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September 15, 2022: Engaging “Many Hands” to Advance NCATS’ Mission
Many hands make light work.
This well-known saying sums up how NCATS gets important work done.
Team science is at the heart of everything we do. The pandemic response highlighted what is possible when we work in harmony with our stakeholder communities — it was the many hands of the larger translational science ecosystem that made it possible for us to rapidly answer critical COVID-19 questions and offer therapeutic solutions in a time of urgent public health need.
These partnerships, the people who make them flourish, and our shared vision are powerful forces that will bring more treatments to all people more quickly. Strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones across our communities will magnify our collective impact and create opportunities for many so that our individual “wins” get disseminated more readily.
As NCATS builds on the successes of the past decade and sets audacious goals for the next 10 years, we are focusing on finding more ways to engage with our partners from academic, industry, patient, and research advocacy organizations, as well as other federal agencies.
On May 18, I hosted an open session — a virtual Teatime — to hear from our stakeholder community on how we can build relationships, raise awareness, and work together to improve health for all. You can watch the entire conversation.
Here are some of the key themes I heard from our stakeholders:
Communicating and educating about translational science: Attendees noted that there is a general lack of understanding about what translational science is and why advancing it is so important. Translational science is in our very name, and I am committed to engaging our stakeholders in a dialogue about why advancing the field is so critical and how we can work together to broaden its impact on science and health.
Disseminating impact: Colleagues stressed the need to work closely with our community partners to help demonstrate and disseminate the impact of NCATS’ programs. I couldn’t agree more! Wide-reaching outreach efforts will go a long way toward generating the excitement and support needed from the community and from Congress. Their support will enable NCATS and its partners to continue addressing scientific, operational, and administration barriers that stand in the way of improving health.
Clearing bottlenecks in the research pipeline: Some acknowledged that while NCATS has made tremendous strides in turning more research advances into health solutions, we have much more to do. They pointed out historic bottlenecks, such as old drug development approaches, policies that lag behind advances in science and technology, and operations mired in bureaucratic procedures. Indeed, the translational pipeline is long, crimped, and complex. We have a lot of work ahead of us as we unblock these pinch points to achieve the “more quickly” part of NCATS’ vision.
Encouraging the stakeholder community to help raise awareness of NCATS activities: Attendees also recommended that stakeholders work collectively to advise policymakers and legislators about NCATS’ mission and highlight the important work the Center is doing. I was thrilled to hear these comments. Our community members have an incredible power to convene and amplify voices and key messages that could serve NCATS and the broader translational science community well. We heard from some of our stakeholders about the need to form such a group, and we are eager to work alongside these efforts.
The May Teatime gathering was the first of many new opportunities to make the whole of what we do at NCATS greater than the sum of our parts. Another way I am engaging with the community is through a new NCATS Stakeholders listserv — sign up if you haven’t already!
I look forward to future conversations where we can dig in to your ideas and suggestions and find ways to address these themes. I will keep listening and adapting. In the meantime, please email me and stay connected with NCATS through your favorite channel.
Your partner in science and health,
Joni L. Rutter, Ph.D.
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences