Collins' signature initiative granted congressional approval
The newest center on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is up and running this month, after overcoming various concerns expressed by some in Congress and the biomedical research community.
The new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a signature project of NIH Director Francis Collins, received congressional approval in the recently approved fiscal year 2012 spending package. It will assume its mission helping to bridge research and industry and speed promising discoveries through the drug development pipeline.
When plans to establish the center were first made public in December 2010, they were met with concerns about the fast pace at which Collins was pursuing the project, along with questions about whether it was appropriate for NIH to pursue a more prominent role in drug development. In the end, the endeavor won the support it needed with a majority agreeing with Collins that creating a focal point for translational research at NIH will help accelerate drug development, particularly for rare diseases.
A number of existing programs will be integrated into the new center, most notably the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), which fund a national consortium of 60 medical research institutions. The $487 million program will be a large portion of NCATS’s $575 million budget and, according to NIH, will serve as a primary test bed for NCATS activities.
Until now, the CTSAs had been housed under the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), which was dissolved to make room for NCATS, another source of contention for NCATS’s detractors, NCRR's programs are now subsequently being distributed to other NIH institutes and centers.
NCATS will also administer the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), authorized in the 2010 health care reform law and now funded for the first time, with a $10 million appropriation, under the new FY2012 spending bill. CAN is a competitive grant program that will support both industry and academic research. In addition, other NIH programs, including the FDA-NIH Regulatory Science initiative, the Office of Rare Diseases Research and Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases will be incorporated into NCATS.
While NIH conducts a search for a permanent NCATS director, the center’s initial activities are moving forward under the leadership of National Institute of Mental Health Director Tom Insel, who is serving as NCATS acting director, and Dr. Kathy Hudson, NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy, who is serving as NCATS acting deputy director.
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