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Policy Corner: Senate HELP Committee Holds NIH Research Hearing

On Thursday, August 23rd, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing entitled “Prioritizing Cures: Science and Stewardship at the National Institutes of Health.” NIH Director Francis Collins and others testified before the committee regarding ongoing NIH research initiatives, with a particular emphasis on the projects authorized by the 21st Century Cures Act.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted the vital work of the NIH and the importance of federal investments in scientific research more generally. He also praised Congress for dramatically increasing the NIH budget over the last few years and expressed his hope that another $2 billion increase could be provided for FY 2019. He then asked Dr. Collins and others from the agency to provide a report. Here is a summary of key points that were shared with the HELP Committee:
  • It is of paramount importance to protect research integrity;
  • Scientists from other countries play a positive role in U.S. research activities, and there is a great advantage to our country of attracting the brightest people from around the world to our universities and laboratories, so long as they follow the rules;
  • The importance of research to address a wide range of health challenges, including the opioid epidemic;
  • The importance of dealing appropriately with security problems or other violations that could undermine the U.S. research enterprise;
  • Advances in biomedical research require a global effort;
  • NIH is taking steps to protect the integrity of biomedical research from undue foreign influence;
  • There are acute threats to the biomedical research enterprise from certain malign actors, with specific areas of concern that were included in an August 20 public statement from Dr. Collins.
One of the toughest questions posed to Dr. Collins came from Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who questioned the NIH’s commitment to obesity research, given the large disease burden imposed by obesity on the American public. Collins highlighted the ways that NIH is supporting research into nutrition, diabetes and related areas to address obesity.

For more detail about the hearing, watch the video coverage. more

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