NCATS History

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) — one of 27 Institutes and Centers at NIH — was established in December 2011 to transform the translational process so that new treatments and cures for disease could be delivered to patients faster.

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Then-NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., published the founding vision of NCATS on July 6, 2011. The Center’s mission is to support the creation of innovative methods and technologies to speed the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions.

Advisory bodies provided guidance and strategic counsel during the development of NCATS:


In September 2012, the NIH Director announced the appointment of Christopher P. Austin, M.D., as director of NCATS. When Austin announced his departure in early 2021, Deputy Director Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D., was selected as acting director. In November 2022, Rutter was selected as director of NCATS.

Learn more about NCATS’ director and read the Director’s Messages, which highlight NCATS’ priorities.


NCATS is unique in that it focuses not on specific diseases, but on what many diseases have in common. Emphasizing the translational science process, NCATS promotes three Ds:

  • Developing new approaches, technologies, resources and models
  • Demonstrating their usefulness
  • Disseminating the data, analysis and methodologies to the community

To accomplish the three Ds, the Center relies on the power of data, new technologies and teamwork. In this way, NCATS functions like an adapter, allowing distinct parts of the research system to connect and collaborate more effectively.

NCATS’ approach and mission complement the work of other NIH Institutes and Centers, the private sector, and the nonprofit community. Collaborations among government, academia, industry and nonprofit patient groups are crucial for successful translation: No organization can succeed alone. To this end, NCATS leads innovative and collaborative approaches in translational science that are crosscutting and useful for the broader scientific community.

Strategic Plan

NCATS developed a strategic plan in 2016 to outline the Center’s strategic goals and principles. It is organized into four overarching themes: translational science, collaboration and partnerships, education and training, and stewardship. The themes are captured in the strategic goals and collectively provide an overview of what the Center plans to accomplish to achieve its mission.


Annual and biennial reports showcase NCATS’ translational science initiatives that speed medical research progress and shorten the journey from scientific discovery to better health.

View the NIH Almanac to see more of NCATS’ program highlights throughout the past decade.

Milestone Anniversaries

NCATS marked its fifth anniversary in 2016 and its 10th anniversary in 2021. In 2016, the director highlighted several accomplishments, including defining translation and the new field of translational science.

At the 10-year anniversary, NCATS hosted an event to highlight how the Center’s innovative and team science approach addresses unmet needs and to usher in the next decade of bold solutions.

Read about more examples of NCATS’ achievements in advancing translational science.