The NIH Almanac
NCATS' mission is to catalyze the generation of innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions. NCATS strives to support research to reduce, remove or bypass costly and time-consuming bottlenecks in the therapeutic development pipeline.
By improving this process, NCATS aims to make translational science more efficient, less expensive and less risky. In this way, NCATS is complementing — not competing with — the work of the private sector or other NIH Institutes and Centers.
Important Events in NCATS History
December 2011—NCATS is established on December 23, 2011.
March 2012—NCATS teamed up with pharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company to explore new and different uses for existing medicines. View Image.
April 2012—NCATS and Eli Lilly and Company jointly released an online Assay Guidance Manual designed to provide researchers with step-by-step guidance through the complex process of turning a basic research finding into an assay that will start the process of discovering pharmacological tools and drugs.
May 2012—The Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules (Therapeutics Discovery) program was launched to develop partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and the biomedical research community to advance therapeutic development. View Image.
July 2012—A research collaboration including scientists from NCATS and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, helped identify three promising molecular compounds from a collection of approved drugs to pursue as potential treatments for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a genetic neurological disease for which there are no current treatments.
July 2012—NCATS solicited applications for institutional Clinical and Translational Science Awards. In fiscal year 2013, NCATS expects to provide approximately $110 million to fund up to 18 awards in response to the U54 solicitation.
July 2012—NIH awarded 17 grants for projects designed to create 3-D chips with living cells and tissues that accurately model the structure and function of human organs, such as the lung, liver and heart. These awards are funded and administered by NCATS. In September 2012, NIH awarded two additional tissue chip grants, administered by NCATS, but funded by other NIH Institutes and Centers. View Image.
August 2012—A team that includes nine NCATS researchers has identified compounds that delay tumor formation in mice. The compounds target a specific form of pyruvate kinase, called PKM2, which governs how cancer cells use glucose.
August 2012—A collaborative research team, including nine experts from NCATS, was honored on August 30, 2012, for its work on an investigational treatment for Niemann-Pick disease type C (NPC), a rare genetic disease of cholesterol storage that eventually leads to neurodegeneration. View Image.
August 2012—NCATS announced the members of its inaugural Advisory Council and Cures Acceleration Network Review Board.
September 2012—NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the appointment of Christopher P. Austin, M.D., as director of NCATS. View Image.
October 2012—Researchers from NCATS designed a novel drug discovery method that uses two co-expressed reporter genes rather than one to increase the odds of identifying candidate compounds with true activity against biological or disease targets.
November 2012—Researchers from 13 universities and hospitals, including 10 CTSA institutions, partnered with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the drug manufacturer Vertex Pharmaceuticals to conduct clinical trials and obtain FDA approval for the drug Kalydeco as a new treatment. View Image.
December 2012—The NIH Bridging Interventional Development Gaps (BrIDGs) program administered by NCATS announced new projects to develop potential treatments for cancers, spinal cord injury and a rare disease. View Image.
NCATS Legislative Chronology
December 23, 2011—President Obama signed into law P.L. 112-74, the Fiscal Year 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act, enabling the NIH to establish NCATS.
Biographical Sketch of NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin, M.D.
On September 14, 2012, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced the appointment of Christopher P. Austin, M.D., as director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Austin succeeded former acting director of NCATS and current director of the National Institute of Mental Health Thomas R. Insel, M.D., on September 23, 2012.
Austin served as director of the NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the creation of the Center in December 2011. He is leading NCATS in its mission by applying his experience in nearly every stage of the research pipeline to build on the Center’s momentum in finding innovative ways to revolutionize the process of translation through innovative research and collaborations.
Austin came to NIH in 2002 from Merck, where his work focused on genome-based discovery of novel targets and drugs. He began his NIH career as the senior advisor to the director for translational research at the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he initiated the Knockout Mouse Project and the Molecular Libraries Roadmap Initiative. Other NIH roles have included serving as director of the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program as well as the NIH Chemical Genomics Center and as scientific director of the NIH Center for Translational Therapeutics.
Austin earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and an undergraduate degree in biology from Princeton University. He completed clinical training in internal medicine and neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a fellowship in genetics at Harvard.
|Name||In Office from||To|
|Thomas R. Insel, M.D. (Acting)||December 23, 2011||September 22, 2012|
|Christopher P. Austin, M.D.||September 23, 2012||Present|
NCATS unifies programs in three areas:
- Clinical and Translational Science Activities
- The Clinical and Translational Science Awards program supports a national consortium of medical research institutions that are transforming the way biomedical research is conducted. CTSAs strengthen and support the entire spectrum of translational research by developing and providing the expertise, tools, training and collaborations to conduct and drive improvements in human subjects research.
- Rare Diseases Research and Therapeutics
- The Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program aims to encourage and speed the development of new drugs for rare and neglected diseases. TRND stimulates drug discovery and development research collaborations among NIH and academic scientists, nonprofit organizations, and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies working on rare and neglected illnesses. In addition to developing new candidate drugs for rare and neglected diseases, the TRND program is designed to advance the entire field of drug development by encouraging scientific and technological innovations aimed at improving success rates in the crucial preclinical stage of development.
- The Bridging Interventional Development Gaps program —is supported by the NIH Common Fund — makes available, on a competitive basis, certain critical resources needed for the development of new therapeutic agents. Investigators do not receive grant funds through this program. Instead, successful applicants receive free access to NIH contractors who conduct preclinical services, such as toxicology studies, for therapeutic projects that have demonstrated efficacy in a disease model.
- The Office of Rare Diseases Researchsupports and coordinates rare disease research, responds to research opportunities for rare diseases and provides information on rare diseases. ORDR serves the needs of patients who have any one of the thousands of rare diseases known today.
- Re-engineering Translational Sciences
- Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules (Therapeutics Discovery) is a collaborative pilot program designed to develop partnerships between pharmaceutical companies and the biomedical research community to advance therapeutic development. This innovative program matches researchers with a selection of molecular compounds from industry to test ideas for new therapeutic uses, with the ultimate goal of identifying promising new treatments for patients.
- The Tissue Chips for Drug Screening initiative aims to develop 3-D human tissue chips that accurately model the structure and function of human organs, such as the lung, liver and heart. Once developed, researchers can use these models to predict whether a candidate drug, vaccine or biologic agent is safe or toxic in humans in a faster and more cost-effective way than current methods.
- The NIH Chemical Genomics Center aims to translate the discoveries of the Human Genome Project into biological and disease insights and ultimately new therapeutics for human disease through small molecule assay development, high-throughput screening, cheminformatics and chemistry. The NCGC provides researchers with access to the large-scale screening and chemistry capacity necessary to identify compounds that can be used as chemical probes to validate new therapeutic targets.
- The Toxicology in the 21st Century program, a federal collaboration involving the NIH, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration, is aimed at developing better toxicity assessment methods. The goal is to quickly and efficiently test whether certain chemical compounds have the potential to disrupt processes in the human body that may lead to adverse health effects.
NCATS’ Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) enables overarching and flexible support for a variety of initiatives and is designed to address scientific and technical challenges that impede transitional research.