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AAMC Comments on NCATS Drug Repurposing Program

July 19, 2013—The AAMC July 18 submitted comments  to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) applauding the center’s new drug repurposing program and suggesting ways for evaluating the program’s potential impacts.

AAMC responded to a public request for information from NCATS on the research community’s experiences developing and applying for awards under the new program, which provides industry-developed compounds to academic and government laboratories.  These compounds, which already have been tested for safety and biological activity, have been abandoned from further research (at least temporarily) by those companies, primarily for business reasons.

In its comments, the AAMC noted that the association shares the community’s hope that academic researchers will discover new therapeutic uses for these compounds.  It also noted that the program could have other important impacts, including encouraging other firms to seek out academic collaborators directly to investigate other discarded or shelved compounds.  As with any research project, important contributions can arise even through negative results, and the AAMC urged NIH and NCATS to help broadly disseminate the findings from these research collaborations.

The AAMC recommended that diverse perspectives be included in review and evaluation of the drug repurposing program, including ways such investigation does or can better address health needs for all Americans, such as addressing disparities in treatment.

The AAMC further noted that collaborations established under the program create excellent opportunities for involvement and training of physician scientists, and may in fact motivate some physicians to engage more closely in research.  The letter observes, “Given the current attention of a new working group on the physician scientist workforce in the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director, NCATS should endeavor to track the involvement of trainees in these programs, especially physician scientists.”

On June 18, NCATS announced the first awards under the repurposing program, totaling nearly $12.7 to nine academic groups [see Washington Highlights, June 21].


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

Heather Pierce, JD, MPH
Sr. Director, Science Policy & Regulatory Counsel
Telephone: 202-478-9926


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