Seeking precision at NCI

A conversation with new NCI director Ned Sharpless

As he takes the reins at NCI, Ned Sharpless is making it a top priority to find ways the institute can turn the reams of data from -omics studies and clinical trials into actionable information for precision medicine.

In a conversation with BioCentury, the new director of NIH’s National Cancer Institute highlighted the need for fuller, larger, more detailed data sets to enable investigators to properly extract value from the wealth of information in patient records and research studies. While he’s optimistic about the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and systems biology to find new relationships in the data that can drive drug development, he sees institutional hurdles to commercializing new discoveries in the red tape of processes like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and is looking for ways to make the institute’s programs work better for entrepreneurs.

Norman (Ned) Sharpless was sworn in as the NCI director on Oct. 17, taking over from Douglas Lowy who filled the position as acting director since March 2015. Sharpless was previously director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a practicing oncologist. There he co-directed a 5,000-patient next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based clinical trial and developed mouse models

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