As I noted last spring, NIH Stimulus Patron Arlen Specter introduced the concept of the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) as part of the NIH Reauthorization Bill of 2009. Last year, this intiative was to be housed outside the NIH (and DHHS), governed by Presidential appointees, and launched at an initial budget of $1B per program area to pay out $15M grant awards.
Nature Medicine now reports on Specter’s slipping the CAN into health care reform legislation with a $500M price tag (but no appropriated funds) and operating within the NIH. Some of the details are the same otherwise.
The network would be overseen by the NIH director, with advice from a board of 24 experts drawn from academia, venture capital firms, government agencies and disease advocacy groups. It would disburse individual grants of up to $15 million per year to speed potential therapies from bench to bedside. Awardees with access to private funds would be required to match every three government dollars with one private dollar. Key to CAN’s functioning would be early and close coordination with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that a drug’s development meets regulatory requirements.
Still no word on who appoints the 24-member expert board … and no guarantee that Congress will up the NIH appropriation by $500M to absorb CAN. And, of course, no guarantee that Specter’s amendment will survive the conference committee process in its current form (though this initiative would be popular and his now Democratic vote is critical) … or that the legislation itself will survive in any form.