Created by on 09/17/2010

The NIH Scientific Management and Review Board (SMRB) met on September 14th and 15th spending the majority of its time discussing issues related to clinical and translational research. The first item on the agenda was a report from the Intramural Research Program (IRP) Working Group that focused on the NIH Clinical Center. As a result of the rapidly rising cost of health care, the annual inflationary costs of the Clinical Center were exceeding those of the rest of the intramural budget, and future increases in funding for the Clinical Center could only come at the expense of the intramural program as a whole, including basic research. This IRP Working Group, chaired by Arthur Rubenstein of the University of Pennsylvania, was asked to look at the utilization and fiscal sustainability of the Clinical Center. Examining the role, governance, and budget of the Clinical Center, the working group report recommended that the Clinical Center should “serve as a state-of-the-art national resource” for use by both intramural and extramural researchers and proposed a greatly simplified oversight structure. Several alternative funding streams were proposed for the Clinical Center, which is currently funded out of contributions by each Institute or Center to the intramural research program. In the ensuing discussion, it was clear that there was a consensus in favor of providing funding via a line item in the budget of the Office of the Director. SMRB members expressed general support for the recommendations, but formal consideration was tabled because the discussion of translational medicine and therapeutics, the next item on the agenda, might have implications for the Clinical Center.

A Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (TMAT) Working Group, also chaired by Dr. Rubenstein, is looking at how the NIH can most effectively leverage its current resources for clinical and translational research (including the Clinical Center, the CTSA programs, and other on-going activities) with the newly authorized Cures Acceleration Network. As part of its effort, the TMAT Working Group convened a series of panels on new paradigm opportunities, NIH capabilities and resources, and cultivating successful partnerships. There was a lively exchange between panelists and SMRB members, and it is likely that the TMAT report will have major implications for several NIH programs when it is completed.