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GEN Point of View Author Takes Pro-NCATS Stance

New Rochelle, NY, May 17, 2011-A scientist from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (SBMRI) believes that a proposed new NIH Center could help translate new discoveries made in basic research labs into potential clinical therapeutics, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). La Jolla-based John C. Reed, M.D., Ph.D., CEO, professor, and chief executive chair of SBMRI, also thinks more progress could be made in the treatment of rare and neglected diseases if the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) is established, according to the May 15 issue of GEN.

Dr. Reed points out that private companies and venture capitalists are increasingly reluctant to fund the early stages of preclinical development, thus creating a "gap" in the R&D pipeline. He adds that this gap includes many steps in the new drug discovery and development process, including assay development, high-throughput screening, medicinal chemistry, exploratory pharmacology, and rigorous preclinical testing of drug efficacy and safety in animal models of disease.

He says this situation leads to a "Valley of Death," which is the large research and funding divide that sets federally funded basic researchers on one side and the pharmaceutical industry on the other. Dr. Reed says the "NIH's newly proposed center for translational sciences [is] just the shot in the arm basic research needs to reach forward across that valley."

Dr. Reed was responding, in part, to some critiques of the new center that maintain that the NIH should focus on funding activities and basic research and leave the commercial development and manufacture of new drugs to commercial businesses. In his GEN Point of View article, Dr. Reed points out that the goal of this new center at the NIH is not to make, test, and market drugs in competition with private industry.

"Rather, this translational science center will provide federal funding to help advance initial laboratory discoveries at least to the point where private industry might be interested in partnering to help carry these findings through the rest of the FDA-required process. NCATS will take the NIH's investment in basic research closer to helping people who suffer from disease," he wrote.

"As it becomes increasingly difficult to obtain funding from any source, the infrastructure that allows nonprofit researchers to advance the next generations of innovative therapeutics and diagnostics is at risk of being lost," says Dr. Reed. "Without NCATS, many potential therapies will never reach the FDA in the first place, let alone the patients who need them."