Post-Election Briefing Looks to Future of R&D in New Congress
Just two days after the 2014 midterm elections, former congressmen, Research!America partners and other leaders and stakeholders in the medical research community gathered for Research!America's 2014 Post-Election Briefing at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), to discuss the potential impact of the election on the future of research and development (R&D).
Following an overview of the election results by political analyst David Hawkings, senior editor, CQ Roll Call, the first panel discussed what America could expect from the new Congress, in regards to support for medical research, particularly in the lame duck session, the likelihood of an omnibus bill versus a continuing resolution for FY15, the potential for funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other health agencies and potential changes to the corporate tax structure, as well as the future of the R&D tax and the medical device tax. The panel was comprised of moderator Rebecca Adams, associate editor, CQ Healthbeat; the Hon. John E. Porter, Research!America Chair; the Hon. Mike Castle, Research!America Vice Chair; the Hon. Kweisi Mfume, Research!America board member; and the Hon. Bart Gordon. One of the biggest concerns that the panelists addressed was that medical research was not included in the priorities of both political parties moving forward. "Nowhere did I see the words innovation, research, university," said Gordon. "That to me did not seem like an agenda that was consistent with what I think is important to the country."
And with the Democratic minority addressing a growing number of concerns, including hunger and health care, along with medical research, all under the constraints of a limited budget, it will become increasingly difficult to make medical research and innovation a priority in Congress.
"The Democrats have to choose between their own children, which makes it more difficult," continued Gordon.
The panelists also emphasized the need to involve the business community in advocacy efforts, as well as the value of sharing personal stories, to illustrate the importance of medical research to our health and economy. They also shared, from their collective experience, the value of teamwork in achieving these goals. "All research organizations make out better when they stand together," said Mfume.
"All research has to be working together to get the message to people about connecting the dots," said Porter. "We need a national effort to get out there and educate people about how research develops into discovery."
"There is a central, easy story to tell," agreed Castle. "It's very significant message, and it can't be left up entirely to the private sector."
The event culminated with a discussion focused on next steps, as well as the challenges, for advocates to engage the new Congress with Research!America partners Bill Andresen, associate vice president, federal affairs, University of Pennsylvania; Brent Del Monte, vice president, federal government relations, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO); Sue Nelson, vice president, federal advocacy, American Heart Association; and Ted Thompson, CEO, Parkinson's Action Network.
"It's almost impossible to find a member of Congress who will come out and say they don't support medical research and they don't support NIH," said Andresen. "But one of the challenges we face is ... that we don't have the champions today that we did in the past. "
Thompson shared his hope of regaining some normalcy in Congress, and how imperative it is for both parties to work together. "Unless we can get back to regular order, the types of substantive changes that we really want won't happen," he said.
The partners' suggestions for advocates included supporting the 21st Century Cures initiative, the Warren-Hatch bill and other biomedical research funding measures, and efforts to make the R&D tax credit permanent.
"[The tax credit] is something that incentivizes manufactures to undertake the billion or so dollars it takes to go from bench to bedside," Del Monte said.
"I think this election enhances the chances of something comprehensive and substantive getting done," Thompson added. "21st Century Cures could be a very bright spot in this Congress."
Nelson reminded attendees that much work lies ahead to make medical research a priority for Congress. "The problem is that it's not on anyone's list. We need to put it on the list, we need to make this something that they believe can help them in 2016."
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