One of the goals of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for the Advancement of Translational Sciences (NCATS) has been to facilitate the conversion of research output into clinical inputs (treatments, medicines, and other tools to help patients). Today it announced its first success in this area where drug development is concerned (H/T ScienceInsider).
The development comes through the center’s Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program. Resources in this program are to encourage collaborations between NIH researchers and outside researchers working on conditions that due to rarity or other circumstances don’t receive my attention through traditional drug development channels. The drug at the heart of today’s announcement addresses the underlying molecular mechanism of sickle cell disease. The company that collaborated with NCATS staff, AesRx, has been acquired by Baxter International. Before working with TRND resources, AesRx was having difficulty obtaining private investment in early-stage development.
This is, of course, not the only translational research program NCATS supports. It’s not even the first TRND program to be completed. But it does appear to be the first to lead to commercial acquisition. In an era where economic impacts of scientific research are given greater scrutiny (not necessarily with additional understanding), this is certainly a positive development. It’s also a validation of the need to look at all aspects of the research process to facilitate innovation. The ‘valley of death’ (the gap between initial development and commercialization) is not just a challenge in technology.