Head of the US National Institutes of Health Francis Collins was asked some tough questions by a House of Representatives subcommittee examining the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NCATS.
The goal of the new center, opened in 2012, is to reduce the amount of time needed to develop new drugs, diagnostic tests, and medical devices. One concern, voiced by Representative Michael Simpson (R, Idaho) is that the center will divert funds from basic research:
Can you ensure that the development of NCATS will not take resources away from basic sciences?
Colllins replied that the amount of money for NCATS is small. Which lead to an attack by Roy Vagelos, former CEO of Merck, who noted that the pharmaceutical industry spends far more money without solving the problems targeted by NCATS:
Does anyone in the audience believe that there is something that NCATS is going to do that the industry thinks is critical and that they are not doing? That is incredible to think that. If you believe that you believe in fairies.
Translational science takes the findings of basic research and applies them to practical problems. Without basic research there would be no translational science. Therefore it makes no sense to take funds from the former to support the latter. Especially when the funds are being used to support a translational center of questionable value.