Introducing the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences: Improving Outcomes from the Same Inputs

The U.S. government has recognized that the process of translating scientific discoveries into new medical solutions is ripe for innovation, and acknowledged the need to enhance their commitment to this effort.
The recently created National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seeks to make the development of new, life-saving diagnostics and therapeutics more efficient, less expensive, and less risky.
Working across institute boundaries to gather existing translational initiatives into an integrated scientific enterprise, it will focus on studying the pathway to commercialization and highlighting bottlenecks in the drug development pipeline.

bridges, vol. 33, May 2012 / OpEds & Commentaries
By Margaret Anderson

Margaret AndersonMargaret AndersonStem cells. Genes linked to Alzheimer's, autism, or diabetes. Cancer drugs tailored to treat an individual tumor.
Every day we see stories in the media about the latest medical "breakthroughs" that could lead to cures for dreaded diseases. And yet, too often these breakthroughs are not translated into therapies that can improve health and save lives.

The fact is that many basic discoveries barely get to start the journey down the therapeutic development pipeline, often getting get stuck in translation because they lack the funding, incentives, and technical expertise to advance any further. Known by many as the "Valley of Death" this gap in resources and support for the kind of research that moves basic science down the path toward in-human clinical trials impedes medical progress.

Companies today are spending more than $1 billion, and an average of 15 years, on research and development for each new approved drug or biologic1 , yet 80 to 90 percent of research projects fail before they ever get to be tested in humans2 . And the number may be even higher: By industry's estimates, only 1 in 10,000 potential therapeutic compounds make it through the drug development pipeline to the marketplace3 .

Whether it be limited resources or restrictive policies that are stalling progress, patients are paying the price in life-or-death consequences.

Bridging the “Valley of Death” in drug development: The long way from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. (Source: Parkinson’s Action Network and FasterCures)Bridging the “Valley of Death” in drug development: The long way from the laboratory bench to the patient’s bedside. (Source: Parkinson’s Action Network and FasterCures)

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