The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly today in favor of a bipartisan bill that would speed the development of lifesaving drugs and medical devices and provide additional funding for biomedical research.
The bill, called the 21st Century Cures Act, includes provisions that attempt to make the drug approval process less unwieldy and also calls for an additional $8.75 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health. The bill passed by a 344-77 vote on Friday morning; it now moves to the Senate.
Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels welcomed the House's passage of the bill as an important step in addressing dwindling funding for research.
"Today's strong bipartisan vote puts us on an exciting path to address critical NIH funding needs and fuel innovation in medical research," Daniels said. "The 21st Century Cures bill reflects a shared belief in the crucial role of NIH-supported research in effecting cures for patients and their families, and specifically taps into the potential of early-stage investigators."
Earlier this year, Daniels authored an article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in which he noted that America's youngest scientists are increasingly missing out on research dollars and leaving the academic biomedical workforce, a brain drain that poses grave risks for the future of science.
The number of principal investigators with a leading NIH grant who are 36 years old or younger dropped from 18 percent in 1983 to 3 percent in 2010, Daniels wrote. Meanwhile, the average age at which a scientist with a medical degree gets her first of these grants has risen from just under 38 years old in 1980 to more than 45 in 2013.
"The inability to staunch—if not reverse—the above trends stands as an urgent and compelling policy challenge," Daniels wrote in PNAS. "The current stewards of the U.S. research enterprise bear a responsibility to sustain and safeguard that enterprise so that it can provide a platform for the scientists and the science of generations to come."