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Austin at the Helm

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences has a new director in Christopher Austin, who has been leading the center's pre-clinical section since it launched last December. Austin will take over the top NCATS post later this month from Acting Director Thomas Insel. Austin, who has an medical degree from Harvard, joined the US National Institutes of Health in 2002 and worked on the agency's translational research efforts at the National Human Genome Research Institute as well as later helped launch its molecular libraries program. Before joining NIH, Austin worked at Merck, researching molecular targets and drugs using genomic tools, the Nature News Blog notes.

"Dr. Austin's accomplishments in virtually every stage of the translational science spectrum make him an ideal choice to continue building on NCATS' momentum and successes," NIH Director Francis Collins says in a statement. "From his clinical experience to his work in the public and private sectors, he is poised to lead the center in revolutionizing the science of transforming laboratory discoveries into new therapies for patients."

ScienceInsider adds that NIH may have "struggled to recruit an NCATS director from outside because an industry scientist who moved to NIH would likely have to take a steep salary cut and divest any drug company stock he or she owned. Other deterrents might have been NIH's bleak budget prospects and the upcoming presidential election, which could result in a change in NIH leadership."