Sustained and predictable growth and support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is crucial to advance cutting-edge research that could lead to new discoveries and treatments for deadly disease, said NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. During a program hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center titled “Realizing the Promise of Medical Innovation” on November 17, Collins said he’s grateful for the 7% increase for NIH in FY16 after many years of stagnant funding. “It has given a sense of excitement and opportunity to our remarkable biomedical workforce, especially young scientists,” he said. “I can’t say how critical it is that that not be a one year wonder, but rather the start of a trend.”
The panel discussion, moderated by Janet Marchibroda, director of health innovation, BPC, brought together perspectives from patients, advocates, policymakers and industry to discuss what the future holds to accelerate medical progress, including Cures legislation pending in Congress which would accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new therapies for patients. The measure would improve the Food and Drug Administration’s drug approval process and help the agency attract and retain highly-skilled scientists.
The FDA needs systemic reform to ensure that new products are appropriately regulated to meet the needs of patients, added Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D., president, Samaritan Health Initiative and former FDA commissioner.
Ellen Sigal, founder and chair, Friends of Cancer Research, hopes that the President-elect will think about patients’ lives when considering support for medical and health research. “We don’t discuss the human toll a lot…disease is not partisan,” said Sigal.
“I have every belief we will treat, cure and diagnose every disease known to man,” said James Greenwood, president and CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization. But pharmaceutical price controls to address drug pricing issues would stifle innovation, he added. More collaboration between payers, patients, providers and industry to develop a policy framework that works for all stakeholders, he said, is the best approach.
Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, said health IT will enable patients to be more engaged with research and health care but interoperability issues must be addressed. “Why don’t we have access to our health data anywhere we are? Why doesn’t the research and technology community have access to it? People want that,” she said. “It’s time to put that willingness and urgency to work and the Cures legislation can help get us there,” added Woolley.
For video and photos of the event, click here.