Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Life Science Leadership: A Series of Interviews with Speakers at the CED Life Science Conference 2014

Life Science Leadership is a CED interview series that provides insight into the ideas that will be discussed during the CED Life Science Conference 2014, and sheds light on an individual speaker’s perception of the sweeping changes affecting the health care industry.

This interview:  Christopher P. Austin, M.D., National Institutes of Health (NIH), The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Director.

NCATS is the newest of 27 Institutes and Centers (ICs) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This Center was established in December 2011 to transform the translational science process so that new treatments and cures for disease can be delivered to patients faster. 

CED: What is NCATS’ role in the translational science* ecosystem?

Austin: Many scientific and operational challenges limit efficient creation and implementation of interventions that improve human health. NCATS was created to transform the translational process in all its stages. NCATS develops, demonstrates and disseminates new technologies and models that will get new treatments and diagnostics to more people more quickly. Translation is a team sport, so all our work is conducted collaboratively with partners and stakeholders in the public, private, government and non-profit sectors. Among our priorities are development of data and models that can more accurately predict drug efficacy and toxicology, new drug repurposing paradigms, providing starting points for exploring novel targets for currently untreatable diseases, building systematic resources for defining clinical diagnostic and endpoint criteria, and improving the processes of clinical trial recruitment and execution.

How will NCATS’ Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program engage patient groups and community organizations in all phases of research in the future?

Austin: NCATS is committed to broad engagement of all stakeholders including scientists, practitioners, patient organizations and community groups in all
phases of the translational research process. Many of the institutions supported by the CTSA program already have begun to develop novel methods and best practices for engaging patient groups and community organizations. The IOM report on the CTSA program includes a recommendation to expand patient and community engagement to include all phases of translation; a working group of the NCATS Advisory Council has been established to provide guidance on all the report recommendations.

CED: The NCATS Office of Strategic Alliances (OSA) aims to make it easy for industry and academia to interact and partner with NCATS laboratories and scientists. Can you share a success story that reflects your commercial partnering mission?

Austin: The NCATS OSA has established agreements with more than 250 collaborators. OSA staff members have developed innovative template agreements that help reduce costs in establishing translation collaborations. Success stories include
The Learning Collaborative and Niemann-Pick Type C projects in NCATS’ Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program. The Nieman-Pick Type C project received an Excellence in Technology Transfer Award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer. 

*Editor’s note: Translational Science refers to cross disciplinary scientific research motivated by the need for practical applications that help people, moving research from bench to bedside to community. 

A downloadable PDF of this interview can be found here

Read more interviews and register for North Carolina’s leading life science conference on the future of healthcare, brought to you by CED, NCBIO, and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, at

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