Durbin Calls for Greater Investment in Biomedical Research

[CHICAGO] – The United States will lose its position as the world leader in health innovation and discovery if the federal government does not make funding medical research a priority, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. Durbin met with a group of University of Chicago medical researchers to hear how cuts in federal funding may be affecting their work and career decisions. Earlier this year, Durbin introduced the American Cures Act, which would provide additional funding in support of future research at America's top four biomedical research agencies.

“Declining government support for science is putting our future prosperity and even our safety at risk. A recent survey found that 20 percent of U.S. scientists had or were considering leaving the country because of uncertainty about future funding opportunities. Think of the life-saving discoveries that could be delayed if researchers cannot get the support they need,” Durbin said. “What I hear over and over is that biomedical research is on the cusp of making transformative discoveries. What will keep us from making those discoveries is not lack of knowledge -- but lack of federal funding.”

In 2011, 53 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 National Institutes of Health (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, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of Defense Health Program (DHP), and the Veterans Medical & Prosthetics Research Program. Every 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.

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.