December 20, 2011 (Washington) – The spending bill President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law later this week will establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health. The inclusion of funding for this initiative bodes well for our nation's medical research and development enterprise and for millions of patients who need new treatments and cures now. FasterCures has been a vocal proponent for the creation of this effort to speed the translation of basic discoveries to real world applications that will improve public health.
The bill includes an increase for the NIH ($299 million over last year) and approximately $576.5 million for NCATS. Of this amount, 2.3 percent is new funding while the remainder brings together resources from other NIH Centers for programs such as the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA). The bill allows NIH to spend up to $10 million to support the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) which creates new funding mechanisms at the NIH through which contracts will be awarded to expedite the development of “high need cures.” In all, the bill provides NIH with $30.7 billion in funding.
The goal of NCATS is to save time in the way we pursue and conduct medical research and development across disease areas. To patients with limited or no meaningful treatment options, saving time means saving lives. The creation of NCATS demonstrates our strong national commitment to medical research by ensuring advances achieved in basic science are translated into new therapies, better prevention strategies, and cures more efficiently.
As envisioned, NCATS would create tools to speed the development of new therapies, and make these tools widely available, thereby fostering efficiencies. This vision provides an opportunity for the patient and disease communities to work together on addressing a problem that cuts across diseases.
NCATS would also serve to strengthen the translational efforts underway at many NIH Institutes. Many NIH Institutes support both basic and translational research portfolios in an effort to move discoveries through the pipeline more quickly. Mid-sized and smaller Institutes that may not possess significant expertise in drug development would benefit greatly from having access to a central hub at NIH where such expertise exists.
At FasterCures, we fully support NIH’s efforts to create NCATS. Thanks to our vitally important national investment in scientific discovery, we know more about disease and biology than ever before. We must now maximize the return on this investment and have systems in place that will allow these ideas and discoveries to be translated into effective products and therapies that will ultimately improve patients’ health and quality of life.
We believe this new Center will strengthen our nation’s medical innovation infrastructure, helping spur economic growth and create jobs in the life sciences industry, and most importantly, it will accelerate the process of turning scientific discoveries into much needed medical solutions.