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UPDATE: NIH Task Force Plots NCRR Breakup

The story has been updated to include additional comments.

By Matt Jones

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A National Center for Research Resources task force charged with moving programs that have been conducted by NCRR, has issued an early plan of where at the National Institutes of Health some of these programs will find homes under a planned reorganization.

NCRR is being disbanded to make way for the creation of the newly-proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), and NIH is now drafting its plans to break up NCRR to create NCATS, which will develop infrastructure for translational medicine, support development of new diagnostics and therapeutics, and serve as a catalyst and resource for collaborations between academia and the private sector, as GenomeWeb Daily News reported in December.

Under the straw model that the task force has developed, several programs that support genomics and proteomics technologies, including the Shared Instrumentation Grants and High-End Instrumentation grants, the beam line and mass spectrometry P41 grants, and the Biomedical Research Technology Centers (BRTCs), will be transferred to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. NIGMS also will take over the non-primate organism programs, under the plan.

The new arrangement will move the Clinical and Translational Research Awards program to the NCATS institute, and the Imaging P41 grants program will be shifted to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

The NCRR Task Force has not yet found a permanent home for several programs, and will place several in an Interim Infrastructure Unit, including: the Extramural Construction grants; National Primate Research Centers; the Institutional Development Awards program; the Science Education Partnership Awards; and three primate research and resource centers, according to the model. NCRR’s Office of the Director has not yet been reassigned.

“The Task Force efforts have been heavily informed by input from NCRR staff members who are most knowledgeable about each program,” explained task force co-chair and NIH principal deputy director Lawrence Tabak in a post outlining the changes on NIH’s website.

“These meetings helped us to understand more clearly the functions of the NCRR programs, how they work with each other, and how they work with other programs across the NIH,” he added.

NIH currently is taking comments on the overall NCATS institute plan and on the straw model, and Tabak suggested that the plans are far from set in stone.

Tabak said that the straw model is “designed to be poked at” and that “we expect it to be critically evaluated by all of our stakeholders, including NCRR and other NIH staff, members of the extramural community, and the public.”

“This is a vital step to ensure that we realign these programs appropriately so that they may continue to meet their broad potential and advance the mission of the NIH,” Tabak added.

“Let me be clear that there is no intention to discontinue any of the remaining NCRR programs because of these changes,” Tabak explained during an NIH conference call Wednesday that focused on the straw draft and the NCAST plan.

“The state of clinical and translational science is driving this organizational change. Rapid progress in scientific research and the increased availability of innovative technologies have generated an unprecedented potential of advancing the translation of basic discoveries into therapeutics,” Tabak noted during the call.

“At the same time the process of drug discovery remains a challenging and risk-laden endeavor. So these opportunities and challenges have prompted NIH to propose the formation of a new center focused on the development and delivery of new and more effective therapeutics,” Tabak added, describing NIH’s motivation for starting the new center.

He said that the center “is envisioned to be a tremendous resource for the entire translational research community.”

The National Advisory Research Resources Council is scheduled to meet on January 25 to discuss NIH’s plans for NCATS and NCRR.

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