On September 30, 2003, the director of the National Institutes of Health announced a long-awaited restructuring of government-funded medical research. The Research Roadmap, Elias Zerhouni stated, would position the NIH--by far the largest source of money for medical investigators--to take better advantage of recent advances, such as the mapping of the human genome, and to overcome barriers that limit researchers' ability to access and share data.
The plan calls for "new pathways to discovery," greater interdisciplinary research through new collaborations, and a "reengineering" of clinical research, according to the NIH. A key component largely lost in the flurry of promise and proposal outlined last fall was an information network initiative--critical in making the road map complete and in revolutionizing the methods by which medical data are collected, stored and shared. The effort, called the National Electronic Clinical Trials and Research Network, or NECTAR, will unite vast and disparate databases into one massive pool--and ultimately help to turn research data into therapies more effectively.
This article was originally published with the title NECTAR for Your Health.