The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held a June 29 hearing to consider 11 legislative proposals related to research security and improving health by reducing disparities and improving access to health care services, including through authorized investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Taken together, this is a diverse slate of impactful bills that will improve American health care from early research to patient care with a focus on reducing disparities and protecting American ingenuity,” subcommittee Chair Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) noted in her opening statement.
Full committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) shared broader frustrations with the NIH at the hearing. “I think we need to have NIH testify and do more oversight of how NIH is functioning as a whole before providing new authorizations of funding for NIH. I … hope we can work in a bipartisan way to reform NIH and rebuild trust that the NIH has broken with the American people.”
The subcommittee considered three proposals to address security of federally funded research: H.R. 5442, the Fix Nondisclosure of Influence in Health Research Act, H.R. 5478, the Protecting the Integrity of Our Biomedical Research Act of 2021, and H.R. 6305, the Protect America’s Biomedical Research Enterprise Act of 2021. The proposals, respectively, would require the Health and Human Services secretary to report to Congress on actions taken to address cases of research misconduct, require NIH-funded researchers to disclose participation in foreign talent programs, and establish interagency collaborations to protect intellectual property and address research security risks.
Michael Shannon, president of government solutions for IPTalons, Inc. and former director of the Office of Management Assessment for the NIH testified that H.R. 6305 and H.R. 5478 were largely incorporated into the House-passed America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology, and Economic Strength (COMPETES) Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521) and the Senate-passed U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA, S. 1260) bills to address U.S. global competitiveness, which are currently undergoing conference negotiations [refer to Washington Highlights, Feb. 4, March 25].
“As we look to secure the integrity of our research enterprise, we must do so in a way that does not impede global collaboration and scientific discovery. Many of us will agree that the United States cannot and will not remain a leader in medical research without attracting the brightest minds across the world and working with the best institutions,” full committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) noted in his opening statement, “Above all, the NIH can and should remain a primary vessel for fundamental scientific research. We can ultimately unleash the agency’s full potential without stifling future research if we effectively increase transparency on how these research dollars are spent,” he said.
The committee also heard testimony from Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics and the Lee Goldman, MD, Endowed Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Bibbins-Domingo focused her comments on the importance of diversifying clinical trials and of the coordination of federal agencies to reach the goal of more inclusive research. Her testimony referred to the bipartisan legislative proposal H.R. 7845, the NIH Clinical Trial Diversity Act of 2022, which would add requirements for NIH-funded clinical trials to include recruitment and retention goals for research participants, plans for alternative and less burdensome follow-up requirements, and diversity and health equity training requirements for research staff.
The AAMC recently submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration on opportunities to increase diversity in clinical trials and enhance research outcomes [refer to Washington Highlights, June 24].
Also testifying on the importance of including children in research studies was Leslie Walker-Harding, MD, chair of the University of Washington School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and senior vice president and chief academic officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Other bills considered related to increased funds for NIH’s Implementing a Maternal health and PRegnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone (IMPROVE) initiative, trauma care grants, addressing barriers to adoption of telehealth technology, research into uterine fibroids, early-career pediatric researchers, and mobile health units for federally qualified health centers.
No additional details on next steps for the bills’ consideration were provided during the hearing.