Created by on 12/20/2010 12:00:00 AM

On December 7, 2010, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) voted (12 - 1) to recommend the creation of a new center for translational research, provisionally called the National Center for the Advancement of Translational Research (NCATS). Specifically, the motion voted on by SMRB called for: 1) the creation of a new translational research center and 2) NIH to conduct a detailed analysis, to be presented at the next SMRB meeting, of the impact of the recommended reorganization on remaining National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) components and other programs across NIH.

In advance of the vote, FASEB submitted a letter to SMRB making the following recommendations:
  • delay the approval of the recommendations until there has been substantive dialogue with the community and an analysis of the potential consequences

  • provide more information to the community regarding the intended nature of the center and its impacts on the translational research already being supported by the other institutes/centers (ICs)

The letter also stated that FASEB is concerned about the impact that reorganization could have on other NCRR programs that are not planned to be included in NCATS. In addition to submitting a letter, FASEB President William Talman and Past-President Mark Lively delivered remarks at the SMRB meeting. The videocast of the meeting and their comments is available here.
Since the SMRB vote, NIH has sought feedback from the community and provided more information on the proposed realignment. On December 8th, Francis Collins (NIH Director) and Lawrence Tabak (NIH Principal Deputy Director) held a stakeholders conference call to discuss the SMRB recommendations. Dr. Collins announced that Drs. Tabak and Guttmacher (Director of the National Institute of Child Health Development) would lead a taskforce to develop a detailed scientific framework for the creation of NCATS. The NIH Director said that the taskforce’s examination would determine if additional components should be moved into the new center, such as NCRR’s comparative medicine program and primate centers. Dr. Collins also reiterated his support for the remaining NCRR programs, at one point saying that he has no intention of slowing down their progress and that the extramural community should continue to apply to these programs for funding. This theme was repeated several times throughout the call.
When asked about the impact of NCATS on translational research funded through the other ICs, Dr. Collins stated that it will continue to be supported primarily through those existing entities. He added that the budget of the new center would be 1 or 2 percent of the overall NIH budget, compared to the 40 percent of the budget that currently supports clinical and translational research. Dr. Collins has held similar calls with Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) principal investigators and NCRR staff. The transcripts and audio for the stakeholders and CTSA conference calls are available here.
NIH has also launched to serve as a portal for receiving and distributing information regarding NCATS. Posted on the site are a statement and FAQs addressing the creation of the new institute that broadly lay out how the agency intends to move forward.


Immediately following the SMRB decision to recommend a reorganization (reprogramming), NIH likely notified Congress, starting the clock for the 15 day period before the Director can publically accept the SMRB recommendations. It also started the 180 day period that Congress has to object to the recommendation. Concurrently, NIH has begun to develop a more detailed draft implementation plan in consultation with NCRR Staff, NCRR grantees, and CTSA institutions. After the 15 day period, the NIH Director may issue a statement of acceptance of the recommendations. Assuming acceptance of the recommendations and the development of the more detailed draft plan, broader public input would then be sought. A “final” plan would be presented at the next SMRB meeting and submitted to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Secretary would then have 30 days to accept or reject the final plan. FASEB will continue to monitor this issue closely.