A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Congress at work; it's complicated

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:
Congress has postponed further action on patent reform. Concern over provisions in the legislation poured in from a broad coalition within the life sciences community, including universities, patient advocates, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. BIO’s Jim Greenwood and PhRMA’s John Castellani penned a compelling op-ed on the topic for The Hill. Now there is more work to be done as policymakers and advocates continue the conversation about reforming our nation’s patent system. Stay tuned.
Momentum for a two-year extension of the R&D tax credit is building in the Senate. The Senate Finance Committee, spearheaded by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), voted this week to extend a number of expired tax credits, including the R&D credit. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the R&D tax credit would cost $22.6 billion through 2025. One potential vehicle -- pardon the pun -- for this extension is the must-pass multi-year highway trust fund package. Along with allies, we’ve worked to assure the Senate Finance Committee included the R&D tax credit among the credits slated for extension, as we continue working to make the credit permanent when that window of opportunity opens. 
On Monday, we convened a group of our member organizations to discuss the Senate companion initiative to 21st Century Cures. In addition to discussing the who, what, when, and how of assuring that the final conferenced bill makes it across the finish line this year with guaranteed funding for NIH and FDA intact, the participants discussed several discrete issues that are not only important for the Cures effort, but bear more attention generally: e.g., how do we convey the value of basic research in a way that prevents prioritization away from this fundamental driver of medical progress?  How do we do the same for NIH’s role in training the scientific workforce? 
Other discussion topics included expanding the reach of enhanced loan repayment provisions; support for provisions to help bolster the antibiotics pipeline; and the importance of addressing questionable time-lags between FDA approval of important new medical devices and Medicare coverage of those devices.  That’s not an exhaustive recap, but it gives you a sense of how informative these meetings are. The points raised are not only useful as we strategize about Cures, but also in thinking about advocacy longer term. We’ll be talking more -- lots more -- about how to work together.  Please join us!
One more note about Cures. If advocates do not convince members of the U.S. Senate that increased funding for research is an urgent priority, it will not be treated as one. That’s not a scare tactic and it’s not hyperbole. It’s the simple truth.  More than $9 billion dollars that would be fully devoted to speeding medical progress could fail to materialize if we can’t muster enthusiastic Senate support. August is the time when Senators are in their states, taking the pulse of their constituents. Now is the time to ask for a meeting, and/or make the case in an e-mail. Click here to send an editable e-mail to your U.S. Senators.
And as you’re thinking about research in the long-term, please take the opportunity to weigh in on NIH’s request for information (RFI).The proposed framework for an NIH-wide strategic plan is now open to comments from stakeholders, particularly professional societies, patient advocacy organizations and concerned individuals.  Comments will be accepted until August 16th, as the final 5-year plan is due to Congress at the end of 2015.

Mary Woolley

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter