Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating affliction that has affected millions of families including my own. Although treatments can relieve symptoms for this neurological malady, there is no cure.

Over 130 million Americans suffer from a chronic condition or disease. A mom whose child, stricken with Duchenne’s, struggles to jump rope; a grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s, has trouble remembering her granddaughter’s name; and a father afflicted with COPD struggling to breathe represent just a few of the millions of families whose personal battles inspire me to do everything in my power to advance treatments and cures. 

There are over 7,000 known diseases. Treatments exist for 500 of them. Americans have always been an innovative and industrious people. Many breakthroughs across all industries throughout the 20th and 21st centuries were pioneered by Americans. Why then, is there a lack of innovation and movement in healthcare now?

That is the question the 21st Century Cures Initiative seeks to answer. The initiative examines the “discovery-development-delivery” cycle for treatments – the process of how better treatments can get to patients quicker.  Whether it is from medical devices or medicine, treatments for patients suffering from chronic and rare diseases must be discovered on the ground level through basic science, then developed into a practical, usable, and marketable product, and finally delivered to the patients so the treatment may be effectively utilized.

This is not a partisan issue. Getting better treatments to patients quicker is not political, because chronic and rare diseases do not discriminate based on political affiliation.

This initiative is a way to start the dialogue with people who are directly impacted.  As a member of the Energy and Congress Committee, I am proud to have participated in solution-oriented meetings with all stakeholders to discuss possible improvements.  For me, 21st Century Cures is about the patient.  I want to streamline processes that will help provide effective and timely treatments to all Americans who suffer from a rare or chronic disease.

That is why I am hosting two roundtables in Florida. The first, on August 19, titled 21st Century Cures: Patients and the Patient Perspectives, will exclusively feature patients and patient advocates to discuss the personal challenges they face each day. The second, on August 22, titled 21st Century Cures: Spurring Innovation, Advancing Treatments, & Incentivizing Investment, will encompass researchers, clinicians, and other individuals representing health care providers, who will share their insight into the barriers they face.

Both events will be held at the Bethany Center, at 18150 Bethany Center Drive in Lutz. I’ve always said I get the best ideas from my constituents, which is why I want to hear from you. Together, we will work towards a path to cures.

Bilirakis has represented Florida's 12th (formerly 9th) Congressional District since 2007. He sits on the Energy and Commerce and the Veterans Affairs committees.