The Senate HELP Committee’s “Innovations Initiative” – a companion process to the House 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6) – finished its final round of markups, resulting in a total of 19 bipartisan bills aimed at accelerating the discovery, development and delivery pipeline. Committee leadership are in continued negotiations to finalize an Innovations legislative package with supplemental funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While bipartisan agreement on supplemental funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is less certain, Research!America and other research advocates continue to make the case that such funding is essential to the success of the initiative.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees parsed the overall FY17 discretionary budget into “302(b)” allocations or top-line spending for its various subcommittees. Since no congressional budget resolution has been adopted this year, allocations are based on the $1.07 trillion discretionary spending caps agreed to in the bipartisan Budget Act passed in 2015 and remain virtually flat compared to FY16 levels.
The Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee recently advanced its appropriations bill, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.5 billion in FY17, a little over a 1% increase from FY16. Research!America believes it is in our nation’s strategic interests to invest more robustly in the crucial scientific exploration NSF supports and is calling for a budget of $8 billion in FY17.
On the House side, the Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA Subcommittee marked up its FY17 appropriations bill, which includes a $33 million increase for FDA. While modestly better than the President’s budget, the FDA cannot fulfill its massive list of responsibilities with nominal budget increases.
Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that a causal relationship exists between the Zika virus and microcephaly. As mosquito season approaches in the continental U.S., the White House has shifted $589 million in budget funds to address the spread of Zika, and Congress has passed a law providing incentives for the private sector development of vaccines and treatments. While these are steps in the right direction, negotiations are still ongoing concerning the full $1.9 billion supplemental funding requested by the President.
The House is crafting bipartisan legislation to address drug abuse and addiction. More than a dozen bipartisan bills have been approved and will be packaged and considered on the floor in early May. The Senate passed a broad drug addiction treatment and prevention bill in March.
Fetal tissue research is the focus of investigative and legislation action at both the state and federal levels. A special House committee tasked with investigating this research recently issued eight subpoenas and has been informally soliciting information from research institutions. Research!America has issued a fact sheet on the beneficial role fetal tissue research plays in advancing medical progress and signed on to the Association of American Medical Colleges statement highlighting the importance of this research.
HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell has appointed Andrew Bindman, M.D., to serve as the Director of AHRQ. Dr. Bindman will begin his appointment on May 2, 2016 and is currently a professor of medicine, health policy, epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the University of California Medicaid Research Institute.