The NIDA/NIAAA merger and the newly proposed NIH Center for Translational Research.

Dec 09 2010 Published by under NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics

The SMRB of the NIH has apparently recommended (ScienceInsider) the creation of a new Center (approximately the same status as an Institute) for translational medicine and therapeutics. Now if you've been paying attention, you will notice that there has been a great deal of trans-IC pressure for both translational research and the creation of new therapies that can be applied to humans over the past several years. So personally I'm not seeing where there is an argument for a new Center.

Now one caveat is that the solution may be that the current National Center for Research Resources is either closed or becomes rebadged and reconfigured for this purpose.

But this may not happen. The way I understand it, the authorizing legislation for the NIH currently caps the number of ICs at 27. And this casts a whooooooole new light on the NIAAA/NIDA merger which is steaming ahead.

It puts paid to the argument that having 27 ICs is too many, is too inefficient or any of that nonsense. It casts severe doubt on the idea that NIDA/NIAAA is a test case for subsequent additional mergers of other ICs.

Instead it makes it look very much as if NIAAA is being subsumed into NIDA simply to make statutory way for the creation of this new translational medicine Center.

And that is a whoooole 'nother ballgame. Because the discussion now should be "Is NIAAA worth losing in favor of the new Center?".

To remind my readers, my approval of the NIDA/NIAAA merger is based on the stipulation that merging ICs is a good idea, will lead to efficiencies, etc. And that there is a general will to further scale back the number of ICs. Given this motivation the NIDA/NIAAA merger is about as obvious as can be. If those goals are not a given, then I'm in a very different stance about this current merger.

And I really, really do not like disingenuous bait-and-switch arguments. This is starting to smell like one.

11 responses so far

  • becca says:

    Headline: NIH says translation research more important than research on alcoholism
    DM says: I smell a rat

    kel surprise

  • there has been a great deal of trans-IC pressure for both translational research and the creation of new therapies that can be applied to humans over the past several years. So personally I’m not seeing where there is an argument for a new Center.

    This was my thinking too, when I first heard about the proposal. I'm confused as to why there needs to be a translational med division if most other ICs are already pushing TM research--unless other ICs are going to shift focus back, which I don't see happening.

    And a random q: Is there some concern that Congress might cut back funding if there are fewer ICs?

  • drugmonkey says:

    I doubt that, bb. I mean, not gated on the fewer-ICs argument that is. There are always worries about Congress cutting back and even that they do not favor certain domains of research- but that's going to be there no matter how many ICs exist.

    If anything this is a bid to make Congress happier. The basic research argument is hard to make to the taxpayer's representatives. The more prominent you make terms like "medicine" and "therapeutics" the better things look when going to Congress with hat in hand. It makes NIH look like they are doing something. in a more readily discernable way than the present effort to drive each IC in a more translational/clinical/applied direction...

  • As a basic science research all I can say is FUCK!

  • tideliar says:

    Doesn't NCRR fund a lot of translational med anyway? Why not distirbute the PAs and RFAs between NCRR, NIGMS etc.?

    I mean if I'm doing kidney CTS, then i could/should apply to NIDDK as well as NCRR depending on the specifics in the RFA right?

  • gerty-z says:

    I get that selling basic science to taxpayers can be hard. But I think it is unfortunate that the NIH has decided to focus on translational research. In this short term this may help fill up the pipeline for big pharma (is that really the job of NIH?), but in the long run the pipeline depends on basic science. I think this is shortsighted, but of course I am a basic scientist (COI).

  • drugmonkey says:

    I actually happen to agree that the arrogance of basic science needed some reigning in when it came to NIH funding. Balance in all things and I'm not saying the heavy handed TranZlaTE EveryTHinGZ approach of recent years is good either. But when you have people funded by the National Institutes of *Health* not only refusing to make any stab at all toward health application but actively sneering down their noses at those who do, well, time for some re-balancing of accounts. IMO.

  • Jeremy Berg says:

    As a member of the SMRB, I can assure you that the discussion and decision about the NIDA-NIAAA merger/substance use, abuse, and addition institute creation was not in any way related to the recent developments with regard to the translational science center.

    I am on record (http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/12/nih-to-create-translational-science.html?ref=ra and http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101208/full/news.2010.650.html ) regarding my opinion of whether the decision regarding the translational center was ready for prime time. The primary function for the new translational center is to serve as a home for the Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network, the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases, and related programs directed toward the development of small molecule therapeutics adjacent to the CTSA program.

  • stan says:

    As a taxpayer who has a lethal disease with no treatment or cure, all I can say is YEAH!

    Go split atoms or find planets if you don't care about helping the millions who are sick and suffering.

  • Gerty-Z says:

    Maybe I am just naive, but I have never seen a basic scientist that couldn't make a stab at the *Health*. I admit that I do not have a really comprehensive samples. But you have to admit that some really important health-related discoveries would have been delayed quite a bit if pure basic sciences were not funded (high-profile example: telomerase)

  • drugmonkey says:

    Gerty-Z, of *course* they can make a stab at the Health part. There are some, however, that choose not to. even if they *do* know to say the right things in their grant applications they still project an aura of snotty superiority over the purity of the basic research approach. Naturally this bleeds over into what they choose to pursue scientifically. What they choose to view as being worth of GlamourMag publication. Which has an effect on what the next generations choose to work on. Which.....

    anyway, this is why I think it is okay to rein that in a bit and re-emphasize that the NIH is in the public health business.

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