Insel to be Acting Director of NCATS

December 28, 2011

but not by giving up his leadership position at NIMH. At least for now. Francis Collins

In this vein of change, I am pleased to designate Thomas Insel, M.D., as the Acting Director of NCATS and Kathy L. Hudson, Ph.D., as Acting Deputy Director of NCATS. Drs. Insel and Hudson will lead the many activities of bringing the Center into being and getting its programs underway, while we conduct a nationwide search for the first NCATS Director. Drs. Insel and Hudson have already been deeply involved in establishing the Center and are natural choices to implement our plans for NCATS. Both of them will continue to serve in their current roles, at NIMH and in the Director’s Office respectively, while serving in these Acting leadership positions.

(h/t: writedit, who appears to have seen an internal memo)

Very interesting given Insel’s remarks at the ACNP meeting in which he talked about recent BigPharma moves to pull out of CNS drug development. The punch line was a graph that made out NIMH itself to be one of the few remaining entities with much interest in seeking new drugs for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, dementia associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, autism…and a number of other health problems related to the brain and behavior. This may explain his particular interest in the NCATS effort to engage the NIH even deeper in drug development and translational science.

I don’t have much of an opinion on the NCRR dissolution and formation of NCATS. The devil will be in the details of how far the dollars shift from the traditional research support role of NCRR to new ventures in the NCATS. Official NIH-dom is, of course, very interested in making out that none of the fundamental programs of NCRR will be lost. Critics observe that since no new money is likely to descend on the NIH for the purposes of satisfying NCATS goals, this is a mathematically unsound claim.

I lean towards the latter but this is a done deal at this point. So I’m grasping for bright lights. Having a clear focus on CNS disorders to fill a gap created by industry abandonment of the class would be a pretty good thing. So the selection of Insel as Acting Director is a positive step.

Some might even hope that he does a bang up job and is made permanent NCATS Director, opening up the NIMH slot for someone more friendly to basic brain/behavior science…
Background on the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences proposal, teleconference and NCRR viewpoint.

No Responses Yet to “Insel to be Acting Director of NCATS”

  1. whimple Says:

    These are all big-money indications so BigPharma is pulling out of CNS drug development because there are no more attractive targets to try drugging and a litany of very expensive clinical trial failures associated with the existing targets. NIHM should concentrate its efforts on basic science to discover/validate new molecular targets rather than on half-assed efforts at developing drugs — leave that for BigPharma. I see a role for NCATS, but only in orphan indications.


  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Such as the use of zero-IP ancient drugs like ketamine and scopolamine as rapidly acting antidepressants? Prazosin for….whatever the flavor of the month is, alcoholism perhaps?


  3. juniorprof Says:

    There aren’t even BigPharma “half-assed” efforts to develop drugs for neurological disorders anymore. Almost all the programs are gone. I like this NCATS move and think Insel has a good chance to provide some solid leadership.


  4. alfa beta Says:

    juniorprof, i hope that your science is in a different light than your comment.

    imo this ncats move, as done, is a huge blow to francis collins’s credibility. And the tip of the iceberg has been his continuous protection of tom insel. That a government official with responsibilities in health (insel) and such a shady behavior makes francis collins feel “blessed by having insel at the nih” is just so outrageous and discouraging!.

    are taxpayers to believe this guy and/or his “god” ?


  5. Interesting post as usual!


  6. […] recent blogpost from NIMH Director (and Acting NCATS Director) Tom Insel details the grim future for private sector development of drugs for the brain and […]


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