An admittedly "little frustrated" Francis Collins says that he plans to fund the new NIH center for translational medicine with $1 B to help kick start translation of "scientific breakthroughs" into marketed therapeutics.
Collins plan is for scientists in the new center to get enough proof-of-concept data together to spur pharma industry investment and bringing the products to market, i.e. gain regulatory approval. Many commentators question the skills/experience NIH has for this type of product development -- as generally speaking academic scientists receive little if any training from this perspective.
Questions Dr. Thomas Inset, director of National Institute for Mental Health (how appropriate), "Would we be foolish -- we being an agency that has never developed drugs and actually doesn't know how to do therapeutics that well -- to get into this space?"
In a word, LIKELY. This will either be beginning of a new paradigm of academic and industry collaboration or a tremendous waste of funding that could have gone to more basic research questions that NIH staff are skilled at delineating and answering.
PhRMA responded with a carefully worded statement. The statement encourages the NIH "in the hope of improving the ultimate success rates in drug development." But it also finishes with the following,
"The fact remains that biopharmaceutical research companies today and in the future will play a pivotal role: Our companies create the vast majority of new medicines from start to finish [emphasis added] and, for the remainder, in close collaboration with academia and NIH, fulfill the critical final phase that transforms promising molecules into actual medicines for patients."
Posted by Bruce Lehr Jan 24th 2011.