A year after advisers made the proposal and following months of controversy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has secured a new translational research center. The final step came just before Christmas when President Barack Obama signed a $1 trillion 2012 spending bill on 23 December that includes funding for NIH. The bill also launches the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)—backed by NIH Director Francis Collins—which will aim to push basic discoveries more quickly to the clinic by "reengineering" the drug development process.
The creation of NCATS roiled the biomedical research community partly because the reorganization dismantles the National Center for Research Resources, which had many staunch supporters. Some industry leaders were also concerned that NIH funding would tilt away from basic science toward drug development, which they say academic scientists are not suited to do. Many scientific leaders in industry still feel that way, says Roy Vagelos, a former CEO of Merck. "The generation of new knowledge is crucial" to drug discovery, Vagelos says. "If academia stops doing it, nobody will do it."
NIH's press release acknowledges this worry, vowing that the ratio of basic and applied research at NIH "will not be disturbed" by the creation of NCATS.