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Senate HELP Committee to Meet for Final Time for Biomedical Innovation Legislation

April 4, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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This week, the U.S. Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee will hold its third and final executive session to consider several bipartisan biomedical innovation bills.

During the April 6 meeting, the committee will vote on at least five bipartisan bills, finishing its work on companion legislation to the House’s 21st Century Cures Act with a parallel effort to modernize the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to bring safe drugs and medical devices to American patients more quickly and safely, the committee said in a statement.

The bills slated for consideration at the April 6 committee meeting include:

  • Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) - FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act (S. 2700);
  • Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) – Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Act (S. 185).
  • Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – Advancing Precision Medicine Act of 2016 (S. 2713):
  • Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – NIH Strategic Plan and Inclusion in Clinical Research; and
  • Sens. Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – Promoting Biomedical Research and Public Health for Patients Act.

On January 19, Senate Help Chairman Lamar Alexander released the committee’s mark-up schedule for step-by-step consideration of biomedical innovation bills. Then, on Feb. 9, the Senate health committee kicked off its biomedical innovation agenda, passing seven bills with bipartisan support. On March 9, the committee passed seven more bipartisan biomedical innovation bills.

At the committee’s March 9 Innovation meeting, Alexander said, “This year, the most important opportunity that everybody wants to take advantage of is this remarkable scientific opportunity in biomedical research. It offers the promise of help for virtually every American. And I believe if we would succeed, it will be the most important piece of legislation signed into law this year.  … I do not know of another way this year to get support for the president’s Precision Medicine Initiative or support for the cancer ‘moonshot’ or a surge for mandatory funding for the National Institutes of Health, unless we act on his bill.”

Regarding mandatory funding for the NIH, Alexander said, “Because of our budget deficit, we need to fund that new surge in mandatory funding by reducing existing mandatory funding. … I pledge to work with Senator Murray and other members of the committee to try to achieve a bipartisan consensus that will arrive on the floor at the same time as this innovation package does. … I think we can produce the most important bill of the Congress this year, because our work on this bill will affect virtually every American. And I look forward to doing it promptly so we can hand to Senator McConnell a conclusion to the Innovation bill and on the surge of funding for NIH through mandatory funding in a bipartisan way, so he can put it on the floor.”

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