New drug-discovery center lost in translation

When last we left NIH chief Francis Collins' ambitious plans to build a new center for translational medicine, the project seemed to be "moving at light-speed" by NIH standards, with an October launch date planned for the $720 million National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The center is designed to help take breakthroughs in the laboratory and translate them as quickly as possible into the clinic. Unfortunately, as Nature News reports, funding for the center appears to be lost in translation amid budget battles in a highly polarized Congress.

So, like many institutions, families and individuals in these uncertain times, the center is coming up with a "plan B" in case no funding goes through in time for the beginning of the fiscal year in October. They're planning for what is called an "anomaly," which apparently in political-speak is a stop-gap measure that would allow NCATS to launch on a reduced budget. Kathy Hudson, the NIH deputy director for science, outreach and policy, tells Nature News that the agency is "optimistic," even though the bar is set fairly high for an anomaly in a stop-gap funding bill.

In Congress, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), has questioned whether the center would place the government in a position of interfering with industry. Collins has responded that NCATS would "complement--not compete with" the private sector, Nature News reports. Rehberg has not responded to Nature News' multiple requests for comment over the past 12 weeks.

- read the story in Nature News