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ORIP Director’s Blog

The Director's Blog is written by the ORIP Director, Dr. Franziska Grieder. The blog highlights ORIP priorities, important research, and upcoming events. Learn more below.

Winter 2024

ORIP Supported Critical Research Infrastructure and Technology During the COVID Pandemic

Four years ago, I and many of my NIH colleagues came to work to close down our offices and take whatever we needed to continue our work while remaining safely at home. To mark the passing of this day on March 15, 2020, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the role ORIP played in providing infrastructure and supporting COVID research then and now.

Throughout the crisis, ORIP staff evaluated and developed new management plans, preserved and maintained animal resources, continued research center operations to support biomedical communities, and built new resources for COVID research.

ORIP’s S10 grant provided shared instruments for NIH-funded investigators that are research-agnostic and were immediately put to use for COVID vaccine research. In 2020 alone, 77 S10-supported papers were published on COVID or SARS-CoV-2, 537 publications total to date have been published on this topic using S10 support. Of note are two papers that were published in 2020. A pixel array detector for macromolecular crystallography was awarded through an S10 grant in 2016 to a researcher at Cornell and was made available through the Advanced Photon Source. The instrument was the used by a group in Minnesota for their SARS-CoV-2 research that elucidated the structural basis of receptor recognition by the virus, which was published in Nature and has been cited 2,386 times to date. The other noteworthy S10 supported publication is a Science paper by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco focusing on neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 with synthetic nanobody. Both these studies contributed to our understanding of the structure and mechanism of the virus.

As the S10 program provides a way for core investigators to obtain access to emerging technologies, ORIP continues supporting the development of such technologies through its small business program. One of these small businesses, Combinati (now Thermo Fisher Scientific), created a highly innovative and easy-to-use digital PCR platforms. It offers absolute quantification of DNA, cDNA, or RNA. Digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) is a biotechnological refinement of conventional PCR methods that can be used to directly quantify and clonally amplify nucleic acids strands.

In the post-COVID world, we continue to see the benefits of infrastructure that can adjust to new research needs, such as long COVID (LC). LC covers a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems following an acute COVID infection. It is not one illness, no test is available to diagnose it, the symptoms are hard to explain and manage, it affects different individuals in different ways, and clinical evaluations may even reflect a false negative. LC research is supported through several ORIP programs, such as administrative supplements to NPRCs for animal models to learn more about LC but is also researched using S10-provided instruments that have been funded long before the onset of the pandemic. As such, a recent publication in Nature Immunology used ORIP-funded Flow Cytometers, to analyze the characteristics of cells, examining T cell dysregulation in LC patients. In comparison to those who have recovered, the study revealed potential issues with communication between the cellular and humoral arms of the immune system. This breakdown in communication may result in immune dysregulation, inflammation, and the clinical symptoms associated with LC.

Although, the initial months of the pandemic are now behind us, the pandemic clearly illustrated to us the extraordinary benefit of having critical infrastructure and technology already in place to readily support the urgent, emerging, and sustaining research needs, such as vaccine discovery.

Franziska B. Grieder, DVM, Ph.D.
Director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs

Fall 2023

ORIP Research Results in Successful Pediatric Valve Transplant


ORIP-funded research resources serve as powerhouses to energize many areas of research. A recent advancement in the treatment of critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs) is one such area that has been benefited from ORIP-funded resources. CCHDs are particularly difficult to treat, with heart transplants being a last-resort cure. Besides the scarcity of donor organs, a major challenge for pediatric heart transplants is that the patient’s heart grows and soon outpaces the transplanted tissue, forcing patients to go through repeated life-threatening operations as they grow.

In 2022, a successful partial heart transplant of growing valves was performed on Owen Monroe, a 17-day-old low-birthweight boy with a rare fatal congenital heart condition, at the Duke University Pediatric Cardiac Surgery. This was hailed as a miraculous medical achievement. Six months after the world’s first partial heart transplant, Owen is healthy and showing no signs of needing a reoperation any time soon: his transplanted valve is growing with him. This success shows a great potential for partial heart transplant as a revolutionary treatment of critical congenital heart defects.

This accomplishment also highlights fundamental research conducted by the National Swine Resource and Research Center (NSRRC), one of the ORIP-funded resource centers. Using NSRRC’s newly developed green fluorescent transgenic swine models, researchers studied the destiny of transplanted cells by visualizing and tracking integration and/or differentiation of the transgenic cells after transplantation. With transgenic swine model and green fluorescent protein markers, they conducted phenotyping studies in pig-to-pig allotransplant models and pig-to-nonhuman-primate xenotransplant models, showing soundness of the partial heart transplantation technology (Bishara et al., Journal of Cardiovascular Development and Disease, 2023 June 10). Their studies prove that transplanted valves can indeed grow alongside their hosts, paving the way for clinical translation of partial heart transplant technology.

Franziska B. Grieder, DVM, Ph.D.
Director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs

Spring 2022

NPRC Scientific Seminar Series Marks 60 Years of NIH Support

Graphic of the National Primate Research Centers celebrating its 60th anniversary.

One of ORIP’s flagship programs, the National Primate Research Centers (NPRCs), celebrate six decades of biomedical research advancements with a 60th Anniversary Seminar Series in spring 2022. First established by Congress in the 1960s as the Regional Primate Research Centers Program, the Centers expanded their reach to support the research community across the United States. As a result, they were renamed as National Primate Research Centers in 2001 to reflect their national and international impact on biomedical research and innovation. The NPRCs support many research disciplines by providing cutting-edge facilities, well-characterized nonhuman primate (NHP) models for research, and expertise in all aspects of NHP biology, husbandry, and research to scientists conducting basic and translational research.

To recognize 60 years of NIH support, the NPRC Consortium of seven Centers is sponsoring a virtual seminar series featuring both senior and early-stage investigators, who will share the latest research and scientific advancements made with NHPs. Physician-scientists will also participate in the series to provide the clinical perspective that helps inform future research directions. 

The seven-part seminar series will run from April 27 to June 8, 2022. The first session will focus on HIV/AIDS, an area where studies using an SIV-infected macaque model led to the breakthrough antiviral therapies used today to control HIV infection in humans (April 27). Subsequent sessions will explore the role of NHPs in the following research areas: 

  1. Developing treatments or vaccines for other infectious diseases (April 28);
  2. Addressing neurodegenerative disorders (May 11);
  3. Advancing behavioral and neurological research (May 12);
  4. Using genetic and stem cell technologies to treat diseases (May 25);
  5. Advancing reproductive biology and endocrinology research (May 26); and
  6. Investigating the impact of genomic variation on NHP research (June 8).   

Join us in celebrating the NPRCs through these free, virtual seminars. Please register at offers comprehensive information for investigators, collaborators, NIH program officials, and the public regarding the NPRCs’ areas of research, capabilities, NHP species, and achievements. The website focuses on educating the public about the benefits of NHP research. To learn more about the NPRCs visit: ORIP National Primate Research Centers Consortium.

Franziska B. Grieder, DVM, Ph.D.
Director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs

Winter 2022

Progress on ORIP Strategic Priorities

To mark one year since releasing the ORIP Strategic Plan 2021–2025, we are happy to announce the launch of the ORIP Strategic Plan Progress Update webpages. These pages describe progress in our research infrastructure high-priority thematic areas:

  1. Animal Models to Advance the Study of Human Disease
  2. Innovative Instruments and Equipment to Accelerate Research Discoveries
  3. Specialized Research Training in Animal Models and Related Resources
  4. Awareness of ORIP Resources and Programs

ORIP funds the scientific human and physical resources that will help to ensure the Nation’s capability to adapt to scientific challenges and opportunities. Since the release of ORIP’s Strategic Plan in January 2021, ORIP-funded scientists and staff have been working to make the research goals and objectives a reality. Examples of ORIP’s ongoing progress will be added to the website quarterly.

For more in-depth stories of ORIP-supported research and resources, check out ORIP’s monthly Research Highlights. These stories celebrate ORIP-funded researchers, display how ORIP-funded instruments propel research progress, and showcase how animal models offer insight into human diseases. For the most recent installment, start with A New Method for Drosophila Cryopreservation Overcomes Longstanding Challenges.

As ORIP progresses with strategic Theme 4: Awareness of ORIP Resources and Programs, ORIP will offer more webinars and other informational resources to support its applicants and grantees in all the scientific and training areas ORIP supports. For its next webinar, on Friday, February 18, 2022, 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., ORIP staff will provide a Pre-Application Webinar for PAR-22-088, Biomedical Research Facilities (C06 Clinical Trial Not Allowed) and PAR-21-363, Limited Competition: Development and Renovation of Housing, Breeding, and Research Spaces for Existing NIH-supported NHP Colonies (C06 Clinical Trial Not Allowed). ORIP staff members involved in managing these programs will assist potential applicants by explaining the goals and objectives of these Funding Opportunities and answering questions from attendees. Learn more about the webinar at NOT-OD-22-060. Registration is available here.

The ORIP website has many resources to keep you in the know about our funding opportunities, resources, and research progress. Check back to find out the latest, especially for our continued strategic plan progress.

Franziska B. Grieder, DVM, Ph.D.
Director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Program

Fall 2021

ORIP Support for Modern Equipment for Shared-Use Biomedical Research Facilities

An image of modern laboratory equipment

Welcome to fiscal year 2022 and the inaugural Director’s Message from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP). As many of you know, ORIP funds scientific, human, and physical resources to ensure the Nation’s capability to prevent, diagnose, and treat human disease. In this first ORIP Director’s Message, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Resource-Related Research Projects (R24) grant program: “Modern Equipment for Shared-use Biomedical Research Facilities: Advancing Research-Related Operations” (PAR-21-326).

Through discussions with grantees, applicants, and scientific researchers from a broad range of biomedical investigations, ORIP identified a need to provide support for equipment that is not used directly for scientific data collection but enhances the operation of biomedical research facilities. In addition to providing for such equipment, the new program covers minor alteration and renovation that might be needed to ensure proper installation and functioning of the equipment.

This initiative targets core facilities, animal research facilities, and other research spaces that are used on a shared basis. The program is intended to introduce operational innovations or new capacities rather than be used for general outfitting, routine maintenance, or simply replacing older equipment. By providing access to modern shared-use equipment through this new funding opportunity, we expect that the scientific community can expand their capacity for essential support services to evolving and emerging research programs.

The Modern Equipment for Shared-use Biomedical Research Facilities program is managed by ORIP’s Division of Construction and Instruments (DCI) which supports improvements of research infrastructure by enabling access to state-of-the-art shared instruments and by modernizing animal and other biomedical research facilities. The program aligns with the ORIP Strategic Plan 2021-2025 Strategy 2.2: Modernize the research infrastructure of laboratories and animal research facilities.

DCI program officials will hold a webinar for applicants to learn more about the program and obtain answers to questions that applicants may have. The webinar will be held on Friday, October 22, 2 pm-4 pm EDT. You may register here. Applications for PAR-21-326 are due on December 01, 2021.

We look forward to a productive fiscal year and continuing to fund research resources that support innovative biomedical research in partnership with other NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices. To stay up-to-date with ORIP news and events, please follow us on Twitter and visit our website.

Franziska B. Grieder, DVM, Ph.D.
Director of the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs