A seemingly innocuous new bill, the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act (H.R. 2019) sponsored by Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Va., is up for a vote in the U.S. House today and it is causing quite a stir. The bill is named in honor of Gabriella Miller, a ten year old that recently passed away from brain cancer and advocated strongly for increased funding for pediatric cancer research, and it would allow $12.5 million to be authorized to the National Institutes of Health to fund pediatric-cancer-specific research grants. However, the name of the bill represents only half of the purpose. The other part of the bill outlines where the money will be generated, which is from amending the tax code to divert finances used to fund presidential election campaigns. This puts Congress members in a difficult spot on deciding whether to fund politics or to fund research.
While Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House Majority leader, is supportive of the bill, others, mainly Democrats, are not willing to vote yes. The inclusion of politics into a research bill diminishes the value of supporting medical research. Additionally, authorizing funds does not necessarily mean they will be appropriated for the intended purpose. Furthermore, the small amount of funds authorized in this bill does not make up for the large budget cuts that hurt all avenues of scientific research.
While the ASBMB is pleased that funding for scientific research is being highlighted by members of Congress, the society does not support the bill. The ASBMB would prefer to let scientists determine the best course of action with their research and to win grants based on exemplary, peer-reviewed applications, rather than have Congress dictate which research is important. A better approach supported by the society is to agree upon a budget that eliminates sequestration and ensures predictability and credibility in order for all scientists to continue to make groundbreaking discoveries that leads to cures for many diseases, not just pediatric cancers.
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UPDATE: The U.S. House passed the Gabriella Miller First Research Act with 295 Yeas and 103 Nays.