Dear Research Advocate,
This Memorial Day, take a moment to appreciate the magnitude of the health challenges facing our armed forces. We are losing more troops to suicide than to combat. More than half of our veterans are being treated for depression. Nearly 1 in 3 of our servicemen and servicewomen suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are affected by a traumatic brain injury. These numbers demonstrate the urgent need for research. I am participating this week in the One Mind for Research annual meeting, where this morning, former congressman and Research!America Board member Patrick Kennedy described our wounded warriors as “medical prisoners of war” whom we have a moral obligation to assist. Here at the conference we’ve heard from leading scientists whose work will help combat neurological and mental health threats — for our military and for everyone else who suffers brain disease and disorders. The problems are palpable, and the commitment across the research ecosystem is evident. Yet, knowing what I do about the threat of sequestration and the other elements of the year-end fiscal cliff, I can’t help but ask myself: “Will there be funding available to sustain young scientists working in this field? Is this country going to make research and innovation a priority again?”
One optimistic note is that user fee legislation, which will provide critical funding for FDA drug and medical device review, has just passed the Senate and looks to be on a path to deliver this bill to the president in time to avert layoffs and delays in drug and device approvals at FDA. This legislation demonstrates that even with a challenged economy, ongoing budget debates and a hotly contested election, Congress can still come together on a bipartisan basis to improve health and protect our economy.
Assuring a stronger FDA is one of the key solutions put forward in a new report from the Milken Institute, Accelerating Innovation in the Bioscience Revolution. Michael Milken spoke yesterday at One Mind and really fired up the crowd, just as he did last September at the conference many of us attended to draft the solutions in the report. On the heels of a Washington Post editorial on speeding up drug review, George Vradenburg of USAgainstAlzheimer’s submitted a letter that was published Monday. Remember to be on the lookout for opportunities like this to contribute a letter to the editor — it’s an easy way to step up and speak out.
The biopharmaceutical industry is important for our health and our economy and more at risk than ever before. According to a new report released by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice and PhRMA, other countries are making substantial investments in pro-innovation policies. If we want to keep the 4 million domestic jobs supported by the biopharmaceutical industry and maintain our global leadership, we need to rethink and improve our nation’s innovation policies. Other countries are ramping up their investments in R&D and doubling down on incentives to foster research. In essence, those countries are borrowing a page from our playbook. While it will be good for all for many more countries to field a strong R&D team, we don’t want to be watching from the sidelines — time to get back in the game!