Investing in Translational Research


We at the NIH are committed to seeking knowledge and applying that knowledge to reduce the burden of disease and disability. The vast majority of NIH’s biomedical research dollars are invested in the former, with results continually reported and built upon. However, it is equally important that basic biomedical knowledge be used to build new approaches and ways to improve health and treat illness. It is this part of the scientific continuum that is drawing attention as a growth area in biomedical research and is one of NIH Director Dr. Collin’s five themes for NIH.

Translational research, transforming discoveries made the in the laboratory into treatments and improvements to health for patients, is an important, yet difficult task. Many promising therapeutic targets are uncovered as part of basic biomedical research, but the path to actually demonstrating clinical potential is long and expensive. Many discoveries languish at this transition point.

The NIH has recently begun to help address some of the barriers that exist through our participation in the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Consortium, and the NIH Molecular Libraries, Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND), and Rapid Access to Interventional Development (RAID) programs.

With the recent passage of the health care reform act comes additional investments in translational research with the Cures Acceleration Network and the Therapeutic Discovery Program tax credit. The Therapeutic Discovery Program, administered by the Department of the Treasury, provides a tax credit (or grant) for 50% of qualifying biomedical research performed by companies with less than 250 employees in 2009 and 2010. NIH will be reviewing the applications received to determine each project’s ability to produce new therapies (with a particular emphasis on cancer treatments), address unmet medical needs, or reduce health care costs. Applications must be postmarked by July 21, 2010, and decisions will be made by October 29, 2010.

To be run by the NIH, the Cures Acceleration Network seeks to reduce the time it takes to develop new treatments and cures for debilitating and life-threatening diseases by reducing barriers at the critical preclinical phase. Authorized for $500M for fiscal year 2010, the program, if appropriated, would create new ways to fund translational research. In addition, the program will support collaboration between government agencies, institutions and companies, and facilitate FDA regulatory review.

Participating in translational research is important for public health. With the help of programs such as these, we hope to see more therapeutics make the transition from the laboratory to the bedside.