HHS Logo U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Divider arrowNIH logo National Institutes of Health Alt desc
Skip Over Navigation Links

Director’s Corner

Oct. 24, 2016: Translator Comes Alive!

Christopher Austin

This past May, I wrote about the new NCATS’ Biomedical Data Translator program. I am delighted to report that we now have issued five awards totaling just over $5 million in Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) funds to researchers at 11 institutions who will collaborate with NCATS staff to design the architecture and test the feasibility of the Translator.

For these inaugural Translator awards, NCATS used its CAN Other Transaction authority (PDF - 400KB), a flexible research funding mechanism by which we were able to assemble a scientific team of unprecedented scope to spur innovation and collaborative problem solving. This is a new way of doing business that aligns perfectly with NCATS’ mission to speed translation via innovative collaborative approaches. Last week, I attended the Translator kickoff meeting, at which the funded scientists shared their ideas and jointly devised a plan to create a whole that will be greater than the sum of their individual parts. It was exhilarating to experience the collaborative brainstorming atmosphere and the excitement with which the scientists are approaching this groundbreaking project.

The new awardees bring together complementary expertise in informatics, computer science, pre-clinical development, disease biology, environmental health, and clinical medicine, among other areas. Over the next two years, they will work to develop a prototype informatics platform allowing interrogation of relationships across the full spectrum of biomedical data types to provide new ways of understanding the basis of diseases and to develop new approaches to treatment. NCATS staff will work closely with the team to modify, combine, initiate or discontinue certain activities based on data, emerging methods and technologies, and availability of funds.

Two hundred years ago, chemists created a comprehensive enumeration of the elements and systematic relationships among them. This periodic table transformed chemistry by placing it on a firm scientific footing. I envision the Translator as doing the same for translational science. I encourage you to share in our excitement about this transformational NCATS signature initiative via the links above, and stay tuned for updates on our progress.

Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences