Proposed NIH Reorganization and NIGMS

NCRR task force recommendations.I have previously noted that NIH has proposed creating a new entity, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), to house a number of existing programs relating to the discipline of translational science and the development of novel therapeutics. Plans for NCATS have been coupled to a proposal to dismantle the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), in part because the largest program within NCRR, the Clinical and Translational Science Awards, would be transferred to NCATS and in part because of a statutory limitation on the number of institutes and centers at NIH.

NIH leadership established a task force to determine the placement of NCRR programs within NIH. This group initially developed a “straw model” for discussion and more recently submitted its recommendations to the NIH Director. The recommendations include transferring the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program and some Biomedical Technology Research Centers and other technology research and development grants to NIGMS at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2012.

As you may be aware, I have expressed concerns about the processes associated with the proposal to abolish NCRR. I hope it is clear that my concerns relate to the processes and not to the NCRR programs, which I hold in very high regard. This opinion is also clearly shared by many others in the scientific community, based on comments on the Feedback NIH site and in other venues.

While there are several additional steps that would need to occur before organizational changes could take place, we at NIGMS are already deepening our understanding of the NCRR programs through meetings with NCRR staff and others directly familiar with the programs. We welcome your input, as well, particularly if you have experience with these NCRR programs. Please comment here or contact me directly.

8 comments on “Proposed NIH Reorganization and NIGMS

  1. Change will be difficult for those researchers who long have benefited from an established system. However the very best, most fearless and most competitive scientists will be successful under the proposed system as well. The new NCATS is a step on the right track toward an integrative model of biomedical research that is aligned with the most innovative scientific practices for the early 21st century. NCATS is especially timely now that the pharmaceutical industry is downsizing and essentially bailing out of neuropharm altogether. As long as the top NCRR programs that are meeting their goals are retained somewhere, I am not concerned about the dissolution of NCRR. go NCATS!

  2. I am Carolyn Hovde Bohach, Professor and Director of the Idaho INBRE Program, posting my perspective. The IDeA INBRE and COBRE competitive awards have brought more than $80 million to Idaho over the past 10 years. That is no small potatoes for Idaho. INBRE established an UNPRECEDENTED NETWORK linking scientists, faculty, students and staff among 10 institutions of higher education and across huge geographic distances (>83,000 square miles). Together with the COBREs we foster junior faculty development as they become independent investigators. I support the plan for the CTSAs to go to NCATS, but I am worried about the future of the IDeA Programs.

    The problem is: where will the IDeA Programs be housed at NIH once their current NCRR home is dissolved? The NCRR Task Force recommends placement of the IDeA program in the NIGMS (National Institute of General Medical Sciences). I believe it is crucial that the IDeA Programs not be moved to NIGMS but rather go to a more non categorical Institute with an aligned vision to protect the IDeA Programs that are so important to Idaho and the other IDeA states. The IDeA Programs include diverse sciences and rudimentary development activities that do not fit well under NIGMS because they will be lost and negatively transformed in this huge Institute.

    I believe the solution is to move the IDeA Programs to the NIMHD (National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities) especially since the mission of this Institute will likely expand to include GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITIES that well describe Idaho and most if not all the IDeA states. In fact, the NIMHD mission aligns well with the accomplishments of the IDeA programs. I also understand that Dr. John Ruffin, Director of NIMHD is very enthusiastic about this proposal and would welcome the IDeA Programs and its officers and staff to NIMHD. It is critical that the NIH Program Officers and grants management staff accompany the Program. Specifically, this includes the visionaries that formulated the IDeA Program and currently administer it: Dr. Sidney A. McNairy, Dr. W. Fred Taylor, Dr. Krishan K. Arora, and Dr. Michael H. Sayre.

    • Your proposed solution on moving IDeA to NIMHD instead of NIMGS is very sound. Particularly, in terms of potentiating critical aspects of a common mission (IDeA and NIMHD). I also see the high risk with NIMGS since”The IDeA Programs include diverse sciences and rudimentary development activities that do not fit well under NIGMS because they will be lost and negatively transformed in this huge Institute”.
      On the other hand, the “immersion” of the IDeA Programs “with diverse sciences and rudimentary development activities” could benefit enormously on the breadth and strengths of NIMGS and drive IDeA forward very effectively. But the latter would require an explicit NIMGS institutional commitment to favor it. And unfortunately we don’t even have a Director now. So, I see the risk much bigger than the benefit and would place it, as you said, at NIMHD with the conditions and people you proposed.

  3. I am the recent recipient of an IDeA COBRE award. This award has virtually saved our institute and put us in a strong position to develop independence. I am glad the IDeA program found a home in a permanent institute.

    I would request that the NIGMS strongly consider absorbing the appropriate NCRR staff to manage the IDeA programs. Our own Program Officer, Dr. Yangping Liu, was extremely knowledgeable and helpful with this program, and Dr. Fred Taylor would be an invaluable resource to continue its administration at NIGMS.

  4. I am not at all in favor of the dismantling of NCRR, but given that inevitability, I am delighted to hear that the IDeA program may go, intact, to NIGMS. Even if IDeA seems to NIGMS management to be outside the mission of NIGMS, I believe NIGMS is probably the best overall choice of a home for IDeA, and that NIGMS is certainly capable of adapting to this new role as well as or better than any other IC at NIH.

  5. Think that a rather small number of researchers, who have long benefited from the established system, are the ones pushing irrationally this *change*. Believe that there is a correlation between the “advances” made by those “most fearless, brightest and competitive researchers” and the not spelled out “NCATS model of integrative biomedical research”. Where is the model that we can identify as the one bringing that change?. Are we supposed to believe that the SMRB Report plus Straw model plus recent recommendations based on a 23 Feb teleconference is a “model of integrative biomedical research”?. No specific aims, no experimental plan directed to answer critical questions, no advancement on the significance and impact that answering those questions could have if the proposed model were to succeed, no assessment on potential drawbacks/pitfalls and proposition for overcoming them, no budget, no compliance with IRB rules ( NIH Reform Act)…etc.

    Dr Collins, you’re funding a grant that cannot even be evaluated because it has been submitted with just a title and a request for multimillion dollars. It is not only a non meritorious one but also highly competitive for being qualified as fraudulent.

  6. If Collins was serious about “translation”, shouldn’t he be all about prioritizing the all critical (and under utilized) nonhuman primate models? Anyone with Pharma experience can tell you how much gets dropped between rodent and primate. We’ll never even know what might have worked in monkey and people that was dropped b/c it failed in mouse or rat. Yet the NCPRCs are getting shuffled off to an uncertain future.

  7. I’d love to see the shared instrumentation and high-end shared instrumentation NCRR programs migrate to NIGMS. Many of these instruments are in the areas of NMR, EM, and crystallography, and NIGMS tends to support the investigators in these fields. It provides some unity.

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