Creating One NIH Center Might Entail Dissolving Another

A proposal to create a new translational research center at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is causing angst across the agency and beyond. As part of the plan under discussion, NIH reportedly wants to dissolve its National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). And that is raising concern about the fate of NCRR's programs.

The proposed new center would take over NCRR's Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) as one of its components. These large grants to medical centers total $458 million a year, about one-third of NCRR's $1.3 billion budget. Transferring CTSAs to a research center makes sense, some observers say, but leaves the question of what would happen to the rest of NCRR's portfolio? It includes a range of programs, from construction and instrumentation awards, to support for NIH's primate centers and research-development grants for states that don't have much NIH funding.

"There's a lot of concern out in the community and within the [NIH] institutes" about where those programs would be moved, says David Moore of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C. For example, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases might get the primate centers, which do a lot of infectious disease research, he says. But other programs might not be an obvious fit in another institute.

NCRR's fate could be decided Tuesday at a meeting of NIH's Scientific Management Review Board.