Editorial

21st Century Cures Act has important ramifications in Grand Rapids

April 8, 2016
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is reporting on the proposed legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, recently spotlighted at the Van Andel Institute for its bolstering of funding for young researchers (among all others). While the Business Journal report focuses on the best features of the proposed legislation, it is not without detractors in the hospital industry and among consumer health care watchdogs.

The Business Journal finds the research-funding aspects of the legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and moving to the U.S. Senate worthy of comment, especially as it furthers the completion of much ballyhooed STEM education for those young scientists who answer the call to maintain the U.S. standing as the best country for biomedical technology advances.

The Business Journal report highlights young researchers currently working and inventing at the VAI, who say continuance of their work often falls flat for lack of research dollars. It’s certainly not where any student with a promising career expects to end up.

Such funding, especially to the National Institutes of Health, has been mired for more than a decade in political gridlock.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, who has overseen the bill, told the Business Journal it includes an innovation fund, which is a dedicated and offset funding stream of $1.75 billion per year for five years for NIH and $110 million per year for five years for the FDA, that will allow congressional appropriators to invest additional resources without impacting current budget caps.

Also referred to as “high-tech health policy,” a Modern Medicine Network report last fall noted its steps to streamline clinical trials, advance personalized medicine by encouraging greater use of drug development tools, and create incentives for developing drugs for uncommon but deadly diseases.

“It’s going to streamline the process,” Upton said,noting the bill does not dictate how NIH is to direct the additional funding it will receive but that the funding will help ensure younger scientists have an enhanced opportunity to receive grants for research projects.

The Business Journal notes important debate as to the bill’s proposed advanced speed for FDA drug and device approvals is dangerous and deserves cautious debate by Michigan senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. A recent Forbes magazine report showed no slowdowns in FDA approvals and, in fact, cautioned against demands to change current processes.

The senators’ constituency in Michigan’s University Research Corridor — anchored by the VAI and being supplemented by the new MSU medical research center in Grand Rapids — gives impetus to the 21st Century Cures Act.

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