New NIH Translational Science Center Opens After FY 2012 Spending Bill Signed Into Law

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The National Institutes of Health officially established its new center for translational research and dissolved the National Center for Research Resources, the agency announced Dec. 23, 2011.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will work to catalyze innovations in translational science, NIH stated, by working closely with partners in the regulatory, academic, nonprofit, and private sectors to identify and overcome hurdles that slow the development of effective treatments and cures. According to the frequently asked questions on the NCATS website, there is a need for the new center because it currently takes an average of 13 years and $1 billion to develop a new drug.

“Patients suffering from debilitating and life threatening diseases do not have the luxury to wait the 13 years it currently takes to translate new scientific discoveries into treatments that could save or improve the quality of their lives. The entire community must work together to forge a new paradigm, and NCATS aims to catalyze this effort,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins said in a statement.

When Collins first announced plans to create the new center more than a year ago, he said he wanted it up and running by Oct. 1, 2011, the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year (9 MRLR 786, 12/15/10; 10 MRLR 342, 5/18/11).

However, Congress did not pass an FY 2012 funding measure for NIH by Oct. 1, nor did it authorize the new center through any other legislation. NIH established the new center on the same day President Obama signed an FY 2012 appropriations bill into law (Pub. L. No. 112-74) that provides NIH with $30.7 billion in funding as well as the authorization needed to open NCATS and dissolve NCRR (10 MRLR 841, 12/21/11).

“Congressional support for the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences marks a major milestone in mobilizing the community effort required to revolutionize the science of translation,” Collins stated.

NIH said the programs that will comprise NCATS are:

• Bridging Interventional Development Gaps, which makes available critical resources needed for the development of new therapeutic agents;

• Clinical and Translational Science Awards, which fund a national consortium of medical research institutions working together to improve the way clinical and translational research is conducted nationwide;

• Cures Acceleration Network, which enables NCATS to fund research in new and innovative ways;

• Food and Drug Administration-NIH Regulatory Science, an interagency partnership that aims to accelerate the development and use of better tools, standards, and approaches for developing and evaluating diagnostic and therapeutic products;

• Office of Rare Diseases Research, which coordinates and supports rare diseases research;

• Components of the Molecular Libraries, an initiative that provides researchers with access to the large-scale screening capacity necessary to identify compounds that can be used as chemical probes to validate new therapeutic targets; and

• Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases, a program to encourage and speed the development of new drugs for rare and neglected diseases.

$575 Million for NCATS

The omnibus spending law provides NCATS with a budget of $575 million. NIH said the agency is funding the new center primarily by reallocating funds from programs previously located in the NIH Office of the Director, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the National Center for Research Resources. NIH said it has maintained a “relatively stable ratio of funding” across basic and applied research and that the funding ratio will not be disturbed by the establishment of the new center.

NIH is in the process of reorganizing “a wide range of pre-clinical and clinical translational science capabilities within NIH into an integrated scientific enterprise with new leadership,” the agency said in an announcement. Acting NCATS Director Thomas R. Insel, who is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, and acting NIH Deputy Director Kathy Hudson will lead the reorganization effort. NIH said it is continuing to recruit a permanent director for NCATS.

More information on NCATS is available at .