Policy Corner: NIH Sets Forth Vision for Reengineering Translational Science
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is central to the work of many ACSM members, including scientists whose work is funded through the agency. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., piqued a great deal of interest with his proposal to establish a National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Now, Dr. Collins has laid out his vision for NCATS.
John T. Burklow, NIH Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison, wrote on July 6:
“I am writing to inform you that National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis S. Collins set forth NIH’s vision for advancing translational science in a Commentary that was published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The Commentary provides a detailed description of the scientific goals and functions of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a proposed new entity of NIH that will strive to reengineer the process of developing drugs, diagnostics, and devices.
“The field of translational science currently stands at a critical juncture, according to Dr. Collins. In recent years, basic researchers have made tremendous progress in identifying the molecular causes of disease – discoveries that have revealed hundreds of potential new therapeutic targets. However, the rate at which these discoveries are moving from the lab to the clinic has not kept pace, and therapies exist for just 200 of the more than 4,000 conditions with defined molecular causes. Among the problems is that the translational pipeline is full of bottlenecks that slow the process and add expense. NCATS will seek to generate innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing, and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions with the goal of significantly shortening what currently takes about 15 years from molecular discovery to new therapy.
“Dr. Collins also notes that NCATS will require participation and partnerships from academia, industry, patient advocacy groups, regulatory agencies, and philanthropies in order to drive forward the science of translational medicine. In the spirit of partnership, we wanted to share Dr. Collins’ Commentary with you and ask that you share it with your organization and membership. His Commentary can be found on the NIH Director’s page: www.nih.gov/about/director/index.htm. We also encourage you to visit the NIH Feedback website (feedback.nih.gov/index.php/ncats/stm_commentary) to share your insights on NIH’s vision for advancing translational science.
“Please note in the article that Dr. Collins emphasizes that NIH will continue its strong support for basic science, which has been the bedrock of NIH’s success over many decades. In fact, the “virtuous cycle” between basic and applied research may be speeded up by the NCATS model, allowing new and interesting basic science problems to emerge.”