What we’re watching in 2015: 21st Century Cures

In this four-part series, we will take a look at important issues for the research community in 2015. Today’s topic is the 21st Century Cures initiative.

In the spring of 2014, Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, and Fred Upton, R-Michigan, made an important announcement concerning scientists. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce committee, chaired by Upton, would pursue an initiative they were calling the 21st Century Cures initiative. The aim of this project was to identify regulatory and legislative hindrances that slowed promising therapies from reaching the American people.

The committee issued five white papers and requested responses from the community about how to proceed on a variety of topics from propelling innovation in drug discovery to digitizing medical records. The committee also held twelve hearings. The focus of these events centered around federal regulations that serve as disincentives for innovative research, Food and Drug Administration regulations that slow drug approval and how to best address patient needs.

However, the committee has also paid attention to the role basic research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and others, plays in our national health. While none of the hearings focused solely on the trials and tribulations of today’s scientists, these concerns were voiced by the ASBMB and other advocacy groups in our written responses to the committee’s requests as well as by witnesses from the NIH and academia at committee hearings. We are certain that a part of any 21st Century Cures legislation will include language that will affect the NIH.

The DeGette and Upton offices were optimistic that 21st Century Cures legislation would be introduced very early in the 114th Congress. To this point, the process for writing the legislation has been bipartisan, and we expect a bill to be introduced that is amenable to Republicans and Democrats alike. While nothing is certain in Congress, bipartisan legislation that relieves onerous regulations and safely speeds the drug discovery pipeline should have a good shot at passing the chamber.

Follow the ASBMB Policy Blotter to keep up with 21st Century Cures news and other science policy news throughout the year!

Part 1: 21st Century Cures

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