Last week, Representative Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee that funds the NIH, became the latest member of Congress to express his unhappiness over the proposed National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. In a letter to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Rep. Rehberg voiced his concern over several aspects of the new center. Rehberg questioned Sebelius about the continued lack of budget details for NCATS, pointing out that “until such information is provided [Congress] cannot responsibly take any action” on determining funding for the new center.
Rehberg also expressed his anger at the failure by NIH to answer repeated congressional inquiries about NCATS, including those posed by Appropriations committee staffer (and former NIH Budget Director) John Bartrum back in January. In addition, Rehberg described himself as “very troubled” by the announcement made by the NIH of its plans to commence searching for a director of NCATS, and instead suggested that “NIH cease all action related to establishing NCATS until the President submits a formal [budget] request and congressional action is completed.”
ScienceInsider is reporting that Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., has also written to NIH expressing his concerns about NCATS, in particular the functionality of the CTSA program and how the new center would affect basic research. ASBMB members met with the offices of both Rep. Capuano and Rep. Rehberg during the March Hill Day and discussed the benefits of investment in basic scientific research.
ASBMB, in conjunction with out coalition partners, has been actively engaged with both Congress and the NIH on this issue, and will continue to speak for the scientific community to ensure that the voice of basic researchers is heard.