The National Institutes of Health is moving full steam ahead with plans to establish the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The NCATS formation represents the largest reorganization at the NIH in more than a decade, and NIH leadership is eager to bring this new center online.
Transparency appears to be a key issue in the NCATS reorganization, possibly in response to the controversy raised over the seemingly hasty pace with which NIH moved to establish NCATS. Now that NCATS has its official seal of approval, the NIH leadership seems to be focused on providing as much information as possible about how the reorganization will occur.
One of the many concerns from the extramural research community was how the programs housed in the National Center for Research Resources (which NCTAS has replaced) would be handled. A list of the reassignments for NCCR programs can be found here. Last week, NIH announced the creation of two new divisions within the National Institute of General Medical Sciences that will each administer programs from NCRR, along with its own.
In a blog piece posted Friday, Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research at NIH, outlined the new programs that will be housed in NCATS. The Clinical and Translational Science Awards, formerly administered by NCRR, will be transferred to NCATS and represents a significant portion on the new center’s budget. Some CTSA directors are concerned about the future of certain awards that don’t have a clear translational focus. In an interview with ScienceInsider, NCATS acting director Thomas Insel said that NIH wants to preserve the range of CTSA activities but added that the program should expect to “evolve.”
In her blog, Rockey goes on to describe efforts to ensure that the transition of NCRR grants to their new homes goes as smoothly as possible. An NIH Guide notice released Jan. 6 details what principle investigators/project directors who received funding from NCRR should expect in the coming weeks as these awards are transferred to their new IC. The notice stated that “these transfers will not change any of the terms and conditions of the current awards or the level of funding anticipated for future non-competing awards (pending the availability of funds).”
The ASBMB Office of Public Affairs will continue to keep you updated on NIH reorganizational issues.