Sunday, January 23, 2011

More on NIH Institutes Restructuring

While a number of earlier postings on this site have focused on the proposed restructuring of NIDA and NIAAA into a single addiction Institute, NIH, upon recommendation in early December by the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB), is planning other restructuring efforts that may result in contraction and/or elimination of existing Institutes, and the rapid birth of a new one.

The proposed new Institute is to be called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and the rationale for its formation, its organization, and its goals are described on the NCATS FAQ site.

An FAQ site also exists describing the rationale for and organization of the proposed NIDA-NIAAA restructuring.

Nature News, reporting on the SMRB recommendation to form NCATS, included a Q & A with NIH Director Collins on why the new Institute is necessary.

An article in today’s New York Times (NYT) reports that the new Institute was designed to address a growing problem: despite spending more and more to develop and especially to market drugs, the pharmaceutical industry actually is producing fewer new drugs.  This is especially true for therapeutic areas relevant to NIDA and NIAAA researchers.

According to the NYT article, an aim of the new Institute will be to catalyze development of new drugs to the point that they will be embraced and developed by pharmaceutical companies.  Budgets and projects currently based at other NIH Institutes will be shifted to the new Institute and additional funding from Congress will be sought, possibly by “cannibaliz[ing] other parts of the health institutes to bring more resources to the new center.”

By law (National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006, H.R.6164), only 27 NIH Institutes may exist at any given time, so to create a new Institute by October 2011 which is the stated goal, NIH must eliminate one Institute.  The proposed NIDA-NIAAA structural merger into a single Institute may fulfill the requirement but other Institute changes are being considered, including downgrading the status of the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR).

ScienceInsider reports that this proposal is creating a lot of “anxiety” in the biomedical research community.

Interestingly enough, as of today, the proposed NCRR program restructuring has generated many more comments on the NIH feedback website (>1200) than the number of comments posted regarding the proposed NIDA-NIAAA structural merger (<40) over the same time frame, although that may be due to the fact that the NIDA-NIAAA merger was recommended several months before the NIH feedback site was available.

Times seem to be a-changing at NIH.  We can only hope that what materializes at NIH will improve researchers’ abilities to discover and develop new treatments for addiction and other health disorders.

CPDDBLOG welcomes CPDD member’s thoughts on this issue.

1 comment:

  1. In follow up to the New York Times article cited in this posting, NIH has issued a statement entitled "Separating Fact & Fiction: News about the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences" which addresses some of the points made in the New York Times article that NIH considers "misleading". The statement can be found at:


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