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Washington Highlights

NCATS Advisory Council Meets

September 21, 2012—The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Sept. 14 held its inaugural meeting and moved directly to discussion of practical matters in considering concerns about the current funding environment and the challenges within which NCATS operates. 

Kathy Hudson, Ph.D., NIH deputy director for science, outreach, and policy, explained that the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), which was incorporated within the NCATS, has been granted “other transactions authority” similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and distinct from the usual grant and contract mechanisms. It is hoped this will enable the center to develop new collaborations with industry and research organizations, including academic medical centers, to innovate the development pipeline for new drugs and devices. 

Council members asked about the extent of interactions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is seen as a necessary collaborator in reforming the pipeline; FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg attended the meeting as an ex-officio member of the council and confirmed her agency’s commitment to NCATS’ mission. 

The council also considered the impact of statutory limitations on the scope of the CAN board, which prevents the agency from sponsoring investigation beyond Phase IIa tests of efficacy, and whether such limitation could hamper partnerships with industry.  Similarly, the council and board questioned the extent to which new financial conflict of interest also could be an impediment; NCATS Director-designate Christopher Austin, M.D., believes, like other NIH leaders, that transparent regulation of conflicts facilitate partnerships by getting issues “on the table” where they can be managed [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 14]. 

The council also received presentations from Gordon Bernard, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research, Vanderbilt University, and others on the Clinical and Translational Sciences Award program as a resource for NCATS. Speakers emphasized that NCATS will commit approximately $110 million in FY 2013 to fund up to 18 awards in response to recently released funding opportunity announcement. Applications are due Jan. 8, 2013. All next round applications, including those from institutions with current CTSA awards, will be considered as new applications.


Stephen Heinig
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0488

Irena Tartakovsky, M.D.
Director, Constituent Engagement
Telephone: 202-862-6134


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