Archive for February, 2019


Feb 25 2019

Encouraging Our Funding Success

by at 8:35 am

Greetings from 30,000 feet on Sunday afternoon. I am headed to the University of California Irvine Cancer Center’s External Advisory Board meeting, which I chair. I always learn so much about how other cancer centers do their work, and invariably come back with new ideas for Lombardi. The great Joe Simone said it best, “If you’ve seen one cancer center, you’ve seen one cancer center.” However, there are commonalities and lessons to be learned. I’ll be busy on Monday and Tuesday, and the meeting ends too late to catch a convenient flight home on Tuesday. Since I cannot tolerate red eye flights unless I simply have no other choice, I’ll be flying back on Wednesday. Fortunately, my R01 competitive renewal is basically done, and it will be sent over for submission in the next day or two. I had the good sense to have the grant reviewed carefully by my lab members, and formally evaluated by Mike Atkins, Anton Wellstein and Samir Khleif. Even though I am quite experienced the proposal was unquestionably improved by all the feedback I received. We’ll see how it fares in study section.

Speaking of grants, I am truly excited about the cancer center’s new initiatives to support grant submissions by assuring they have the best possible chance to succeed. A formal policy will be released shortly, but I can’t wait to share the essentials with you, and get your feedback.

Briefly, here is an outline of the initiative:


PURPOSE: The objective of this policy is to increase the success rate of Lombardi applications for peer reviewed funding. We can work together so that everyone has the best chance to succeed. To accomplish this goal, the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center will employ two types of internal grant reviews: These changes will go into effect beginning with the June 2019 funding cycle.

1: Idea Labs

Idea Labs will be used to review new or competing renewal grant concepts and specific aims. These are not mandatory, but are highly encouraged. These reviews will be CCSG program-based. Program leaders will incorporate Idea Labs into program meetings and will include their deliberations and recommendations in program minutes. Lombardi administration will track the outcomes of Idea Lab proposals (e.g., withdrawn, modified and resubmitted, submitted for peer review, score/percentile, funding and funding mechanism).

2: Mock Study Sections

  • Applicable to all grant applications with predictable submission guidelines
    • R01, DoD, Komen, R21, etc.
  • Drafts of grants should be submitted at least 2 and ideally 3 months prior to internal (RDS) submission deadline.
  • The application research plan must be complete enough to warrant review.
  • We will have 2 standing internal study sections
    • CPC
    • Other (4 permanent members with 3-year appointments)
    • Each committee will employ ad hoc reviewers as needed for particular proposals.
  • Standing committees will set aside 1 day for Mock Study Section 6 weeks prior to grant due dates and will establish a schedule for PIs to be present during their deliberation process.
  • Format to include written and verbal comments. Each review is anticipated to take 1 hour. PI will be expected to attend meeting and listen to the reviews (per usual study section format) by the committee, with the remainder of the time (~30 minutes) allotted for open discussion and advice to the PI.
  • Written comments should be provided to PI within 3 days of Study Section.
  • An RDS grant administrator will be present to align research plan with budget, etc.
  • There will be an opportunity for the PI to respond to the critique with an amended proposal that can undergo targeted re-review by the study section.
  • The Study Section must sign off on the grant submission (i.e. that it was reviewed) in order for Dr. Weiner to approve submission in GU-PASS.  

Mock Study Sections are

Required for:

  • All GU Lombardi Sector Research Track, Tenure Track faculty who wish to submit grants
  • Any GU Lombardi Sector Tenured faculty without current R01 or equivalent funding
  • Grants in this category must undergo sign off by the Mock Study Section Chair or designate in order for Dr. Weiner to approve the grant submission in GU-PASS.

Encouraged for:

  • Everyone, including NJ-based PIs

Other Acceptable Methods:

Tenured, funded faculty who choose not to submit an application for internal mock study section will need sign off indicating that submission has been reviewed by at least two faculty colleagues in order for Dr. Weiner to approve submission in GU-PASS.

Mock Study Section Reviewers:

  • It is expected that people will say “yes” when asked to serve as an ad hoc reviewer on a Mock Study Section
  • Level of faculty members’ engagement in mock study section activities will be a criterion in yearly evaluations and Part C compensation


The effectiveness of this set of mechanisms will be monitored regularly by Lombardi Administration and results will be presented to the Lombardi Executive Committee for review on a quarterly basis.

If we take this process seriously I am certain we can increase our success rates. Let me know what you think!

Have a great week.

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Feb 10 2019

Flurry of a Week

by at 5:07 pm

Greetings on a chilly Sunday afternoon. It has been nice to take a mini-break after a busy week. Monday was highlighted by a flurry of afternoon activities, including the Georgetown Patent ceremony. I received two plaques, for recently issued patents, and also a very nice award for my research collaborations with industry partners. Unfortunately, I had to hustle from a TBIO lecture I gave in Med-Dent down to Copley Formal Lounge for the ceremony, and then took off for a dinner meeting of the Community Advisory Council led by Lucile Adams-Campbell at The Smith on U Street. It was a wonderful event that clearly reinforced Lombardi’s commitment to its community. In fact, the meal was so nice that I took Harriet back to the restaurant for dinner on Friday, and was not disappointed!

I gave another lecture on Wednesday about principles of immunotherapy, and we continued that theme through Thursday, when we had our monthly Immunotherapy interest group meeting, with very interesting presentations by Subha Madhavan and colleagues, and by Stephen Liu.

Friday was highlighted by the Board of Regents plenary session, back in Copley Formal Lounge. The subject was the Health Justice Alliance, we are involved through our work at the MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Our regularly scheduled Program Leaders Meeting on Friday afternoon was especially interesting as we discussed a health disparities focused P20 submission, and considered new ways to support inter-programmatic publications.

So, by the weekend I was ready for a rest. We went to the Pop Up Magazine at the Warner Theater on Saturday night, but the highlight of the day was our granddaughter’s first birthday party on Saturday morning. Time flies, but if you’re lucky it does on the wings of a loving family.

The coming week promises to be just as busy as last week, highlighted by the Georgetown Board of Director’s meeting, which will include the Committee on Medical Center Affairs.

I hope you have a good week.

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Feb 03 2019

Super Bowl Thinking

by at 6:40 pm

I am getting ready for kickoff, and thinking about how different it was for me 52 weeks ago, as we settled into our seats in Minneapolis to watch the Eagles play the Patriots. I don’t have a strong rooting preference in today’s game, though I admire the Patriots’ incredible run of excellence and appreciate how the Rams have quickly become an elite franchise. The common threads? Inspired leadership, coupled with commitment and discipline. The leadership styles of Bill Belicheck and Sean McVay could not be more different. One is old enough to collect Social Security, while the other is barely past shaving age. One is famously taciturn, while the other is a relentless, high octane optimist. One franchise channels its inner La La Land, while the other masochistically endures harsh New England winters. But each franchise has a plan, and each has famously stuck with that plan, one of them for nearly two decades.

We have a plan too. The Lombardi Strategic Plan, which was brought to life as we prepared for our CCSG site visit, offers a blueprint for our future. We are excited by the roadmap it has created, and by following it we will achieve sustained excellence. And, I would pick curing cancer over a Super Bowl victory, and it’s not even a close contest. My favorite score ever would be Lombardi 100 – Cancer 0.

Having stated my preference, good luck to Mike Atkins, who is down in Atlanta to support the Patriots with his two sons. I would be satisfied by an exciting game, no matter who wins.

Have a great week.

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