NIH official touts new translational research programs

On June 15, before a U.S. Health and Human Services advisory panel, a senior official at the National Institutes of Health described new efforts to move promising scientific discoveries into use by doctors and patients.  The official spoke of a “shared vision” between the NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a newly authorized grant mechanism intended to take a nimble and flexible approach to funding translational medicine.

Kathy Hudson, chief of staff for NIH Director Francis Collins, spoke of a new joint leadership council established by the NIH and the FDA.  By using the council to combine translational science at the NIH with regulatory science at the FDA, agency officials hope to turn discoveries into innovative treatments more quickly.  The philosophy underlying the joint initiative is explained in a recently published article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Hudson said.

Hudson also outlined the newly created Cures Acceleration Network, also known as CAN, which was established by the healthcare reform bill and gives the NIH “more flexibility in how we fund research.”  Like those at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, CAN projects could be started and terminated quickly, Hudson said.

However, her comments were speculative, as Congress has yet to appropriate funds for CAN, and,  under the law, no money from the existing NIH budget can be used to fund the CAN program.

The agenda and webcast of the June 15 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society are available online.

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