The National Institutes of Health in a major reorganization is establishing a new office intended to speed the development of new medical treatments from the research stage to clinical practice.
NIH aims to speed up process for converting research into treatments
The office, to be called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, or NCATS, was approved in budget legislation just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama. The office initially will have a budget of $575 million.
“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,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins said in a statement announcing the new initiative. “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.”
Officials said a prime example of the kind of projects NCATS will lead is a new effort between NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Food and Drug Administration to develop new microchip technology. That technology is aimed at screening for safe and effective drugs more efficiently than allowed by current methods.
The budget for NCATS is drawn largely from a reallocation of funds from programs previously located in the NIH's director's office, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the National Center for Research Resources, officials said.
Collins has made translational medicine a top priority of his tenure as NIH chief and has lobbied for a quick creation of the new office. According to some published reports, skeptics have questioned whether the effort is pushing the government into areas best left to private industry, such as the development of new drugs. Collins has said that NCATS will complement, not compete with, the private sector.
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