Translation of recent biological discoveries into clinical applications has been plagued by "long timelines, steep costs, and high failure rates," writes National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins in a commentary in Science Translational Medicine. That's, he says, where the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences would come in, to "offer researchers unparalleled opportunities for intense focus on the reengineering of the translational process, from initial target identification to first-in-human application of small molecules, biologics, diagnostics, and devices." Collins compares the creation of NCATS to the launching of the Human Genome Project, saying that a focus on translational science will enable the field to mature and develop comprehensive strategies, just as the Human Genome Project allowed the field of genomics to do.
NCATS has been beset by concerns. Researchers and policy-makers have criticized the shifting of NIH programs and elimination of the National Center for Research Resources to make way for NCATS as well as questioned the ability of NIH to do translational work. Collins says that NIH investigators have the expertise to do translation science as they have long been involved in clinical trials and beyond. "Opportunities to advance the discipline of translational science have never been better," Collins adds in his commentary.