May 19, 2014: NCATS Advisory Council Provides Expertise and Guidance in Translational Science

NCATS’ work to develop, demonstrate and disseminate innovative tools and research approaches already is enabling great strides in advancing translational science. Our achievements to date would not have been possible without the diligent work of the diverse group of individuals serving on the NCATS Advisory Council. Comprised of experts from academia, industry, patient advocacy groups and government, our Council provides second-level reviews of scientific grant applications as well as invaluable guidance, consultation and recommendations on Center initiatives, policies and programs.

Members of the NCATS Advisory Council also serve on our Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Review Board. CAN was established to find ways to reduce significant barriers to successful translation, accelerate the development of high-need cures and provide flexibility in funding some projects. Board members provide advice and recommendations for carrying out the CAN mission.

Both the NCATS Advisory Council and CAN Review Board last met on Friday, May 16, 2014. At the meeting, members heard from the Advisory Council Working Group on the IOM Report: The CTSA Program at NIH, a group tasked with responding to the June 2013 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. I am grateful for the hard work and thoughtful consideration that went into developing the Working Group’s report (PDF - 414KB), with findings that clearly indicate the members’ investment in the best interests of NCATS, the CTSA program and translational science in general.

At the meeting, I joined Advisory Council and CAN Review Board members in welcoming the latest addition to the NCATS leadership team, Petra Kaufmann, M.D., M.Sc., who became director of the NCATS Division of Clinical Innovation earlier this month. Her new role includes overseeing the CTSA program, and I look forward to working with her to review and evaluate the Working Group findings and develop the next steps for this important program.

Another key milestone highlighted at the meeting was the release of four new funding opportunities for NCATS’ Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules program. For these, NCATS collaborated with AstraZeneca, Janssen Research & Development, L.L.C., Pfizer Inc. and Sanofi to make 26 therapeutic candidates — referred to as “assets” — available to researchers to crowdsource ideas for new uses. For the first time, included are assets that are suitable for exploring pediatric indications. By working together with our industry partners to address the common problem of failure in therapeutic development, we are advancing our goal of speeding treatments to patients in need.

Translation is a team sport, from the research level to the leadership level, and this teamwork and collaboration among external experts, the broader scientific and patient communities and NCATS leadership drives the translational science successes that ultimately will benefit patients and improve human health.

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