Federal Update: What's Going on in Washington

June 2011 Monthly Message

Smithsonian Magazine Showcases Drug Development Process
Federal Update: What's Going on in Washington
Report Reveals New Drugs Reach Patients Sooner in the U.S. than in Europe
Join us for the 2011 Udall Awards Dinner
PAN CEO Amy Comstock Rick Featured on Comcast Newsmakers
Parkinson's in the Media


Federal Update: What’s Going on in Washington
By Becca O’Connor, PAN’s Director of Government Relations

PAN is leading efforts on the Hill and across multiple government agencies to make sure funding for Parkinson’s research is top-of-mind on the legislative and federal policy agenda.  Below are some updates on just a few of the things we’re working on right now.  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.  As always, please be prepared for a PAN Action Alert to come your way when it’s time to make your voices heard on these issues.

NIH Funding, including NCATS and CAN
The week of June 6th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provided Congress with additional budget details for the proposed National Institutes of Health (NIH) reorganization that would create a National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a center devoted to bench-to-bedside research.  Key details, however, are still outstanding, meaning it remains to be seen whether Congress will approve the center in time for its planned October 2012 launch.  

PAN continues to lead advocacy for support of funding for the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN).  FY 2012 Budget materials recently released by HHS include reference to $100 million in funding for CAN, but there are still many steps left in the appropriations process. The House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee is scheduled to meet on the budget on July 26th.

In terms of general NIH funding for FY 2012, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) co-authored a letter requesting robust federal funding for NIH and asked their colleagues to join them in support.  These kinds of letters are one way in which Members of Congress collectively express support for programs and policies. Forty-one U.S. Senators signed on to the letter, demonstrating a shared commitment across party lines for funding for the important work of the NIH.

FDA Funding
On June 16th, the House of Representatives voted on the FY 2012 Agriculture/FDA Funding Bill and approved significant cuts to the FDA’s budget. In all, the House adopted cuts of approximately $285 million, which would result in a funding reduction of about 11.5% from FY 2011.  As a result, every area of FDA activity will sustain cutbacks.  PAN submitted a letter to the Committee and Subcommittee chairs citing our support for robust funding for FDA funding to hasten the availability of much-needed new treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
The Alliance for a Stronger FDA is ramping up advocacy in the Senate, where they hope to have stronger support for FDA funding.  We will keep you posted on what happens when the Senate Appropriations Committee takes up the FDA budget.

Department of Defense Neurotoxin Exposure Treatment Parkinson’s Research (NETPR)
As you may recall, in FY 2011 this program was funded at $20 million. On June 14th, the House Appropriations Committee met to review the Subcommittee on Defense’s FY 2012 budget recommendations, and approved $16 million for Department of Defense’s (DOD) Neurotoxin Exposure Treatment Parkinson’s Research Program.  While this represents a 20% cut from last year’s funding level, it should, in this difficult budget climate, be considered a victory.  In fact, nearly every DOD Health and Medical Research Program sustained 20% cuts.  PAN thanks Subcommittee Chairman Bill C.W. Young (R-TX) for his continued support for Parkinson’s research in the face of current budgetary constraints.  We are now shifting focus to advocacy with Senate appropriators, who will hold a Defense Subcommittee hearing on June 15th.  We will continue to advocate for funding at the level of $25 million.  

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
On March 16th, PAN CEO Amy Comstock Rick testified before the U.S. House Small Business Committee in support of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.  PAN strongly supports the SBIR program at NIH as an important source of translational and clinical research funding at the NIH.  Often, promising new therapies are lost between the basic discovery research being conducted at the NIH and the drug-development stage funded by large pharmaceutical companies.  SBIR grants to small, innovative companies help move research along the drug-development pipeline in an effort to advance potential new therapies for people living with Parkinson’s disease.

On May 26th, President Obama signed legislation (S.990) to extend authorization for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs through Sept. 30, 2011.  Earlier in May, the Senate rejected a motion to limit debate on a proposal (S.493) to reauthorize the SBIR program through 2019 after the bill became a target for unrelated amendments.  The SBIR program, authorized in 2000, has been operating under a series of temporary extensions since October 1st 2008.

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