NCRR is Dead, Long Live NCATS … Oops

NCRR is not quite dead yet … but on Saturday, Collins jumped the gun in trumpeting this “signal moment for NIH”:

From: Exec Sec1 (NIH/OD)
Sent: Sat Dec 17 18:56:52 2011
Subject: Message from the NIH Director – Changes at NIH

To: All NIH Staff
From: Director, NIH
Date: December 17, 2011
Subject: Changes at NIH

The omnibus appropriations bill for FY2012 passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama today includes provisions that formally establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) as a new component of the NIH. This is an important step forward in our efforts to speed the delivery of new drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices to patients. It was just over a year ago that the Scientific Management Review Board recommended the establishment of this new component of NIH, and the achievement of this complex outcome in this time frame is a testimony to the remarkable diligence of many dedicated individuals, both within and outside of NIH, who have worked together to achieve this goal.

This is a signal moment for NIH. I want to take this opportunity to recognize the rich history of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) and pay tribute to the important contributions of its dedicated employees and grantees. Over more than two decades, NCRR has established and administered a remarkably diverse portfolio of research programs, most recently including the re-invention of our nation’s academic clinical research network in the form of the Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards (CTSAs). I am grateful to Acting Director Dr. Louise Ramm and all of the dedicated staff of NCRR, for their devotion to the cause of excellence in NIH research. Although NCRR is now disbanded, its scientific legacy will live on. As former NCRR employees and their programs transition into new homes within NCATS and other Institutes and Centers, please welcome them with open arms and embrace their wealth of expertise and experience.

Change is never easy; however, it often opens doors to unexpected opportunities for personal growth and scientific collaboration. So, even as we look back at the many accomplishments of NCRR, let us also look ahead to NCATS and realizing its vision of transforming translational research.

In this vein of change, I am pleased to designate Thomas Insel, M.D., as the Acting Director of NCATS and Kathy L. Hudson, Ph.D., as Acting Deputy Director of NCATS. Drs. Insel and Hudson will lead the many activities of bringing the Center into being and getting its programs underway, while we conduct a nationwide search for the first NCATS Director. Drs. Insel and Hudson have already been deeply involved in establishing the Center and are natural choices to implement our plans for NCATS. Both of them will continue to serve in their current roles, at NIMH and in the Director’s Office respectively, while serving in these Acting leadership positions.

I very much appreciate Tom’s and Kathy’s willingness to take on these exciting but challenging additional roles, and I know I can count on all of you to join me in giving them as much support as possible.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.


From: “Exec Sec1 (NIH/OD)” <>
Date: December 17, 2011 7:59:57 PM EST
Subject: Message from the NIH Director — Correction: Please disregard the previous message.
Reply-To: “Exec Sec1 (NIH/OD)” <>

To: All NIH Staff
From: Director, NIH
Date: December 17, 2011
Subject: Correction: Please disregard the previous message.

The President signed a Continuing Resolution until December 23, so nothing is finalized until we have a signed bill. We apologize for any confusion.

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

I hope he was not suggesting we disregard the polite praise for NCRR … which, according to the NIH Almanac, has been serving the biomedical research community quite well for closer to five decades (though only formally as NCRR since 1990).

The FY12 appropriations bill Conference Report includes its own assessment of the process by which NCRR was replaced by NCATS:

The conference agreement includes language to eliminate the NCRR and create the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

NCATS will study steps in the therapeutics development and implementation process, consult with experts in academia and the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to identify bottlenecks in the processes that are amenable to re-engineering, and develop new technologies and innovative methods for streamlining the processes. In order to evaluate these innovations and new approaches, NCATS will undertake targeted therapeutics development and implementation projects. In all of these efforts, the conferees expect that NCATS will complement, not compete with, the efforts of the private sector.

While the conferees welcome the creation of NCATS, they were disappointed by the way the administration requested it. The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 included a vague description of NCATS but did not formally request funding for the restructuring or provide any details about which components of NIH would be consolidated into the new Center. The failure to do so caused unnecessary uncertainty about the proposal and contributed to the impression that it was being rushed. The conferees are also aware of concerns that the NIH process for evaluating the merits of the NCATS reorganization did not comply with the NIH Reform Act of 2006 with respect to the role of the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB).

The decision to create NCATS might have been rushed?



  1. Adolf Huxley said

    Rushing?….NCATS being rushed?……… No way…

    That is the power of love,
    the Power of Politics
    the Power of One

  2. Adolf Huxley said


    Yeap, soon when the NIH Almanac gets updated we’ll read

    December 2011: After thoughtful consultation and participatory deliberation NCRR was disbanded in order to establish the NCATS, the Institute making possible the best research into the best treatments possible and access to best cures and care to all Americans regardless of economic power, gender, geography, religion, sexual orientation.

    Hopefully, history will tell that the pain, disregard and sweeping of efforts and accomplishments effected by disbanding the NCRR has been worthy.

  3. Michelle Hart said

    “Dr Insel a natural choice” for what Dr Collins?

    For a large scale repeat of the Nemeroff saga?.

  4. Frank Walter said

    I will not surrender and do not underestimate the potential power of one by one (i.e. one person after another) calling and/or faxing our political representatives today and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, to let them know how much I regret that they have surrendered the plea of so many voices in the scientific community to the will of a few very well-connected people, with vested interests in NCATS but little, if any, interest in science and the health and well-being of all Americans.

  5. Omnibus Appropriations 2012 said

    NAMI reported on Dec 20: “Congress gave final approval to a massive $1.2 trillion “omnibus” appropriations bill for the current federal fiscal year …….. The package has already been signed by President Obama….”,

    What’s next? Does anybody know?

  6. Spiny Norman said

    “The formation of NCATS has been a methodical process highlighted by the recommendation of the NIH Scientific Management Review Board in December 2010 to create a new center dedicated to advancing translational science. This recommendation was followed by a year of intensive feedback and expert insight from all sectors of translational science through advisory meetings and extensive public consultation.”

    That language really lays the foundation for many successful traversals of phase III over then next decade. Amiright?

  7. Treelife NIH said

    We all agree. Let’s lift our hearts to the Lord in thanks and praise.

  8. […] writedit, who appears to have seen an internal […]

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