NIH to create major new center to speed drug development

With the enthusiastic backing of NIH director Francis Collins (photo), the world's single largest financial support of therapeutic research is throwing a chunk of its multibillion-dollar budget behind a new center designed to speed drugs from the lab to the marketplace. And Collins says that the new center for translational medicine could get funded in the 2012 fiscal year, with money available in the fall of 2011.

Described by some as one of the most significant development in the history of the NIH, Collins himself termed the vote to create the center "a momentous occasion." And he had some ardent fans urging him on.

"This can offer the beginning of a brand that can lure the best and the brightest into training," said Garret FitzGerald, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania. "Because the absence of those people has come at an immense price."

The new center will face a huge challenge. Something like 95 percent of all experimental therapies fail in the clinic. And an avalanche of molecular data has failed to deliver a new generation of more personalized therapies--yet. Changing the odds for any experimental therapy could prove a daunting task.

"Basic science has exploded but it has not translated into benefit for the public," Arthur Rubenstein, dean of the UPenn medical school and chair of the Translational Medicine and Therapeutics Working Group set up by the NIH board, tells the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog.

- here's the report from the Health Blog
- see the story from Nature