The SIG Beat: SGHD webinar

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Sex and Gender in Health and Disease (SGHD) SIG Panel Discussion

“Incorporating Sex and Gender in NIH Research”

poster showing the webinar speakers

The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) sponsored this SGHD SIG webinar, which featured three presentations followed by a panel discussion. NIH Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health and Director of NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health Janine Austin Clayton opened the panel discussion by providing an overview of the ORWH mission and the NIH vision for women’s health research. Her presentation covered the establishment of ORWH in 1990, the landmark 2016 Sex as a Biological Variable (SABV) policy, and the establishment of the SGHD SIG in 2017.

“Sex Differences in Taste and Smell Perception: Are There Any?”

Paule Joseph (Lasker Clinical Research Scholar at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute of Nursing Research) discussed what is known about sex differences in taste and smell perception and future research. The question of whether men and women vary in their ability to taste and smell has been investigated for many years. Regarding taste, sex differences have been reported in taste preference, detection thresholds, and reactivity to taste stimuli. While there is heterogeneity in the literature, some studies suggest that for specific odorants, women seem to have a better sense of odor detection, identification, discrimination, and memory compared with men.

“#SexMatters: Sex-Based Differences in Cancer”

Jill Barnholtz-Sloan (associate director for Informatics and Data Science, Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology; senior investigator, Trans-Divisional Research Program; National Cancer Institute) talked about the importance of elucidating the mechanisms by which sex-based differences affect cancer development, prognosis, and treatment response. Recent guidance from NIH now requires all grants to outline how they will address SABV. However, sex-based differences in cancer are typically not accounted for in the study design for laboratory, clinic, or community-based studies in cancer. There are significant sex differences in cancer incidence and prognosis of many tumors that arise in both sexes. Little is known about the biological basis for these sex differences. Barnholtz-Sloan’s group and others have demonstrated that males have a higher incidence of cancer. In addition, she and her colleagues have started to describe molecular mechanisms that could underlie sex differences in brain tumors. Recent studies have demonstrated that females with cancer have increased adverse events when compared to males and might not respond to targeted therapy and/or immunotherapy as well as males.

“Coordinating Committee for Research on Women’s Health (CCRWH) COVID-19 and Women’s Health Working Group Update”

Koyeli Banerjee (scientific program analyst, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) and Nina F. Schor (deputy director and acting scientific director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) reported that the CCRWH COVID-19 Working Group performed a portfolio analysis at the intersection of women’s health and COVID-19. The portfolio analysis included awarded grants for FY 2021 and was performed using research, condition, and disease categorization keywords related to disorders and conditions that preferentially affect women, followed by a manual curation of this list. It is intended to form the basis for the ongoing gap analysis to enable NIH institutes and centers to identify potential areas for the enrichment of their COVID-19 and women’s health grant opportunities.

To view the video recording of the April 12, 2022, webinar, visit For recordings of previous SGHD SIG webinars, visit To stay informed, sign up for the SGHD SIG mailing list at