American Society of Hematology

Plans for National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) & Dissolving the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) Move Forward

Published on: June 09, 2011

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are moving forward with creation of a new National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS) and dissolution of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) at the NIH.

In a letter sent earlier this week to Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, and ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations, Secretary of HHS Katherine Sebelius outlines the Institute- and Center- specific organizational and budgetary realignment that would result from establishing NCATS and relocating programs currently within the NCRR based on the president’s FY2012 budget. The Secretary requested that these changes be incorporated as the Committee on Appropriations proceeds with the FY2012 budget legislation.

The original proposal, submitted to Congress in January, follows the Administration's growing concern with the slowing rate of new drug production by the pharmaceutical industry. NIH Director Francis Collins believes that consolidating NIH's translational research programs in the new Center will help attract the pharmaceutical industry's attention and help drive production of new therapeutics – small molecules, biologics, and devices – for common as well as rare and neglected diseases.

Although the mission of the proposed NCATS – to advance the discipline of translational science and catalyze the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions – is generally supported by the research community, the proposed transition and dissolution of NCRR has not been without some controversy. Some stakeholders question whether the NIH should get involved in research aimed at attracting the pharmaceutical industry, whether the new Center will be able to actually leverage outcomes of the translational research programs funded by the NIH, and whether this shift of focus toward translational science for creation of therapeutics will negatively affect investigator-initiated basic science research. Dr. Collins has tried to allay those fears by saying that the goals of creating the new Center are to facilitate – not duplicate – efforts in developing therapeutics, to complement – not compete – with the private sector, and to reinforce – not reduce – NIH’s commitment to basic science research.

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