US agency creates point system to address imbalance in distribution of research funds.
For the first time, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will restrict the amount of funding that an individual scientist can hold at any one time, on the basis of a point system. The move, announced on 2 May, is part of an ongoing effort to make obtaining grants easier for early- and mid-career scientists, who face much tougher odds than their more-experienced colleagues.
Biomarkers could aid diagnosis and lead to strategies for treatment
Soon after systems biologist Juergen Hahn published a paper describing a way to predict whether a child has autism from a blood sample, the notes from parents began arriving. “I have a bunch of parents writing me now who want to test their kids,” says Hahn, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. “I can’t do that.”
That’s because despite their promise, his group’s results, reported March 16 in PLOS Computational Biology, are preliminary — nowhere close to a debut in a clinical setting. The test will need to be confirmed and repeated in different children before it can be used to help diagnose autism. Still, the work of Hahn and colleagues, along with other recent papers, illustrates how the hunt for a concrete biological signature of autism, a biomarker, is gaining speed.
CTSA Program paves way for nationwide single IRB model.
Developing new treatments for diseases often requires large numbers of clinical research participants enrolled in the same study at numerous geographical sites. These multisite clinical trials are well-positioned to discover whether a promising therapeutic is safe and effective, and may provide medical professionals with the information needed for treating their patients. However, the initiation of such studies may be delayed because each site typically relies on its own Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to provide ethics reviews of the risks and benefits of the proposed research.
"This milestone is a giant step toward a nationwide model for greater efficiency in IRB review..."
—Christopher P. Austin, M.D., Director, NCATS
The National Institutes of Health is leading policy and programmatic initiatives to streamline this overly cumbersome process. NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) announced today that all Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) Program sites have signed on to the NCATS Streamlined, Multisite, Accelerated Resources for Trials (SMART) IRB authorization agreement.