Cancer Moonshot Expert Panel Unveiled

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the blue-ribbon panel of experts that will advise the agency’s work on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The 28-member board includes physicians, nurses, and researchers from institutions such as MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, drug company and hospital system executives, and patient advocacy leaders. The panel will make recommendations on the best opportunities for breakthroughs in cancer research, considering areas such as immunotherapy, vaccine development, early-detection technology, single-cell genomic analysis, and improved data sharing. Their ideas will form a part of the research plan to be issued this summer, and will inform the Cancer Moonshot task force final report to be presented to the President by the end of the year.

Senate Wrapping Up Work on 21st Century Cures Companion

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held its last of three markups of biomedical innovations legislation. The Committee advanced five bills: the FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act (S. 2700), the Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health (PATH) Act (S. 185), the Advancing Precision Medicine Act of 2016 Act (S. 2713), the Advancing NIH Strategic Planning and Representation in Medical Research Act (S. 2745), and the Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act (S. 2742), making for a total of 19 bipartisan bills to comprise the Senate’s work on medical innovation. Chairman Alexander stated that in this process, the committee considered as many as 50 proposals. The progress was hailed by leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who spearheaded the companion 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6), passed with bipartisan support last year. Negotiations on a deal for new mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are still ongoing, and have been the largest point of contention in the Senate Innovations Initiative. Support for the Innovations Initiative from HELP Democrats has been contingent on the inclusion of new mandatory funding for the NIH and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has expressed support for NIH mandatory funding targeted to specific initiatives – the Cancer Moonshot, the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, the young investigator corps, and Big Biothink Awards – but because funding offsets are likely to come from outside of HELP’s jurisdiction, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are also involved in the negotiation. The 21st Century Cures Act included $9 billion for the NIH and FDA. Sen. Alexander has said that a completed package could be ready for the floor as early as this week, and that he has received assurance from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he will put the bill on the floor when the work is completed.

Administration Announces $500 Million Toward Zika

The Administration announced that it has been forced to repurpose $500 million from the funding pool reserved for the Ebola virus for time critical activities to address the Zika virus. Most of the funds will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to support activities such as mosquito control and vaccine development, as the warm weather will result in an increase in mosquito activity. Congressional Republicans have been pushing for this approach to the Zika outbreak, but the idea was previously dismissed by the White House. In their announcement, White House officials continued to criticize budget leaders in congress for continuing to ignore their request for an additional $2 billion in funding specifically for Zika, but members of the GOP hold that they will not approve the request while there remains more than $1 billion in funding originally allocated during the height of the Ebola crisis.

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