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0423 Chris Austin
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Chris Austin on turning the ‘valley of death’ into a green oasis

Austin has jumped from heading an NIH center dedicated to translational science to leading a Flagship start-up

Austin has jumped from heading an NIH center dedicated to translational science to leading a Flagship start-up.

Apr 23, 2021 | 9:00 PM GMT

Chris Austin spent nine years as the founding director of NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences trying to figure out how to make the trip though the “valley of death” shorter and less perilous. He left NCATS last week to venture into that valley as CEO-partner of a Flagship Pioneering start-up.

He’s jumping into a different environment. In 2021, NCATS had a budget of more than $850 million. The unnamed start-up Austin is leading has 10 employees.

In an interview with BioCentury, Austin outlined NCATS’s accomplishments, some of the things he’s learned along the way, and how he’ll apply insights from the NCATS experience at Flagship.

“NCATS doesn’t actually make any therapeutics,” he said. “That's not our job, that’s the private sector’s job. We create an ecosystem, we do de-risking. I've always had this entrepreneurial itch to actually take something across the finish line.”

Austin has been a passionate proponent of

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