NCATS Director Statement: Institute of Medicine Report on the CTSA Program at NIH

The following is a statement from NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D., on the Institute of Medicine report The CTSA Program at NIH: Opportunities for Advancing Clinical and Translational Research.

June 25, 2013

In 2006, recognizing the need for a “new vision” (PDF - 70.96 KB) for translational and clinical science, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program. The institutions supported by the CTSA program have been transformative to the science and culture of those academic centers across the country, providing expertise, capacities, training and collaborations to advance clinical translational science as a discipline across the translational spectrum.

In December 2011, the CTSA program became a part of the newly formed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and in July 2012, at the urging of Congress, NIH commissioned a study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to evaluate the CTSA program and recommend possible changes to its mission and operation. The IOM committee performed a thoughtful and measured review, which included input from a broad spectrum of internal and external stakeholders. This IOM committee now has issued its report, which is available on the IOM website.

The report includes seven recommendations to build on the successes of the CTSA program and realize its full potential for transforming clinical and translational science for the benefit of human health. The recommendations are:

  1. Strengthen the leadership of the CTSA program by NCATS
  2. Reconfigure and streamline the CTSA Consortium
  3. Build on the strengths of individual CTSAs across the spectrum of clinical and translational research
  4. Formalize and standardize the evaluation processes for individual CTSAs and the CTSA program
  5. Advance innovation in education and training programs
  6. Ensure community engagement in all phases of research
  7. Strengthen clinical and translational research relevant to child health

I found these recommendations to be compelling and have made the decision to implement them, beginning immediately.

First, NCATS will increase its direct and active leadership of the program while assembling a working group of NCATS Advisory Council members and other key stakeholders to advise me on implementation of the report’s recommendations. Designation of clear, measurable goals and objectives that address critical issues across the full spectrum of clinical and translational research will be one of our first tasks.

Second, the committee’s recommendation to reconfigure and streamline CTSA program governance will result in a more efficiently-managed program. This process also will begin immediately and in coordination with stakeholders.

The recommendation to increase substantive collaboration across and beyond the CTSA Consortium is vital to realizing the system-wide changes that are needed in clinical and translational research. Ongoing engagement with partners in NIH Institutes and Centers, industry, research networks, foundations, patient groups and community organizations will accelerate translational and clinical research to the benefit of all, and maximize the adoption and expansion of CTSA program successes. The report’s recommendations in this area, including the concept of a deliverable-directed Innovations Fund, offer many opportunities to extend the reach of the program.

The report appropriately emphasizes innovation in education and training of the translational workforce, community engagement in all phases of translation to ensure efficient and meaningful benefits to human health, and ensuring a focus on the particular needs of child health in the translational process. NCATS recognizes the importance of these key areas to the success of the CTSA program.

I thank the IOM for its careful, cogent and inspiring vision for the future of the CTSA program. As NCATS’ — and NIH’s — largest program, charged with solving some of the most critical barriers to translational progress, the CTSA program has a unique role and responsibility to the research enterprise, and to those who matter most: patients and the public we serve. Drawing upon the enormous wisdom and enthusiasm of all our stakeholders and using this report as a roadmap, together we will realize the transformative potential of the CTSA program for science and health.

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