NIH’s Cures Acceleration Network (CAN)

The Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) was authorized to advance the development of high need cures and reduce significant barriers between research discovery and clinical trials. To achieve these objectives, CAN provides the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with new flexibilities in its funding authorities.

The Health Care Reform Act Created Cures Acceleration Network to Speed Researchers along the Path to New and Better Treatments for Disease

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which President Obama signed into law in 2010 included a little-discussed, but important provision creating a Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which will work to reduce the time it takes to move new drugs and therapies from the microscope to the marketplace.

This provision, introduced by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) as an amendment to the original Senate bill in 2009, creates new funding mechanisms at the NIH through which contracts will be awarded to accelerate the development of “high need cures” – defined as drugs, biological products, or devices:

  • That are a priority to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or treat harm from any disease or condition
  • For which the incentives of the commercial market are unlikely to result in its adequate or timely development.

It established CAN within the Office of the Director of NIH and authorize grants expected to more quickly move discoveries from the lab through the development, testing and regulatory review process, into the hands of the patients that need them. This is an important step forward in bridging the ever-widening gap between basic and clinical research, known as the “valley of death” – where promising ideas for new treatments for deadly and debilitating diseases are often slowed and sometimes dropped before they can be fully explored.

Under CAN, NCATS may make large grant awards of up to $15 million per fiscal year, partnership awards that require 1:3 matching funds, and flexible research awards using the special funding mechanism called other transactions (OT), which allows projects to be actively and aggressively managed by using mechanisms similar to those used by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the U.S. Department of Defense. CAN investments will be guided by the CAN Review Board.

At NCATS, CAN will fund a variety of initiatives designed to address scientific and technical challenges that impede transitional research.

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