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Research projects at NCATS focus on addressing scientific and technical challenges to reduce, remove or bypass bottlenecks in the development of new treatments and tests that will ultimately improve human health. The Center aims to make translational science more efficient, less expensive and less risky.

Two researchers working in a clean room.


  • Facilitating other translational research activities supported by NIH.
  • Complementing research conducted in the private sector.
  • Reinforcing NIH’s commitment to basic research.

One of NCATS' primary activities is to collaborate closely with the other NIH Institutes and Centers to establish its research priorities as well as to develop translational tools and resources that facilitate research across NIH.

NCATS unifies programs in the following three areas: Clinical and Translational Science, Rare Disease Research and Therapeutics, and Re-engineering Translational Sciences.

Clinical and Translational Science Activities

The Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program supports a national consortium of medical research institutions working to improve the way clinical and translational research is conducted nationwide. CTSA institutions support innovative multidisciplinary team science, train investigators in clinical research, and foster dynamic research partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the translation of basic science into clinical treatments and improved patient health.

Rare Diseases Research and Therapeutics

Researcher with a patient who has dwarfism.

There are several thousand rare diseases, of which only a few hundred have any treatments available. NCATS' research in this area fills critical gaps in the field of translation because rare disease research often garners little interest from the private sector. NCATS' Office of Rare Diseases Research coordinates and supports research on rare diseases at NIH, including through the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, the Global Rare Diseases Patient Registry Data Repository, and the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network. The Bridging Interventional Development Gaps program provides successful applicants developing therapeutic agents with access to critical resources in support of pre-clinical studies. The Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program encourages the development of new drugs for rare and neglected diseases.

Re-engineering Translational Sciences

Developing new treatments is complicated, costly and risky — less than 1 percent of compounds initially tested actually make it into a patient's medicine cabinet. Many of the steps between basic scientific research and premarket clinical trials have been performed the same way for more than a decade and have not seen the benefit of the bold innovation that has characterized other branches of biomedical science. Thus, the process for translating scientific discoveries into new tools and treatments is ripe for innovation.

NCATS also provides several tools for researchers that can help speed progress in translational science.

Connect with NCATS

Stay up-to-date with the latest Center news and information:

NCATS Annual Report

Cover of the 2012-2013 NCATS Annual Report

Read NCATS' first annual report, which highlights major milestones, programs and initiatives.

Collaborating with NCATS

Working together to solve biomedical problems is essential to accelerating the scientific discovery process. Learn how to connect with appropriate staff and how best to work with NCATS on research collaborations. Visit NCATS' Strategic Alliances for Technology Transfer page for details on technology development, licensing and partnership opportunities.