In order to take advantage of the "recent deluge of discoveries about the molecular pathogenesis of disease," Francis Collins tells Nature News he supports the National Institutes of Health's Scientific Management Review Board proposal to create a National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. When it comes to advancing basic research discoveries to the clinic, Collins says he's "a guy in a hurry."
Collins says that even basic scientists "will be quite excited about the opportunity to be more connected with the clinical benefits of their own discoveries. ... I do think there is more here that is positive than is negative for a basic scientist, if people will step back from their anxieties about budgetary considerations."
But, Nature asks, if translating basic discoveries from bench to bedside "were easy," wouldn't drug companies be better off than they are now? Collins responds that while NIH's translational efforts "certainly will not be easy," the agency can plug certain therapeutic development holes left open by pharma, such as for rare and neglected diseases. "NIH-funded researchers can explore the earlier stages in the drug-development pipeline to 'de-risk' projects that would otherwise lie untouched," Collins says, adding that "for common diseases, many of the new molecular discoveries are of uncertain value for drug development, but NIH investigators can validate these drug targets and develop promising lead compounds."