Durbin Calls for a Greater Investment in Biomedical Research

[SPRINGFIELD] – With a decline in federal biomedical research threatening America’s standing as a leader in discovery and innovation and our global competitiveness, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called for greater federal investment in biomedical research during a speech at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) School of Medicine. Earlier this year Durbin introduced the American Cures Act, which would provide additional funding in support of future research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Defense Health Program (DHP), and the Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program.

In 2011, fifty-three percent of all funding for basic research came from the federal government. Yet as a percentage of the total federal budget, the federal government spends two-thirds less on research and development today than it did in 1965. At NIH – the foremost biomedical research institute in the world – the number of research grants the agency is able to fund has declined every year for the past 10 years.

The American Cures Act would reverse that trend by augmenting federal appropriations for biomedical research with a mandatory trust fund dedicated to steady growth in research conducted at NIH, CDC, DHP, and the Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program. Each year, the bill would increase funding for each agency and program at a rate of GDP-indexed inflation plus 5 percent. This steady, long-term investment would allow the agencies to plan and manage strategic growth while maximizing efficiencies.

“In the last two centuries, U.S. government support for scientific research has helped split the atom, defeat polio, conquer space, create the Internet, map the human genome, and much more. No nation has ever made such a significant investment in science, and no nation’s scientists have ever done more to improve the quality of life on Earth,” Durbin said. “But America’s place as the world’s innovation leader is at risk as we are falling behind in our investment in biomedical research.”

“We applaud Senator Durbin’s innovative leadership in pursuit of a stable funding source for lifesaving NIH research,” said Dr. Carrie Wolinetz, President of United for Medical Research. “Following a decade of stagnant funding levels, the U.S. is at serious risk of losing our life science preeminence and squandering our most promising scientific opportunities. We are hopeful the American Cures Act is a pivotal first step in identifying a sustainable funding pathway for NIH that will improve our nation’s health and economic vitality.”

“We applaud Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin’s bold action to end federal neglect of long-standing American priorities,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. “One of our nation’s greatest strengths is its global leadership in life-saving medical research, one of its solemn commitments is to advance care for wounded warriors, and one of the pillars of its national defense is a rock solid public health system. Senator Durbin’s legislation recommits to these American imperatives. We hope legislators from both sides of the aisle join him in this visionary effort.”

“This initiative provides great hope for patients here and around the globe who suffer from as-yet unsolved diseases,” said David Miller, President and CEO of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization, better known as iBIO. “Moreover, Senator Durbin’s leadership addresses a vital need—often cited by the American Academy of Sciences--- for research as a ‘primary leverage point’ ensuring America’s competitiveness in our global economy”

During his remarks, Durbin shared the stories of research happening at SIU which is benefitting from government investment. Dr. Andrew Wilber is studying ways to reverse the cellular mutations that cause kidney cancer. Dr. Kathleen Campbell, the director of SIU’s audiology research program, is currently conducting clinical trials with Department of Defense’s support for a drug she patented to treat and prevent noise-induced hearing loss, a common problem for soldiers returning from war. Dr. Donald Torry is studying the causes of preeclampsia, a hypertensive pregnancy disorder that is among the leading causes of maternal and infant illness and death.

Making a serious, sustained investment in federally funded biomedical research is especially critical as other countries around the world are placing a priority on their own research investments. Between 1999 and 2009, Asia’s share of worldwide research and development expenditures grew from 24 percent to 32 percent – while American expenditures fell from 38 percent to 31 percent. In addition, the European Union has committed to a five-year plan to boost biomedical research. Leading researchers including National Institute of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins are warning that the lack of funding for basic research may case the country’s best researchers to take their talents to other industries or other countries.

Last year, Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on the Defense, introduced two pieces of legislation to improve orthotics and prosthetics care for the nation’s service members and veterans. The American Cures Act would further support the doctors and researchers at DHP and the Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program who are developing state-of-the-art care for the 1,700 individuals who have suffered combat-related limb loss in Iraq and Afghanistan and the 40,000 veterans with limb loss served by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The American Cures Act is also supported by: United for Medical Research, Research!America, AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; American Association for Cancer Research; American Association of Immunologists; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc.; American College of Rheumatology; American Heart Association; American Lung Association; American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association; American Society of Nephrology; American Society of Transplantation (AST); Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital; Arthritis Foundation; Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health; Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service; Debbie's Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer; Digestive Disease National Coalition; Dystonia Medical Research Foundation; Epilepsy Foundation; EVAN Foundation; Families Of Spinal Muscular Atrophy; GBS/CIDP Foundation International; Interstitial Cystitis Association; Loyola University of Chicago; Lung Cancer Alliance; National Alopecia Areata Foundation; National Kidney Foundation; National Marfan Foundation; National Minority AIDS Council; National Rural Health Association; NephCure Foundation; Northwestern University; Pulmonary Hypertension Association; Scleroderma Foundation; Society for Public Health Education; Spina Bifida Association; The AIDS Institute; The Endocrine Society; University of Chicago; University Of Illinois; and the YMCA.