Guest Update by Dr. Craig W. Reynolds
NCI-Frederick: Helping to Transform Cancer Research
The 10th annual Spring Research Festival on the NCI campus in Frederick, Md. (NCI-Frederick), kicks off later this week. The festival has become a welcome tradition and a great way for those on campus to highlight a unique component of NCI and its mission.
Approximately one-third of the laboratories of principal investigators from the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) are located at NCI-Frederick. But that is just one small part of a much larger operation. Over the last 5 to 10 years, in fact, our campus has undergone a significant transformation.
NCI-Frederick has rapidly become one of the preeminent Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, or FFRDC, in the United States. FFRDC is a congressional designation that provides NCI-Frederick with unique abilities to form and facilitate partnerships with industry and other federal agencies to promote and advance biomedical research.
As such, one of our most valuable assets is the ability to step into situations and provide novel mechanisms for launching important programs or initiatives that, for a variety of reasons, could not be implemented using typical mechanisms, such as a grant or contract.
One excellent example was highlighted last year in the NCI Cancer Bulletin: the establishment of a new synchrotron at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago that uses x-ray crystallography to determine protein structures. NCI-Frederick played a central role in making this possible, coordinating an effort that involved two NCI divisions, two NIH institutes, two federal agencies, an activity at an extramural site, and a piece of state-of-the-art equipment purchased from a foreign company.
NCI-Frederick houses the world's largest high-performance computing center dedicated solely to biomedical research, the Advanced Biomedical Computing Center (ABCC). This system supports 1,800 researchers, including those from NCI, other NIH and federal government agencies, and hundreds of NCI-funded extramural investigators.
In addition, there are two biopharmaceutical production facilities on campus to support the drug development efforts of NCI intramural researchers, NCI-funded extramural investigators, small biotech companies, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases' vaccine research program.
As part of our Research Technology Program, we offer such advanced services as proteomics, molecular imaging, analytical chemistry, high-throughput gene sequencing and genomic analysis. These primarily are used by investigators from NIH and other federal agencies, but also can be made available to extramural investigators.
Other NCI programs at NCI-Frederick include the Developmental Therapeutics Program, which has contributed to the development of nearly 40 anticancer drugs, and the Natural Products Branch, which makes its expansive library of natural products available to industry and academic investigators to screen for anticancer activity. In both instances, these are materials that typically cannot be obtained elsewhere by investigators.
We have ambitious goals for the future. We hope to become a major resource for training cancer researchers on the use of new advanced technologies. We also hope to engage in more public-private partnerships aimed at finding novel uses for advanced technologies, and then adding those technologies to our research repertoire. And, finally, we hope to significantly increase our involvement in the area of systems biology, using the ABCC to develop complex mathematical models that will allow us to reverse engineer and visualize how cancer cells develop and proliferate.
I'm extremely proud to be part of the work being done at NCI-Frederick and the important role it plays in advancing cancer research. It is a truly rewarding position, and I believe our most important work is yet to come.