NIH Common Fund programs can provide a strategic and nimble approach to address key roadblocks in biomedical research that impede basic scientific discovery and its translation into improved human health. All NIH Institutes and Centers are involved with the NIH Office of Strategic Coordination in the design, implementation and evaluation of Common Fund programs.
NCATS is in a unique position to administer several innovative Common Fund programs that complement the Center’s efforts to transform the translational science process so that more treatments can reach more patients more quickly. NCATS co-chairs and provides leadership on the following Common Fund programs:
ExRNA communication is a recently discovered cell-to-cell signaling process that holds enormous promise for improving our understanding of a wide variety of diseases. NCATS participates in the NIH Common Fund’s program to investigate this new scientific field.
To improve scientific understanding of understudied protein families, IDG is designed to test a two-pronged approach for exploring the druggable genome. Approximately 3,000 genes are considered part of the “druggable genome,” a set of genes encoding proteins that scientists can or predict they can modulate using experimental small molecule compounds. Yet only about 10 percent of these genes encode proteins that have been targeted successfully by an approved drug. Therefore, a large number of proteins remain for scientists to explore as potential therapeutic targets.
The Somatic Cell Genome Editing program, led by NCATS and managed by a trans-NIH working group representing multiple institutes and centers, aims to develop quality tools to perform safe and effective genome editing in humans and then make these tools widely available to the research community to reduce the time and cost of developing new therapies.
NCATS is working to advance translational methods in stem cell research with support from the NIH Common Fund. Induced pluripotent stem cells are particularly useful because scientists can transform them into many different cell types to use for research or therapies.
SPARC is focused on understanding the peripheral nerves — nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body — and how their electrical signals control internal organ function.