Senate Health Committee Advances Biomedical Innovation Bills

On April 6, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held the third in a series of hearings (March 16 and March 9) to complete its work on companion legislation to the 2015 House-passed 21st Century Cures Act.

Opening the hearing, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) noted that the committee has completed action on approximately 50 bipartisan proposals via 10 hearings and five staff working groups that held more than 100 meetings. The proposals resulting from these deliberations form the Senate’s companion legislation to the 21st Century Cures Act. The legislation also serves as the means of codifying the President’s proposed Precision Medicine and Cancer Moonshot initiatives. The Chairman emphasized that the Senate’s “Innovation or ‘Cures’ legislation…will be the most important new law enacted this year.”

In total, the Committee passed five bipartisan bills:

  • FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act (S.2700), sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Act (S.185), sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Advancing Precision Medicine Act of 2016 (S.2713), sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Advancing NIH Strategic Planning and Representation in Medical Research Act (S.2745), sponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act (S.2742), sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA)

According to Alexander, the goal is to present this legislation along with a bipartisan “NIH Innovation Fund” bill that would provide “a surge of one-time funding for targeted NIH priorities” to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for floor consideration. Without such a fund, the legislation cannot proceed.  Unlike the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which crafted the House version of the bill, the HELP Committee does not have the jurisdiction to draw on petroleum reserves to pay for the spending included in the measure.

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