The division, which also houses the Institutional Development Award program from NCRR, is led by former MORE Director Clifton A. Poodry, Ph.D. The new Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology administers research and research training in areas that join biology with the computer sciences, engineering, mathematics and physics. It includes programs of the former NIGMS Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) along with NCRR biomedical technology programs. Former CBCB Director Karin Remington, PhD, is the division director.
JOHN BUSE, MD, PHD, HAS BEEN NAMED THE NEW CHAIR OF THE NATIONAL DIABETES EDUCATION PROGRAM (NDEP). Buse, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, began administering the joint program of the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Jan. 1. Since 1997, the NDEP has engaged public and private partnerships to improve diabetes management and outcomes, to promote early diagnosis and to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in the United States and its territories. Buse will guide the NDEP in its efforts to reduce the burden of diabetes. NDEP facilitates the adoption of proven approaches to improve the health of people with diabetes and to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. Buse is charged with strengthening the program’s outreach and engagement with partners and leading activities to support NDEP’s mission to empower patients, healthcare providers and communities to improve diabetes-related healthcare and prevention efforts. Buse succeeds Martha Funnell, MS, RN, as chair of the NDEP. Funnell is a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, and co-director of the Behavioral, Clinical and Health Systems Intervention Research Core at the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center.
AN NIH-SPONSORED HIV PREVENTION TRIAL HAS BEEN NAMED Breakthrough of the Year by the journal Science. The international study, sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), found that if HIV-infected heterosexual individuals begin taking antiretroviral medicines when their immune systems are relatively healthy, rather than delaying therapy until the disease has advanced, they are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their uninfected partners. Findings from the trial, first announced in May, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August. The complete Top 10 list of 2011 scientific breakthroughs appears in the Dec. 23, 2011, issue of Science. Led by study chair Myron Cohen, MD, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, HPTN 052 began in 2005 and enrolled 1,763 heterosexual couples in Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and Zimbabwe. Each couple included one partner with HIV infection. The investigators randomly assigned each couple to one of two study groups. In the first group, the HIV-infected partner immediately began taking a combination of three antiretroviral drugs. The participants infected with HIV were extensively counseled on the need to consistently take the medications as directed. Outstanding compliance resulted in the nearly complete suppression of HIV in the blood (viral load) of the treated study participants in Group One. In Group Two, partners began antiretroviral therapy when their T-cell levels fell below a certain threshold or an AIDS-related event occurred. The study was slated to end in 2015, but an interim data review in May by an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) found that, of the total 28 cases of HIV infection among the previously uninfected partners, only one case occurred among those couples in which the HIV-infected partner began immediate antiretroviral therapy. The DSMB, therefore, called for immediate public release of the study’s findings.
GLENN COSTIE HAS BEEN APPOINTED THE NEW DIRECTOR OF THE DAYTON VA MEDICAL CENTER (VAMC). Costie has been director of the John J. Pershing VAMC in Poplar Bluff, MT, for the past two years, and has served in leadership positions in Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, West Haven, CT, and Martinsburg, WV. He replaces Acting Director William Montague, who has been in the post since March 2011. Montague replaced Guy Richardson, who left after the discovery of serious infection-control lapses by a dentist working at the VAMC. The 500-bed Dayton VAMC has 1,900 employees and serves 16 counties in Ohio and the Richmond, Indiana area.