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SMRB Recommends New Translational Research Center, Clinical Center Changes

Legislative Update
December 8, 2010

Dr. Collins speaks to the SMRB
Dr. Collins speaks to the SMRB
At its December 7 meeting, the NIH Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) approved a recommendation to Dr. Collins that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) create a new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The recommendation was developed by the SMRBís Translational Medicine and Therapeutics (TMAT) Working Group in response to a request by Dr. Collins at the SMRBís May 2010 that it fast-track a set of recommendations regarding a comprehensive NIH translational research strategy.

The recommendation endorsed and supported an NIH commitment to develop through a transparent process a detailed analysis of the impact of a new Translational Research Center on current Institute/Center (I/C) programs, especially those funded through the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). Dr. Collins agreed that NIH would develop such a plan within the next three months, which would include an opportunity for NCRR stakeholders to comment, beyond those who testified at the December 7 meeting. The NIH has already posted on its Web site an opportunity to comment on the SMRBís recommendation.

The NIH Reform Act of 2006, which established the SMRB as an entity to develop recommendations on NIH structure and management, also details a process by which Dr. Collins must inform Congress about any potential changes. This process requires a full analysis by NIH of the programmatic and funding issues associated with any structural change. NIH proposes to present its plan to the SMRB for review at its March 2011 meeting.

NAEVR provided public testimony at the meeting, urging that any centralized Center not stifle creative approaches to translational research, such as that which the National Eye Institute (NEI) has already done through its partnerships within other I/Cs, sister Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) agencies, with other government agencies, and with private research funding sources.

ďThis is a momentous occasion,Ē said NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. in reacting to the SMRBís actions. ďThe creation of a new Center does not happen very often. Most have arisen from political or disease need and not as a result of scientific arguments. The SMRB has taken a bold step through this disruptive innovation.Ē

The SMRB also approved recommendations developed by its NIH Intramural Program (IRP) Working Group that the NIH Clinical Center should be funded through a dedicated line item in the NIH Directorís budget, that its governance structure be streamlined, and that resources should be optimally managed to enable both internal and external investigator use. The IRP Working Group considered these changes in conjunction with the TMAT Working Groupís recommendations regarding translational research.