The Fierce Urgency of Now: Why the Obama Administration Must Appoint an NIH Director Committed to Cures

Reverend Martin Luther King's famous plea of "the fierce urgency of now" was often quoted by President-Elect Barack Obama when describing the importance of Americans realizing that we are at a defining moment in our nation's history. The same could be said about biomedical research and its application to the patient. The President-Elect will soon name a new Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The new Director must be committed to curing diseases, not only studying them. The leader of the NIH should be renamed the Director of the NIH and Cures to demonstrate a new priority of applying to the patient the amazing discoveries of the NIH and our universities.

The time has come, once and for all, to give hope to the 150 million Americans with diseases. It's time for America to once again use its great genius to be proactive and visionary. President-elect Barack Obama has excited America and the world with his "promise of change." He can fulfill the promise for real progress against disease, by rationalizing our vast research capabilities into action, results and hope by embracing faster progress, an American Center for Cures, and appointing visionary leaders for these critical positions. We need leaders driven by a passion to execute on the promise of real healthcare change and bringing hope to the hopeless...It's time to end the ravages of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, cancers, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis cystic fibrosis, name a few.

Located within the NIH Director's office, The American Center for Cures(ACC) will be a mission-driven, funded for success, accountable, 21st Century research facility focused upon applying discoveries to the patient. The ACC will give the Director for the first time the authority and responsibility to powerfully lead the 27 Centers and Institutes that compose the NIH.

The ACC will be a positive force in President Obama's "Change we can believe in." It will be a change in the priority of the nation that will fundamentally alter our lives by focusing a portion of our biomedical research on specifically curing diseases.

Scientific discoveries based upon the curiosity of the individual are crucial for fundamental advances in knowledge. And this may eventually lead circuitously to improvement of health. However, science and discovery cannot be only performed in a vacuum of moral objectivity and self-serving intellectual curiosity. There must be a place in the NIH where the discovery of knowledge is focused on preventing or curing the diseases of our loved ones. The ACC will bring to bear the genius and discoveries in a direct line to the patient by applying the knowledge or asking for specific answers to specific questions. The ACC will put the pieces of the puzzle together.

An independent Cures Council consisting of great American leaders and scientists will choose several diseases to focus the genius and financial capital of the ACC. The criteria for choosing a disease will at least partially be its impact on Americans (indeed all mankind) and the likelihood of cure.

Each specified disease will have a leader who will be accountable and responsible for preventing or curing the disease. Centers for Excellence around the nation will be established to reduce the need to spend money on bricks and mortar. The NIH Director of Cures will appoint with the help of the scientific community an individual who will be responsible for the success or failure of each disease-specific team.

The ACC will fund, coordinate, simplify, expand, and market the importance of clinical trials.

The initial and most significant continuing funding of the ACC will be the Federal government, but the goal of the ACC will be to also form partnerships with the private sector. The linkage of the long-term commitment of the government with the speed and creativity of the private sector will be important for the success of the ACC.

The great American scientist Irving Selikof said that "Statistics are people with the tears wiped away." And Otis Brawley emphatically said, "Women and minorities are not dying for the lack of research; they are dying for the lack of research being applied to them." The ACC will not be focused purely on gaining knowledge; it will be focused upon applying knowledge to those of us who are ill.