DHHS Notifies Congress of Nih’s NCATS Plans, House Responds

DHHS Notifies Congress of NIH’s NCATS Plans, House Responds

Legislative Update
June 15, 2011

On June 6, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to Congressional appropriations leaders about the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) plans to establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and abolishing the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). Most importantly, she requested that the changes be incorporated as the Appropriations Committee proceeds on its Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 funding legislation. DHHS intends for the organizational changes and realignment of resources to be implemented in FY2012 and operationalized within the funding level identified for NIH in President Obama’s proposed budget, specifically the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) section of the budget proposal.

In an attachment, Secretary Sebelius presented a table that details the impact of the Institute and Center specific organizational and budgetary realignment that would result from establishing NCATS and relocating programs currently within NCRR. DHHS proposes an NCATS line item of $721.6 million, the majority of which reflects $479.7 million from the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program moved over from the NCRR. Other major NCATS components include the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN), proposed to be funded at $100 million in FY2012 (CAN was not previously funded in FY2011 since it was authorized during the appropriations process), the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) Program, and the Office of Rare Disease Research. [Note: Although the table shows that each Institute, including the National Eye Institute (NEI), contributes to the TRND program, it is an internal transfer that does not reduce its appropriations line unless NIH increases TRND without receiving an overall NIH increase.]

On June 15, House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Denny Rehberg (R-MT) wrote to Secretary Sebelius expressing several concerns about the NCATS proposal, including how abolishing the NCRR may impact management of the CTSA and Institutional Development Award (IDeA) programs. Chairman Rehberg also noted that his office had not yet received a formal budget amendment from the President, especially if NCATS is to be implemented in FY2012, nor answers to questions posed at the March 11, 2011, Subcommittee hearing with Secretary Sebelius on the President’s FY2102 budget request for LHHS programs. He also expressed concern that NIH has already taken steps to start searching for an NCATS director in advance of resolution of these issues.

NAEVR understands that DHHS/NIH plan to respond.

The NIH Reform Act of 2006 set forth a detailed process by which its Scientific Management Advisory Board (SMRB) would propose any organizational change (which it did in December 2010, recommending the creation of NCATS) and that DHHS/NIH would provide Congress a detailed analysis of the programmatic and budgetary implications. NIH has sought input through its Feedback.NIH.gov Web site.