While the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) has been official since last December, it has had only an Acting Director until now. On Friday National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins announced that Christopher Austin, who has drug discovery experience in the private sector and at NIH, will become Director of NCATS on September 23. Austin’s research background is in neuroscience, he has worked at Merck for several years, and has headed the NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the Center was launched last December.
Austin, Collins and the advisory board for NCATS are all committed to smoothing the passage of research findings from the bench to the clinic. It is, in my estimation, one of the legacies of the linear model (combined with an allergic reaction in some quarters to the appearance of government activity in the market), that efforts to make it easier to utilize or translate scientific and technical knowledge are met with persistent resistance. Some of our ‘valleys of death’ in getting things to market are ideological. Perhaps the limited resources of NCATS will be a blessing. With relatively less money at stake, the scrutiny won’t be as intense.