Alving Departs NCRR … NCRR to Depart NIH?

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.

6 Comments »

  1. Jeremy Berg said

    Barbara Alving has demonstrated tremendous strength and professionalism throughout the activities related to the abolishment of NCRR (despite the fact that this “did not happen optimally” as she put it in her interview in Science). She has helped keep the NCRR staff focused and, by and large, intact throughout this whole process. Louise Ramm is the optimal choice as Acting Director. She knows NCRR and its programs inside and out and is a highly effective person.

  2. BikeMonkey said

    Sorry to threadjack but do you have any comment on the other big news of the week, namely the disparity in R01 funding between white and black PIs, Dr. Berg?

  3. Autumn Taylor said

    check out the new job recruitment for an NCATS Director at http://www.jobs.nih.gov/vacancies/executive/ncatsdir.htm

    • writedit said

      Interesting … especially since Collins had his hand slapped for suggesting he would start searching for the new director of a Center not yet approved by Congress. Of course, they get around that a bit by indicating applications won’t start being reviewed until December … though one wonders if Collins will know the status of NCATS by December given that Congress will barely get a CR on the books by Oct 1 (proposed 1.5% cut across the board) and is not worrying about special amendments to accommodate the addition of one center and the elimination of another.

      • Autumn Taylor said

        from “The Hill” by Debbie Siegelbaum – excerpt:
        “…According to Furman (Jason Furman, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council), Obama will also announce Friday the launch of a new National Institute of Health center that will “help companies reduce the time and costs required to develop life-saving drugs, making it easier for start-ups to commercialize the biomedical inventions made by NIH and [Food and Drug Administration] researchers.”

      • Daniel said

        Interesting?. Yes indeed. Because Collins, so far, has been not only excellent listener to Congress but also a great communicator and/or mediator in Congress’s planning . It smells as if he’s been pushed to the limits of putting aside Congressmen expressions and concerns. Who knows what’s really going on!.

        Hopefully, constituents continue to communicate with their Congress Representatives and the best and most needed decision will prevail.

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