If the National Institutes of Health were compared to the European Union, each of its 27 institutes would be a different country within it.
And now, officials there are trying to unify some common goals of those entities—from the National Cancer Institute to the National Institute on Aging—when it comes to pediatric research.
For the first time, senior program staff representing each of the institutes gathered together this week at NIH's campus in Bethesda, Maryland, to begin setting priorities and understanding what child health research projects NIH is funding across its vast budget.
"Each institute and center has its own budget, has its own staff and, until yesterday, there were a number of pediatricians working at different institutes who didn't even know each other; nevermind seeking global and strategic views of what is being done," said Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
The NICHD is leading what is being called the Trans-NIH Pediatric Research Consortium.
"The main purpose is to identify opportunities for collaborative research, identify gaps that need to be addressed and try to harmonize the overall research effort at NIH directed toward child health," Bianchi said.
The goal is also to better use the funding set aside for children's health research in NIH's approximately $37 billion annual budget. In fiscal year 2017, the budget across NIH for children's health research was about $4.2 billion.
At least one institute indicated they are having a hard time getting enough pediatric research topics being proposed for funding and are looking to the consortium for help to better publicize the fact they have funding opportunities for children's health that aren't being taken advantage of.
"The biggest message is children's health research is really being funded across the NIH and there are multiple opportunities in different institutes and centers," she said.