National Institutes of Health (NIH), addressing the issue at hand – tightening fiscal resources that threaten the research and development ecosystem to fully deliver science’s full potential to improve health and well-being. This was the main topic of a Capitol Hill briefing co-hosted by FasterCures and Friends of Cancer Research.
Moderated by FasterCures Executive Director Margaret Anderson, Collins and other medical research leaders representing distinct sectors provided a glimpse into what it takes to turn a scientific discovery into a safe and effective therapy that will improve, and maybe even save, patients’ lives. More than 300 policy decision makers, advocates, and key legislative staffers participated.
“There is no one in this room who hasn’t been touched by disease, whether it’s yourself or a loved one,” said Ellen Sigal, chair and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, opening the discussion. “We cannot let the FDA or NIH become a victim of political polarization.” The discussion kicked off with video highlights from a viral campaign, Time=Lives, that featured images and stories of patients, families, researchers, and executives, reminding everyone in the room about what’s at stake.
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of public investment on drug development
Improving and accelerating research and development requires all stakeholders in the medical research ecosystem to work together – including federal agencies, industry, academia, and patient groups. Collaboration – existing collaborative efforts, and the need for even more partnerships – was a resounding theme throughout the discussion.
Disease research organizations feel the excitement for an improved system. “This is the most robust pipeline we’ve seen. Now is not the time to step back from working together, but to do more,” said Deborah Brooks, co-founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
“The FDA is the final common pathway to translating science to patients,” said Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “If the FDA is not fully funded and supported, the ecosystem will not function optimally. When we engage early with the scientific community, we’re able to cut five years off of the drug development process.”
Roy Jensen, director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, is already seeing how limited resources are impacting research progress. “We’re not even funding a fraction of the best science. We’re starting to cut to the bone – scientists are having to close labs, they aren’t able to train the next generation… It’s fundamentally altering our infrastructure,” said Jensen.
The importance of supporting the next generation of brilliance and innovation weighs heavily on the minds at the NIH, and researchers are hopeful for the next group of young investigators. “It is very tough right now to be a grad student, or a post-doc. As they look at the landscape of this country, they wonder if there’s room for them,” Collins said.
“The decisions we make today will have implications long into the future. Unlike delaying construction of a bridge that can be resumed in a few years, if we lose a generation of scientists, there’s no way to rebuild that human capital quickly,” said Mike Milken, founder of FasterCures and chairman of the Milken Institute. “We fully understand the need for overall budget restraint in Washington; but short-term cuts in bioscience only assure a less-healthy America down the road. Modest investments in prevention and cures today will help avoid the catastrophic costs of care tomorrow.”
* A video of this briefing is now available.
From L to R: Margaret Anderson, Roy Jensen, Deborah Brooks, Tony Coles, Ellen Sigal, Margaret Hamburg, Mike Milken, Francis Collins