This report addresses the role of NCRR in supporting models for biomedical research and their infrastructure. Accordingly, it is limited in scope and is intended to answer the following specific questions:

  • What is NCRR's role in model development, support, and infrastructure?

  • What can NCRR do that is unique and not likely to be undertaken by other elements of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)?

  • How should NCRR establish funding priorities?

  • What criteria can NCRR use to set funding priorities?

The report suggests criteria and actions needed to identify useful new animal and computer models for biomedical and behavioral research; tools, technologies, and other resources needed to develop and support the models; and barriers to their development and support. It discusses the role of NCRR in the development of the models and recommends how NCRR should set priorities for support of animal-based research and technologies that will broadly influence the future of biomedical science.

The study reported here covered mammals, nonmammalian terrestrial and aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates, and computer modelling systems. The authors of the report also studied model preservation and looked for evidence that useful animal models or strains were lost because of a lack of support.

The data and perspectives provided in this report represent the consensus of the committee and were derived from a survey of a cross section of the scientific community, discussions with scientists in both academe and industry (those who receive NCRR support and those who do not), a workshop, and the committee members' own expertise. A survey was targeted at several segments of the scientific community involved in developing and using animal and nonanimal models for biomedical research. It was sent to all the NIH institute directors with a request that it be forwarded to relevant extramural program officers in their institutes, and that names of extramural scientists who use biologic models be provided to the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research (formerly the Institute of Laboratory Animal Resources), ILAR. It was also sent to the directors of animal facilities and to chairs of animal care and use committees chairs at major research institutions nationwide with a request that they ask investigators in their institutions who use biologic models to complete it and return it to ILAR. The survey was placed on the National Academy of Sciences Web site for nearly two months and was put on the Comparative Medicine and the Mouse Genome Informatics Listserves. It was not intended that the survey yield a statistically valid sample of the scientific community. Rather, it was targeted to major public and private institutions that receive NIH support, and the ones that responded were generally self-selected or appointed within their institutions. The data derived from the 69 surveys returned to ILAR were informative and helpful and served as part of the committee's data-gathering efforts for this report. The survey instrument is in Appendix A. The committee also reviewed the model-related results of a survey conducted by NCRR in the Federal Register, a summary of which was provided at NCRR's September 1997 scientific planning forum.

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