Oct. 22, 2013: Clinical and Translational Science Awards Catalyze and Speed Translational Research
In recent years, basic scientists have made breathtaking advances in our understanding of the human body’s biology and chemistry. The human genome has been sequenced, stem cells understood and RNA interference discovered. All of these advances have been celebrated for holding enormous promise for improving human health. But the road from promise to achievement of health impact — what is called “translation” in medical research terms — is long, complex and full of obstacles. For example, it can take 14 years or more before a basic discovery leads to a new treatment. Another decade can pass before that intervention is available to all patients who need it.
Speeding up this process is a top priority for NCATS, and the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program is key to our efforts. The CTSA program supports a national consortium of medical research institutions that work together to improve the way clinical and translational research is conducted nationwide. CTSA institutions develop new tools, methods, resources and services that catalyze research progress. Because translation can’t happen without cooperation and collaboration across disciplines, CTSA institutions also lead training and career development for a new breed of team-oriented scientists and clinicians focused on translation.
The CTSA program is NIH’s largest single investment in clinical research. Today, NIH announced more than $79 million in fiscal year 2013 funding to support 15 CTSAs. The 2013 awards expand the CTSA Consortium to include Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, extending the program’s nationwide network to 31 states and the District of Columbia.
NCATS is continuing to evolve the CTSA program to meet the needs of clinical and translational investigators and the communities they serve. In June 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued a report of its findings following an in-depth review of the CTSA program. Its recommendations included formalizing and standardizing the evaluation processes for individual CTSA institutions and the program as a whole, advancing innovation in education and training programs, and ensuring community engagement in all phases of research.
We already are making strides toward addressing these priorities. NCATS has assembled a working group of stakeholders to guide program changes and implement the IOM report’s recommendations. One of the group’s first tasks is development of clear, measurable goals and objectives for the CTSA program that speak to critical issues across the full spectrum of clinical and translational research.
All of these efforts will no doubt strengthen the CTSA institutions, further enabling their leadership of national efforts to enhance the efficiency, quality and safety of translational research and the translation of scientific findings into interventions that improve human health.
Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
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New Deputy Director
On Dec. 3, 2013, Pamela M. McInnes, D.D.S., was named deputy director of NCATS. She will begin her new role on Jan. 12, 2014.
IOM Releases Report on CTSA Program
On June 25, 2013, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its findings after reviewing the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program.