Monday, June 20, 2011

More Researchers Can Now Access Nation’s Research Crown Jewel

By Kristin Schneeman, Program Director, FasterCures

We noted with interest a post from Sally Rockey, NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, highlighting progress being made in the NIH Clinical Center’s effort to open its doors to greater use by the extramural research community. We are fans of the Clinical Center, the nation’s largest and most sophisticated research hospital, and have long advocated that its resources should be available to and used by researchers outside the NIH’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) in addition to the Intramural Research Program (IRP) researchers it has historically served.

In 2008, FasterCures convened a task force chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. David Baltimore, which called for the IRP to adopt a new mission that is outcomes-focused, is capable of responding quickly to new opportunities and challenges, and fully utilizes its world-class research hospital and other infrastructure. Among the task force’s key recommendations was that the Clinical Center be fully utilized (at the time it rarely reached 60% occupancy), and that NIH create streamlined mechanisms by which extramural researchers and industry can more fully use the Clinical Center for projects in collaboration with the IRP.

In 2010 FasterCures and 86 other patient organizations sent a letter urging the NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board to open up the Clinical Center facilities to external researchers. As the nation’s research crown jewel, it has the potential to excel in research efforts focused on rare and orphan diseases and on pre-clinical and methods research essential to building tools, platforms, and protocols for the entire clinical research enterprise.

We are very pleased to see that NIH continues to move forward with this important effort. We urge all stakeholders – patient groups, academic researchers, and industry alike – to take Dr. Rockey up on her offer “to provide input on your interest in accessing the NIH Clinical Center resources.” If they build it, will you come?

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