The Obama administration has become so concerned about the slowing pace of new drugs coming out of the pharmaceutical industry that officials have decided to start a billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines.
The National Institutes of Health has traditionally focused on basic research. But the drug industry's research productivity has been declining for 15 years, "and it certainly doesn't show any signs of turning upward," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the institutes.
The job of the new center, to be called the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, is akin to that of a home seller who spruces up properties to attract buyers in a down market. In this case, the center will do as much research as it needs to do so that it can attract drug company investment.
"None of this is intended to be competitive with the private sector," Collins said. "The hope would be that any project that reaches the point of commercial appeal would be moved out of the academic support line and into the private sector."
Whether the government can succeed where private industry has failed is uncertain, officials acknowledge, but they say doing nothing is not an option.