NIH steps in to propel research projects into the clinic

One of the greatest frustrations in the R&D world these days has been the explosion of scientific knowledge about the molecular triggers to disease and the agonizingly slow process involved in taking those insights and translating them into a new generation of more effective therapies. So now the NIH is moving to set up a new research center that can act as a catalyst between the lab and the clinic, vaulting programs toward approval while setting up shop as a new deal-maker to the drug development industry.

In a major turning point, the Scientific Management Review board at the NIH voted to create the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The essential task of the new center, says NIH chief Francis Collins, will be to take scientific discoveries-which they typically finance-and push them along to the clinic. At that point, pharma and biotech companies can step in and license the therapies from the NIH.

The center's first task, says Collins, will be to create a new program that will give failed drugs a close second look to see which might have unrecognized potential. "If we get a hit," Collins tells the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog, "we can jump years and hundreds of millions of dollars ahead in developing new drugs."

"Basic science has exploded but it has not translated into benefit for the public," Arthur H. Rubenstein, chair of the Translational Medicine and Therapeutics Working Group set up by the NIH board, tells the Health Blog. "The question was what to do about it."

- here's the story from the Wall Street Journal