Tuesday, May 26, 2015

“You can’t eat a paper.”

That’s an obvious—if not odd—statement. But those 5 little words demonstrate the enormous challenge that NIH committed to addressing with the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) in December 2011.

Still confused? You’re not alone. Let’s break it down:

  • Several thousand genetic diseases affect humans, but most have no treatment available.
  • A new drug, medical device, diagnostic test, or other health intervention can take 12–15 years and $2 billion to develop.
  • Less than 5% of the promising ideas that enter the therapeutic development process actually make it to approval.

Researchers today know more about the basic biology and chemistry of the human body than ever before, yet the application of that knowledge to the development of new and more effective treatments lags considerably behind the ever-increasing speed of discovery. In the end, you really can’t eat a paper. The published findings from a scientific study will not alleviate the pain of fibromyalgia or the uncontrollable tremors of Parkinson’s disease.

CHIP page

Enter NCATS, designed to bring disruptive innovation to the NIH campus, academic medical centers nationwide, and the global biomedical research community. Instead of focusing on specific diseases or organ systems, NCATS focuses on the process of translating observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community into interventions that improve health. Palladian Partners supports NCATS with the tools, strategy, and expertise to disseminate that vision to a wide range of stakeholders.

Palladian helped NCATS launch its first website in early 2012, emphasizing its connection to NIH. By fall 2013, the organization had evolved, and NCATS leadership tasked Palladian with redesigning the website. During a 6-month period, we led a working group of internal NCATS staff and external advisors to evaluate how well the site was serving its audiences. The working group focused on defining and segmenting target audiences, figuring out how those audiences (should) engage with NCATS online, and outlining desired goals for those groups.

NCATS homepage

From there, Palladian proposed a plan for redesigning the website that included a more user-centered organizational approach to promote engagement and education, as well as an expanded governance framework to ensure timely content maintenance and clear lines of ownership. On April 30, 2015, the first step toward that new vision came to life. The new site includes the following:

  • A responsive, mobile-friendly design;
  • A more flexible, dynamic content management system;
  • An appealing, modular graphic design with more emphasis on imagery; and
  • A more powerful, integrated search engine.

The newly released site is just the beginning of a Palladian-driven “2.0” vision for NCATS’ online presence as a “one-stop shop” for translational sciences, including expanded educational content and resources as well as more integration with social media.

In the end, you can’t eat a website, either. But you can use it to learn more about the innovative ways that NCATS is challenging the status quo of biomedical research in the pursuit of progress.

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