My boss, Dr. Francis Collins, has just published an article in Science Translational Medicine describing why the time is right to establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH. In this article, Francis lays out the goals, functions, and structure of the proposed NCATS. A major thrust of his article is to describe the bottlenecks in the therapeutic pipeline that are ripe for reengineering and how NCATS can contribute to overcoming these bottlenecks, all the way from target identification to first-in-human application.
I know that some in the community are concerned that this emphasis on the therapeutic pipeline may shift the balance of the NIH portfolio away from basic research. Francis has recognized these concerns and has spoken to the “virtuous cycle” whereby a strong translational effort will stimulate even more critical basic research. In fact, a clear goal of NCATS is to provide the fertile ground for scientists from academia, government, and the private sector to work together, particularly in the precompetitive space, in ways not seen before that will overcome many of the challenges of moving basic science into application. He challenges us to move forward now on what can have “profound benefits for humankind.” I share the excitement of what NCATS will become and what the new center will offer to the extramural community. I am looking forward to the next year as we further shape the new center and will keep you updated on events as they unfold. I encourage you to visit the NIH Feedback website to share with us your thoughts on the proposed new center.
If you would like to hear Dr. Collins speak about NCATS in his own voice, listen to his podcast on this topic.