We must work across party lines to restore investment in NIH
Some issues aren’t partisan. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, independent or anything in between, your family and friends have been touched by disease.
That is why the Tuesday Group, a caucus of moderate House Republicans, and the New Democrat Coalition, a coalition of moderate House Democrats, are working together to support funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
NIH is America's medical research agency and the largest funder of biomedical research in the world. But between 2003 and 2016, NIH's purchasing power eroded by nearly 25 percent. That forced NIH to abandon half of its promising research every year, with potentially serious long-term consequences for America's health and future.
Conservatives and progressives agree that the federal government should do everything it can to cure devastating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. That’s why each year NIH competitively invests in the innovative ideas of researchers across the country.
Those investments are paying off with potentially life-saving treatments like cancer immunotherapies, which teach our bodies to recognize and fight back against cancers. In just the last year, five brand new immunotherapy medications have been approved to treat patients. We hope with renewed investment in NIH-funded basic research, soon scientists will be able to unravel the mysteries of diseases like Alzheimer’s, autism, and addiction, and soon be able to offer new treatments to patients and their families.
Curing disease is more than just the right thing to do. It's also smart economic policy.
We all know that the federal budget is being swallowed by healthcare costs. Today, 1 out of 3 Medicare dollars is spent to care for Americans with diabetes, and 1 out of 5 Medicare dollars is spent to care for Americans with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. And those numbers are growing. Alzheimer's is projected to cost the U.S. over $1 trillion a year by 2050. If we want common sense budgeting that reins in long-term healthcare costs and balances the federal budget, then we need to invest in NIH research to cure disease.
We also believe that Congress needs to do more to create new jobs. NIH research directly supports nearly 400,000 jobs across the country, and indirectly more than 1 million Americans working in the bioscience industry. A recent Battelle study estimates that the $3.8 billion NIH invested to sequence the human genome has already returned over $1 trillion in growth to our economy – and that growth is expected to continue. That's a remarkable return on investment for the American people. Congress needs to continue to make these kinds of common sense, forward-looking, long-term investments that create good, high-paying jobs for American workers.
The need for those investments is more urgent than ever. The U.S. biotechnology sector is the envy of the world, and it's a remarkable story of how smart federal investments over the last thirty years have revolutionized medicine and technology to grow new industries and our economy. But other nations, led by China, have seen our success and now are investing heavily in biomedical research. China is projected to outspend the U.S. on all research and development by 2020. China now has more genomic sequencing capacity than the United States. Maintaining America's global leadership in science and biotechnology in the 21st Century - including our rigorous scientific and health standards - demands that we renew our investment in NIH research.
Our shrinking world also means that NIH research will be a crucial tool to protect our national security. The recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika have reminded us that diseases know no lines on a map and won’t be stopped by border checkpoints. Instead, they will be contained and cured by science. Those treatments and vaccines are the final product of many years of investment, research, and development. We don't know when the next outbreak will occur or when a terrorist may attack with a bioweapon, so we need to invest in research now to be ready.
We are committed to putting problem solving above partisanship. That's why Republicans and Democrats are reaching across the aisle to support restoring our nation’s investment in NIH research to cure disease, create jobs, and protect our national security.
Stefanik represents New York's 21st District and Scott Peters represents California's 52nd District.