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 ColeHouse panel approves language revoking 2001 war authority as Iran tensions spike Conservatives ask White House to abandon Amazon talks over Pentagon contract This week: House to vote on bill to ban LGBTQ discrimination MORE (R-Okla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Top Republican says Senate unlikely to vote on any election security bills San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology MORE (R-Mo.), and Ranking Members Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroWatchdog: DeVos used personal emails for work in 'limited' cases Press: Who will be the first conservative to take on Trump? A good week for the nation's family planning program MORE (D-Colo.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag Bipartisan senators unveil measure to end surprise medical bills 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.