NIH Green-Lights Formation of New Center

Last week, the National Institutes of Health’s Scientific Management Review Board formally voted to recommend the creation of a new translational research center.  Poised to begin operations in the fall of 2011, the new National Center for the Advancement of Translational Research (NCATS) will be comprised of extant translational research programs currently spread across the entire NIH, including the Clinical Translation Science Awards program that is part of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), as well as the newly authorized Cures Acceleration Network.

In accepting the SMRB’s recommendation, NIH Director Francis Collins described his motivation for forming NCATS, citing frustration at the pace and high failure rate of the drug development pipeline.  Rather than being formed at the behest of Congressional prerogatives, the new center, Collins stated, was instead being founded on “a basis of scientific argument.”

Along with recommending formation of NCATS, the SMRB instructed NIH to undergo an extensive study of the impact of the proposed changes on NCRR, and report back to the Board at their next meeting in February 2011.  Collins assigned NIH Deputy Directors Lawrence Tabak and Alan Guttmacher to organize a task force to meet this charge. Though Collins signaled his intentions not to dismantle programs presently in NCRR, during a phone call with stakeholders, Deputy Director Tabak did state that it was “unlikely” for the remaining programs housed within NCRR to remain together in a free-standing entity.  However, no suggestion was given as to where these diverse programs, which range from the Biomedical Technology Research Centers and Instrumentation Grants to the Nonhuman Primates and Invertebrate Animal Resources, might end up.

The NIH has started a website, http://feedback.nih.gov, which will provide the latest updates on the process.  The site also includes a forum for public feedback.

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