Collins on Slippery Slope to NCATS

To hear Collins and the White House talk about it, you would think NCATS was a done deal.

In fact, it has already committed $70M to a joint project with DARPA and the FDA to “develop cutting-edge technologies to predict drug safety” as mentioned in a White House news release associated with the signing of the America Invents Act:

NCATS aims to help biomedical entrepreneurs by identifying barriers to progress and providing science-based solutions to reduce costs and the time required to develop new drugs and diagnostics. For example, as one of its initial activities, NCATS will partner with DARPA to support development of a chip to screen for safe and effective drugs far more swiftly and efficiently than current methods.

It seems, based on the NIH news release, that things will happen quickly:

This fall, the two agencies, in coordination with FDA, will solicit proposals from industry, government labs, academic institutions, and other research organizations on how best to develop the chip, bringing together the latest advances in engineering, biology, and toxicology to bear on this complex problem.

Interesting order in the listing of anticipated applicants.

Fortunately, the job announcement soliciting applications for Director of NCATS includes such expertise as a prerequisite:

The Director, NCATS, will provide visionary leadership, executive management, and strategic direction for streamlining the process for therapeutics development. … The Director, NCATS, will identify ways to leverage existing NIH resources to speed the delivery of new, more effective medical products to patients.

Just 3 months ago, Collins was told by Congress not to search for a Director for a Center that had not yet been approved. NCATS does not appear in the CR, which mandates an across the board 1.409% cut to FY11 appropriation levels (through Nov 18th), and no other indication of likely approval has been issued from the House or Senate.

This is a neat trick for Collins to commit $70M in funds – likely from the Common Fund – to a project affiliated with a Center that does not exist. Review of applications for NCATS’s inaugural Director start December 2nd. At least s/he knows there will be a $70M project waiting to be supervised. Whether there will be a Congressionally approved Center outside the OD is another story.



  1. Grace Mackelly said

    Wow, this is incredible!. Collins, a wise and well-liked Director by both Republicans and Democrats Congressmen taking steps that ignore their concerns and suggestions ?. Inexplicable!. Wondering if he is BIPOLAR in an unusually long euphoria phase. He should ask Director Insel for recommendations as to whom could treat him. It seems that Bipolar Disorder is prevalent in intellectually gifted and highly educated people.

    • K Richard said

      Sure. The only thing that Insel can do is screw Collins more than what he’s already. In recent years there has been another Director who, for much less, left his position after being criticized for inappropriate involvement. It was the appropriate thing to do for him and for NIH. But Insel won’t leave. Insel is a different character and somebody heavily supported by big money and big politics. Not precisely the best money or best politics. He is only expected to makes Collins’s “bipolarity” worse other than screw the whole NIH. Only time will tell.

  2. Nev Telen said

    It appears that, in an effort to promote the still-proposed NCATS, Director Collins decided to latch onto an ongoing effort initiated by DARPA and FDA (based on a meeting held in June). One wonders what the additional $70 million (precious dollars in this climate) from NIH will do compared to what DARPA was already planning. This “drug toxicity chip” program does not appear to have been discussed as part of the Common Fund planning processes (at least those that have been publicly disclosed). The fact that this program can be planned and initiated without NCATS even existing seems to weaken the case for creating NCATS in the first place. Furthermore, as noted, this is another example of Collins’ apparent disdain for the role of Congress in approving the NIH reorganizations associated with the creation of NCATS.

  3. whimple said

    Toxicity isn’t generally the deal-killer it used to be either. Most drugs now fail for lack of efficacy, not toxicity.

  4. Robert Mitchum said

    It is never too late to correct euphoria-mediated propensity to offend. Collins should be helped in not going on this slippery slope pass over Congressmen suggestions. He ought to do some truly needed community service. And that service could be that he asks the appropriate authority to divert those 70 millions in modifying the paylines of those investigators who are missing funding opportunities in 2011 for their excellent proposals. That would be the right thing to do in this climate: to turn some Common Fund moneys to stop the exodus of great science.

    Collins Bipolar ???. Well, I guess that one option to consider is to place him on Risperdal. He will certainly loose his slender figure and, with his genetics, be turned into a diabetic man on a slippery slope to ruin his heart, kidneys, eyes etc. He’ll be joining the ever-growing number of citizens with that problem. After all, Collins is at the National Institutes of Health.

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