National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., made the announcement at the inaugural meetings of the NCATS Advisory Council and Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Review Board. Austin will succeed NCATS Acting Director Thomas R. Insel, M.D., on Sept. 23, 2012.
Austin had been serving as director of NCATS Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation since the NCATS launch in December 2011.
“Dr. Austin's accomplishments in virtually every stage of the translational science spectrum make him an ideal choice to continue building on NCATS' momentum and successes,” Collins said. “From his clinical experience to his work in the public and private sectors, he is poised to lead the center in revolutionizing the science of transforming laboratory discoveries into new therapies for patients.”
NCATS has launched innovative research initiatives including Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules and Tissue Chip for Drug Screening. Austin will lead these and all other NCATS' research efforts, including the Clinical and Translational Science Awards, which support a national consortium of medical research institutions to enhance the efficiency and quality of translational research. The Office of Rare Diseases Research, the NIH's Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) and the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) effort also are among NCATS' programs.
“In its first months, NCATS has made great strides in addressing a multitude of translational science challenges,” Austin said. “I feel privileged to have this opportunity to continue serving the NIH mission by leading NCATS' innovative efforts to transform basic discoveries into improved patient care.”
A developmental neurogeneticist by training, Austin came to NIH in 2002 from Merck, where his work focused on genome-based discovery of novel targets and drugs. He began his NIH career as senior advisor to the director for translational research at the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he initiated the Knockout Mouse Project and the Molecular Libraries Roadmap Initiative. Other NIH roles have included serving as director of TRND and the NCGC, and as scientific director of the NIH's Center for Translational Therapeutics.
Austin earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and his undergraduate degree in biology from Princeton University. He completed his clinical training in internal medicine and neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in genetics at Harvard.