Thursday, May 30, 2013

Medical research investment: an opportunity for bipartisanship?

By Cecilia Arradaza, Director, Communications and Policy, FasterCures
May 29, 2013
Photo courtesy of the NIH
A few weeks ago, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led a bipartisan group of members to the National Institutes of Health campus to learn more about their work, but also to discuss the future.  Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Andy Harris (R-MD), Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Ted Yoho (R-FL) joined the Majority Leader.  Cheryl Jaeger, Megan Whittemore, and Matthew Zackon of Leader Cantor’s office and Karen Summar of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’s office also participated.
Photo courtesy of the NIH
Seeing is believing – walking through the NIH Clinical Center, the crown jewel of our nation’s research framework, provides you not only with hope for the future but a real sense of optimism that science matters and that it can make a difference in our lifetime. So to see our Members of Congress carve out time to visit the NIH provides the medical research advocacy community with great hope we can reaffirm our commitment to the biosciences.
At the Milken Institute Global Conference, on a panel with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and FasterCures founder Michael Milken, Leader Cantor said that “[we] believe that science should be a priority.” He added that he “hopes when [the Congress] gets to the point where there are issues that seem insurmountable, let’s go ahead and try and practice doing things together so that we can get some things done.”
He then cited the creation of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), as one of the demonstrable results of him working closely with Leader Reid. “Harry, when you and I did NCATS, it was a great example I think of the ways that we can work together without a lot of fanfare and just practicing and putting points on the board, and maybe we can work our way towards larger goals after that.”
Cantor then alluded to the May 9th bipartisan trip to the NIH that he was organizing. “Not only will we spend a couple hours together one afternoon in Washington, but also perhaps learn something together we can practice trying to solve problems together,” he said.
During the panel discussion, Leader Reid concurred with Cantor’s statement on the critical importance of supporting science and noted that “if we’re going to make progress in some of the dreaded diseases we have, we have to step up as a federal government to do that. It’s going to take us working together to fund these programs so that our great scientists can continue doing what they know needs to be done. And we can’t do it on the cheap.”
Investing in our nation’s medical research infrastructure is an investment in our future.
From a dollars-and-cents vantage point, consider the economic payoff of the Human Genome Project: the U.S. government’s $4 billion investment in the Human Genome Project spurred an estimated $796 billion in economic growth from 2000-2010—a 141-fold return on investment, after adjusting for inflation.
And, we are living longer, more productive lives, due in large part to research advances that started at the NIH. For example, U.S. death rates from heart disease and stroke have fallen more than 60% in the last half-century.
The case for investing in science and medical research is clear. To punctuate this point, let’s turn to the cost of inaction. Well –
  • talk to the brilliant PhD with bleak prospects for a career in science…
  • talk to the employer who has lost his or her most productive and talented staffer because that person had to instead become a full-time caregiver…
  • talk to the patient who just walked out of the doctor’s office after having been diagnosed with a debilitating disease for which there are no cures or meaningful treatment options…
Point punctuated.
Now to further underscore, consider the global environment we’re in. At a time when other countries are doubling down on their biomedical research spending, the U.S. is cutting our investment (figure 1) in the industry that promises more jobs, greater productivity, and lives saved.
With all these compelling arguments to back us up, let’s remind our elected officials of what’s at stake, and get them to act on making medical research a national priority.
Figure 1
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