Barbara Alving, MD, will resign from NCRR, which she has led since 2005, as of October 1, 2011. Perhaps not wanting to have his hand slapped by Congress for acting as though NCRR’s dissolution were a done deal, Collins quickly appointed Louise Ramm to serve as Acting Director as of Oct 1 (she is currently deputy director and director of extramural activities).
Regardless of whether Congress includes NCATS or NCRR in the CR to start FY12, it will be a thankless mess to manage come October 1, so godspeed to Dr. Alving as she moves on to something that can only be more fulfilling and less frustrating … and best wishes for sanity and serenity (now) to Dr. Ramm. Indeed, as Jocelyn Kaiser summarizes in an interview with Alving,
The uncertainty has left in limbo NCRR’s staff members, who have been told they’ll move with their programs to other institutes but haven’t received individual assignments. Alving’s farewell note advises them to “keep calm and carry on.”
Alving’s advice applies both to NCRR staff and the extramural community as we try to sort through this hastily executed effort to recreate NCRR as a new Center rather than expand and rebrand one of the most effective components of the NIH.
CTSAs (current and wannabe), the centerpiece of translational research at the NIH, have been a bit unsettled ever since Collins started pushing for his center with such urgency and immediacy. First, the current directors were caught off guard by the December SMRB meeting at which NCATS was abruptly approved (though no word at that time regarding NCRR’s fate). In May, the NIH canceled the October receipt date for new applications, saying the new RFA would be released later in 2011 for a June 2012 receipt date. Then in July, they postponed the RFA release to June 2012 with a December 2012 receipt date. Somehow, this does not seem to be “advancing” translational science.
The question remains whether the FY12 CR will include budget authority for NCRR or NCATS. Congress has a few other things on its plate, and the relevant subcommittee meetings that would consider a special change in the CR language to accommodate NCATS have not been scheduled, to my knowledge. To date, no one in the legislative branch has been publicly enthusiastic about Collins’ proposed changes, which remain in limbo under a cloud of voiced concerns. Stay tuned.