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House Roundtable Explores State of U.S. Biomedical Innovation

May 9, 2014—The “21st Century Cures Initiative” organized by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) held its first roundtable meeting on May 7.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) opened the session saying the United States “ought to be a country that promotes a culture of cures” and that he looks forward to playing an active role in the initiative.

Chairman Upton said the bipartisan initiative would “spend the next six months reviewing the full arc of the discovery, development, and delivery process to determine what steps we can take to accelerate new cures and treatments and ensure we keep America as the innovation capital of the world.”

He said they will hold roundtables in Washington, D.C., and across the nation; hold hearings in the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee; and solicit feedback from experts and interested parties through white papers such as the one released May 1.

Upton said the roundtable participants had been asked to address four questions:

  • What is the state of biomedical innovation in the United States?
  • What does biomedical innovation mean for American patients and jobs?
  • How does the U.S. compare to the other countries with respect to biomedical innovation and how can we make sure that we lead the way in the 21st century?
  • What steps can Congress take to accelerate the discovery-development-delivery cycle in the U.S. to foster innovation, bring new treatments and cures to patients, and keep more jobs in the U.S.?

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said the agency most desperately needs a steady, predictable trajectory of support.  The most worrisome aspect of the current funding situation is that it has cast a pall on young investigators, who are not lacking in talent or ideas. He also described the negative impact of regulations, including restrictions on travel by NIH staff and time and effort reporting by grantees.

James O. Woolliscroft, M.D., dean of the University of Michigan Medical School, agreed about the impact of the growing regulatory burden on faculty and staff, citing different rules for conflict of interest by different agencies.

He also described the contribution that institutions must make to support federally funded research, saying that his institution provides 25 cents for every federal research dollar and this money comes from clinical revenue, which is under increasing pressure.

Joe Gray, Ph.D., associate director for translational research at the Knight Cancer Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, called for clinical trials to be designed to be as informative as possible and for a substantial investment in basic research to better understand model systems.

He also stressed the importance of continuing to invest in analytical technologies.  He said the United States is falling behind in technological infrastructure, which results in losing scientists to other countries that “do a better job in making the instruments of science available.”

Representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, patient groups, and industry also participated in the roundtable.

Meanwhile, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a May 7 hearing to discuss the progress and challenges in cancer research. NIH National Cancer Institute Director Harold Varmus, M.D., testified at the hearing along with actress and research advocate Valerie Harper, among others.


Dave Moore
Senior Director, Government Relations
Telephone: 202-828-0559


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
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Telephone: 202-903-0806