As noted yesterday, the SMRB met to consider whether to create a new IC to “establish new and innovative approaches to conducting research to advance the science of process engineering of the therapeutics development pipeline, in the context of strengthening and streamlining the process itself … and … to promote quick-win, fast-fail paradigms and further develop the pre-competitive space.”
Damn, I cannot wait to work on applications for research that fulfill these priorities … time to kick my creative writing skills up a notch.
This recap from Science reflects concerns raised about the concept and the rapid time frame involved, which does not permit stakeholders to think things through well:
Debate over the proposal flared at an NIH advisory board meeting this morning. Nearly 20 groups and investigators supported by the National Center for Research Resources, which would be partly absorbed by the new center, sent letters or gave testimony expressing concern that existing NCRR programs might be lost. “It’s a very large organization being done on a very fast time scale, and the community that will be affected needs more time to provide input,” said biochemist Mark Lively of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a member of NCRR’s advisory council, before the meeting. NCRR Director Barbara Alving urged the board instead to expand NCRR into the new translational center.
My thoughts exactly, Dr. Alving. Let’s just rename/rebrand/expand a perfectly functional NCRR … a well-functioning NCRR – I’ve always liked my dealings with NCRR and want to see them do well (big shout out of support for yinz from BICO) – but no:
Despite such concerns, the board voted 12-1 to create the new center. Only Jeremy Berg, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, voted no; he is “concerned that the implications for the rest of NIH hadn’t been adequately discussed,” he said afterward.
So, even with all the promised deliberations and assessments, does Collins just go ahead and combine NIAAA and NIDA (at the same speed with which this Center was created), since he cannot increase the total number of ICs, or will NCRR be cut into programmatic pieces to be dispersed (or discarded) like the victim of some hostile takeover? What I really, really don’t understand is Collins’ crowing comment:
Collins called the decision to go ahead “a momentous occasion” because the center is being created “on the basis of scientific arguments” and not politics, which has “rarely” happened at NIH.
Let’s see … the Center was created in no small part to house the Cures Acceleration Network, which was spontaneously generated by that outstanding scientist, Arlen Specter (who is now standing out of the Senate and unable to garner any support for this Center or the rest of the NIH). CAN as a vote-buying line item in health care reform. Nah, of course there were no politics involved here.
What happens next?
This week, Collins expects to send his recommendation for the new translational center to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who will forward it to legislators. Congress will have 180 days to object; otherwise, the new institute will move forward.
Poof – just like that. If only cures were so easy.
Update: FASEB has included this nice recap of what happens next in their latest update:
Immediately following the SMRB decision to recommend a reorganization (reprogramming), NIH likely notified Congress, starting the clock for the 15 day period before the Director can publically accept the SMRB recommendations. It also started the 180 day period that Congress has to object to the recommendation. Concurrently, NIH has begun to develop a more detailed draft implementation plan in consultation with NCRR Staff, NCRR grantees, and CTSA institutions. After the 15 day period, the NIH Director may issue a statement of acceptance of the recommendations. Assuming acceptance of the recommendations and the development of the more detailed draft plan, broader public input would then be sought. A “final” plan would be presented at the next SMRB meeting and submitted to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Secretary would then have 30 days to accept or reject the final plan. FASEB will continue to monitor this issue closely.