An end to end approach to advancing medical innovation

William N. Hait, M.D., Ph. D. Global Head, Research & Development Janssen, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Member of the Research!America Board

As part of the 19th Annual Research!America Advocacy Awards dinner in Washington DC last week, I was honored to help acknowledge outstanding champions of medical research including Robin Roberts, Michael Milken, Dr. Kenneth Olden, David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude, the Society for Neuroscience, as well as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diane DeGette (D-CO). Their efforts to advance policy, funding, or research – all of which are critical to meeting our goal of increasing health research for the ultimate benefit of humankind – are making a significant difference in the lives of millions fighting cancer, neurological and infectious disease and other serious afflictions.

I was inspired by their accounts of facing challenging circumstances and other obstacles to advance new medical breakthroughs. Some had experienced cancer or other devastating disease firsthand. Others overcame cultural and socioeconomic barriers to lead major scientific institutions. Collectively, they were a reminder that disease can strike anyone – rich or poor, young or old – that medical innovation can come from anywhere, and that solving complex research challenges requires more than individual effort. It also takes the willingness and skill to bring together government, academia and the private sector.

Today, we are once again at a crossroads in medical research. Computing and other technologies are more powerful than ever before. Investments in biomedical research at the end of the last century by taxpayers, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, combined with the work of industry and NIH-funded investigators across the country, have produced fundamental scientific advancements, vast new datasets, and increasingly sophisticated areas of scientific research. Yet these technologies remain underleveraged. In the U.S., the decline in support for medical research organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has persisted for more than a decade. In real terms, we have experienced a 22 percent decrease in inflation-adjusted dollars for NIH over the last decade, undermining our ability to respond effectively to disease threats.

Fortunately, to quote the words of the Hon. John Porter, Chair of the Research!America Board, “A new day for research may indeed be dawning in the Congress and across the nation.” Important new legislation, called the 21st Century Cures Initiative, is set to be introduced in the coming months and represents a thoughtful and innovative approach to enhancing the speed of medical innovation. The legislation is designed to help empower patients, enhance wellness equality, foster an economic and regulatory environment more conducive to addressing unmet healthcare needs, and ensure there are appropriate industry incentives that offset the risk and cost of developing critically needed medicines such as antibiotics that effectively treat drug-resistant infections. It also seeks to lower the cost and amount of time it takes for clinical development and regulatory review and to decrease inefficiencies in the development of new drugs for children.

These efforts, combined with more robust federal funding of health research, as well as new STEM education initiatives supported by Johnson & Johnson and others, form an end-to-end approach that will enhance critically needed research, fostering a new generation of R&D talent, and incentivizing development of next-generation technologies. Collectively, they will help advance medical innovation for all to benefit. 

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient