New Statement Clarifies Proposal for Translational Research Center


Since last week there has been quite a bit of news on the formation of the new National Center for Accelerating Translational Sciences (NCATS) here at NIH. You may have seen the New York Times article where the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, described the intent of NCATS and the potential it has for accelerating the translation of basic discoveries into therapeutics. I heard from many of you after the publication of this article and wanted to let you know that Dr. Collins and the institute and center directors who are members of the committe charged with planning NCATS have put a statement on the NIH Feedback website called “Separating Fact & Fiction:  News about the Proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.” I urge you to read this clarification and to keep tuned into and use the Feedback website for further news about structural changes at NIH and to submit any comments you may have regarding these changes.


  1. Thanks for the link. Maybe it will answer some of my questions. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s nearly always better to get info — good or bad — straight from the horse’s mouth, rather than the rumor mill. Saves me a whole lot of stress.

  2. Thanks, it will be good to read more about NCATS. I think you shouldn’t just focus on therapeutics, but should include prevention also. Big strides in reducing cardiovascular disease, infectious diseases and cancer have come from prevention strategies.

  3. Thank you for the timely clarification. Many of my colleagues found the information in the NY Times article threatening. I posted the following on the NY Times website as soon as I read of the new initiative that I strongly support. “A great beginning! This is a crucial problem that deserves serious attention. It is clear to me that the current paradigm followed by drug companies, and many biotechs, is not productive. The approach is based on the expectation that a single gene or protein runs the show and if we can stimulate or inhibit it, we can solve a disease problem. This is called target-based research. The truth is much more complex. Diseases involve many genes and proteins and the human body is often able to adapt by developing new pathways or new ways to achieve the same function. To solve complex problems, we need a different and broader approach. it is necessary to develop screens for drugs that affect function not single entities. This can be done using the modern tools of basic science and should be supported by NIH. Concern about the mechanism of action of drugs developed to affect function should be canned. As noted in the article, many of our best drugs work by mechanisms that are not understood, unlike the multitude of drugs that have been documented to specifically inhibit targets but do not cure disease. Interestingly, many of the old valuable drugs were discovered using a function-based screen, whole animals! There are better ways today that do not use animals but such a change in approach will be hard for many to swallow, particularly those who have made their careers in such pursuit. I believe great leadership can implement this change as well as engage the creative energy of all involved in the drive to cure or ameliorate disease.”

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