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NHGRI's Extramural Research Portfolio - Slicing the Funding Pie 

March 5th, 2014

The most important task for an Institute's Extramural Research Program (ERP) is to develop and support a high-quality research portfolio. To this end, NHGRI has undertaken multiple strategic planning efforts, starting with the Human Genome Project and most recently culminating in the publication of "Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside" in 2011. While determining the broad goals for genomics is key for our research agenda, more challenging is making hard decisions about the relative priorities for the various programs that we could fund. Add to that the current challenging budget situation, and we quickly find ourselves facing many difficult choices.

NHGRI's 2011 strategic plan for genomics was published in the issue of Nature shown on the left, with the central organizing figure from that paper shown on the right. Note the five major domains of genomics research activities along the top of that figure. View in PDF
View the Strategic Plan (PDF)

The strategic plan for genomics that NHGRI published in 2011 described an overall broadening of genomics research opportunities, especially those aiming to foster the implementation of genomic medicine. In addition to the historically rich basic genomics research in genome sequencing, genomic variation, and functional genomics, the plan described compelling research into the genomic basis for disease and the implementation of genomics in medical science and healthcare.
The figure above illustrates the alignment of major accomplishments in genomics within each of five major research domains relative to past and future time intervals. In the December 2013 The Genomics Landscape, I described some recent forays into genomic medicine research (aligning under the two right-most domains), including the Implementing GeNomics Into Clinical PracTicE (IGNITE) Network, the Newborn Sequencing In Genomic medicine and public HealTh (NSIGHT) Program, and the Clinical Genome (ClinGen) Resource. These programs are but one way that the NHGRI ERP is diversifying in scope and complexity, while at the same time continuing to support substantial amounts of basic genomics research.
To track the increasing complexity of the ERP research portfolio, we are developing new approaches for coding each of our grants and programs (past, present, and future) relative to the components described in the 2011 strategic plan. The figure below summarizes that portfolio analysis for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 (projected). Shown in bar graphs and corresponding pie charts is the distribution of funding across the eight major components of our strategic plan: (a) five research domains: Structure of Genomes, Biology of Genomes, Biology of Disease, Science of Medicine, and Effectiveness of Healthcare; and (b) three cross-cutting areas: Computational Biology, Education and Training, and Genomics and Society.

* The 2014 data reflect current estimates.

From this information, one can see that the bulk of NHGRI's extramural funds support grants within the Biology of Genomes domain (e.g., the ENCODE project and Functional Analysis Program), Biology of Disease domain (e.g., The Cancer Genome Atlas, Centers for Mendelian Genomics, and the PhenX Toolkit), and Computational Biology area (e.g., model organism databases and iSeq Tools program). A slight trend of decreasing and increasing funds supporting projects in the Structure of Genomes and Effectiveness of Healthcare domains, respectively, is evident, but there are not seismic shifts in the funding across the major domains.
The results of this new portfolio-coding effort will be regularly reviewed by staff and NHGRI advisory groups, aiming to ensure that informed decisions are made with respect to research priorities. We also endeavor to be transparent about such summaries, and plan to provide updated data from time to time in The Genomics Landscape, among other places.
To read the 2011 NHGRI strategic plan, see

To see more about funded programs and projects coded by strategic plan areas, see

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Posted: April 3, 2014