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 ColeSenate spending talks go off the rails as soon as they begin Social determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Republicans suffer whiplash from Trump's erratic week MORE (R-Okla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.), and Ranking Members Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA says Juul illegally marketed e-cigarettes | AMA warns against vaping after deaths | Two Planned Parenthood clinics to close in Ohio Overnight Health Care: Watchdog details severe trauma suffered by separated children | Judge approves B CVS-Aetna merger | House Dem Caucus chair backs 'Medicare for All' On The Money: Stocks decline as Trump digs in on trade war | New tariffs on Chinese goods take effect | Deutsche Bank throws curveball in Trump tax return fight MORE (D-Colo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Juul's lobbying efforts fall short as Trump moves to ban flavored e-cigarettes | Facebook removes fact check from anti-abortion video after criticism | Poll: Most Democrats want presidential candidate who would build on ObamaCare Trump's sinking polls embolden Democrats to play hardball Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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.