NIH Common Fund Programs

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:

Current Common Fund Programs

Extracellular RNA Communication (ExRNA)

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.

Illuminating the Druggable Genome (IDG)

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.

Somatic Cell Genome Editing

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.

Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions (SPARC)

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.

Former Common Fund Programs

Science of Behavior Change (SOBC)

With support from the Common Fund, the SOBC program, in which NCATS was an active participant, successfully promoted an experimental medicine- and mechanisms-based approach to behavior change research across a range of health behaviors from 2009 to 2019. To further the dissemination of SOBC products and approaches to improve the study of health behavior change, NCATS, the National Institute on Aging, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research have co-funded an extension of the SOBC Resource and Coordinating Center. NCATS is engaged actively in collaborative efforts to expand the Measures Repository to facilitate the development of behavioral health interventions. This work supports NCATS’ mission by advancing the translation of knowledge of behavior change mechanisms into interventions to improve human health.