NCATS Innovation Continues Through Latest HHS Ignite Team Selections

NCATS has done it again! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Ignite Accelerator IDEA incubator program is supporting three NCATS teams to develop innovative ideas to translate research into better outcomes for people. Through Ignite, small teams receive access to a startup environment of design and entrepreneurship training and 3 months to develop and test their ideas with users. HHS’ recent Innovation Day on June 12 showcased Ignite Accelerator teams and highlighted HHS innovation practices.

photo of NCATS staff at HHS Innovation Day.

Christopher P. Austin, M.D., NCATS Director and Anne Pariser, M.D., NCATS ORDR Director, pose with the “No Disease Left Behind: Empowering Patients to Take Action” Ignite team at the HHS Innovation Day on June 12, 2019. Team members include Eric Sid, M.D., M.H.A., NCATS team lead; Christine Cutillo, MMCi, Health Science Policy Analyst; and Alice Chen, M.D., NCATS Medical Officer.

In the previous round of Accelerator, NCATS personnel began an business development program for NIH grantees and explored agile software industry methods to accelerate drug development for rare diseases. In the current round, the three NCATS teams are working to emphasize happiness as an essential component of health, establish a system to track and coordinate clinical and translational science best practices and optimize NCATS’ Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center.

Evidence shows that happiness can improve health and that the pursuit of happiness is declining in the United States. A team led by NCATS Division of Clinical Innovation (DCI) Program Director Olga Brazhnik, Ph.D., will foster research on interventions that empower people to choose happiness. The team will further investigate the link between health and happiness, identify simple lifestyle changes that increase happiness, and explore the motivating factors for individuals to make and maintain these changes in their lives. The team will identify federal and non-federal stakeholders that aspire to benefit from enhancing happiness and will propose a new NIH program accordingly.

Photo of NCATS researchers.

Olga Brazhnik, Ph.D. and Timothy Hsiao, Ph.D. lead NCATS teams to develop innovative ideas to translate research into better outcomes for people.

Currently, the decentralized nature of the U.S. clinical and translational science ecosystem presents a challenge for the federal government to track and coordinate the nation’s R&D capacity in response to public health crises whose solutions require timely and robust research. DCI Program Director H. Timothy Hsiao, Ph.D., and his team aim to improve the information management process by establishing a searchable, web-based knowledge integration system. This tool would enable the U.S. clinical and translational science enterprise to collaboratively and dynamically disseminate their solutions to translational research challenges.

The GARD program provides comprehensive information about rare and genetic diseases to patients, their families, health care providers, researchers and the public. A team led by NCATS Office of Rare Diseases Research Presidential Management Fellow Eric Sid, M.D., M.H.A., aims to modernize GARD’s workflows, database and website, using elements of human-centered design and lean process improvement. The team is working to improve access for patients and caregivers to accurate and plain-language information about rare and genetic diseases, as well as to resources and support services. Finally, the team plans to make its database available through an open application programming interface (API) to foster data sharing with public and private-sector scientists and to facilitate research on the collective impact of rare diseases.

“These awards exemplify NCATS’ strong focus on innovation and our key role as trans-HHS collaborators,” said NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D.

Read more about the eighth round of Ignite Accelerator teams.