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A New Federal Research Center Could Help Spur Genetic Advances

With industry wary about funding expensive clinical trials for gene-related research, maybe the feds should do it instead.


The New York Times today reports on a new Federal Research Center that will hopefully speed up the pace of new drugs being developed and do what traditionally has been done by drug companies, not the government.

Creating the center is a signature effort of [Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health], who once directed the agency’s Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins has been predicting for years that gene sequencing will lead to a vast array of new treatments, but years of effort and tens of billions of dollars in financing by drug makers in gene-related research has largely been a bust.


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As a result, industry has become far less willing to follow the latest genetic advances with expensive clinical trials. Rather than wait longer, Dr. Collins has decided that the government can start the work itself.

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The article questions whether the government can succeed where private industry has failed but officials say doing nothing is no longer an option. According to the article:

For the plan to go into effect by October, the administration must by law get rid of one of the 27 centers and institutes already in existence at the N.I.H.—something that has never been done before.

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The reality of this center opening and actually discovering breakthrough drugs seems like a bit of a lottery and the Center is likely to become as contentious as the health care bill.