Bipartisan support for medical research is good news for all

Bipartisan support for medical research is good news for all
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Good news from Washington! When Congress passed the FY18 omnibus spending package in March, and authorized a $3 billion funding increase for the National Institutes for Health (NIH), this infusion of new funding began to reverse more than a decade of declining purchasing power. Reaching across the aisle in a display of bipartisan unity, leadership in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, including: Chairmen Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeTrump faces long odds in avoiding big spending bill Paul Ryan would be ‘perfect fit’ to lead AEI, Republicans say This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (R-Okla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senator pushes back on Trump’s attacks on Maxine Waters’s intelligence Pair of DC fundraisers aims to boost McCaskill challenger Kansas City mayoral candidate: Trump is trying to define patriotism MORE (R-Mo.), and Ranking Members Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families American families need paid leave without sacrificing their retirement MORE (D-Colo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate Dems press Sessions for records on racial discrimination complaints Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press Overnight Health Care: Drug price fight heats up | Skepticism over drug companies' pledges | Ads target HHS secretary over child separations | Senate confirms VA pick MORE (D-Wash.), resolved to significantly increase investment in the health and well-being of all Americans.

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A cumulative 23 percent increase in NIH funding over the past three years represents a significant boost toward disease prevention and treatment. The FY18 increases will provide for an additional $414 million earmarked for Alzheimer’s research to address the looming impact of this feared illness on the growing population of aging adults. Another $140 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative will support research into treatment, prevention and cure of brain disorders. Another $40 million will be invested into creating a universal flu vaccine.

 

An additional $27 million for clinical and translational research will move critical, basic scientific discoveries toward the development of medical therapies. Ongoing funding for the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) program launched in 2014, will incentive public-private partnerships for advancing new therapies. Congress also promoted the launch of the All of Us Research Program with $290 million, an initiative designed to advance the promise of personalized medicine by collecting health information from one million Americans.

Importantly, while advocacy for the NIH is perhaps the most visible, it is essential that all the agencies in the medical research ecosystem are adequately supported. Increases in the budgets of the National Science Foundation, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others ensure the viability of these multi-pronged research efforts to improve human health.

The impact of the FY18 funding decision extends beyond the research laboratories that are funded – it stimulates the economy and creates jobs. Increased research budgets have a substantial multiplier effect on the U.S. economy and labor market, creating a significant return on investment. China knows this; they are currently increasing their support of research and development, investing more than 2 percent of their GDP. If we are to maintain our global leadership in science, America must continue to invest for the future.

Sustained, predictable funding for medical research is critical to its success. This year’s funding increases help ensure that dedicated scientists will remain in their labs and research already in the pipeline will continue without disruption. Talented students will see this vote of confidence in the importance of biomedical research and feel encouraged to pursue research careers.

We are all united by the desire for a healthy life. We all want effective therapies when our loved ones face a serious diagnosis. And we all hope that medical research will find cures for the diseases that still impact so many of us, from cancer to heart disease to mental illness and more.  Illness knows no party affiliations or social boundaries — and this action by our Congressional leaders speaks to how we can unite to create a healthier world.

So, thank you Congress for the $3 billion increase for NIH in FY18. Because of your bipartisan leadership, human suffering will be alleviated and the world will be a healthier and safer place to live. As you discuss the FY19 budget, I urge that you resist rescission proposals and continue prioritizing investment in science. Biomedical research is making profound breakthroughs in prevention and treatment of disease, and with steady, sustained effort, science will deliver on the promise of disease prevention and new therapies for the American people.  

Claire Pomeroy, M.D., M.B.A., is president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing biomedical research.