Chairwoman Mikulski Focuses on Need to Provide Robust & Reliable Federal Investment in Medical Innovation

Date: April 2, 2014

Contact: Vince Morris (202) 224-1010

Video of Opening Statement

Video of Q&A

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed the importance of properly funding the NIH in order to achieve shared medical research goals at the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee hearing.  Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Before we begin with fiscal year 2015, as the Full Committee Chairwoman I want to thank all Members of Committee who worked so hard to enact the fiscal year 2014 Omnibus. We left no bills behind and showed we can govern.

“We have received the President’s budget, and we have a budget deal for 2015. We’re beginning our hearings. We will mark up our bills quickly. Our goal is to get our work done by October 1, avoid shutdowns and showdowns, and show the American people we have changed the tone and will continue to govern.

“I am very pleased we’re here today to talk about an issue very close to my heart, funding for National Institutes of Health. I call it the: ‘National Institutes of Hope’. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget requests $30.1 billion for the NIH, a $200 million increase above fiscal year 2014. This money is vitally important, and it’s my hope we can secure this level and possibly get more for NIH.

“I was just at NIH with Dr. Collins last month talking about ending sequester and the need for stable NIH funding. I got to tour a National Cancer Institute lab, and hear about work being done to cure and prevent kidney cancer. I met a 58 year old man from North Carolina who was diagnosed with papillary kidney cancer, but is seeing dramatic improvements in health because of treatment he’s receiving at the NIH Clinical Center. This is exactly why we need NIH. When we invest in NIH, we see better cures and treatments for diseases and conditions - like Alzheimer’s, autism, diabetes, and heart disease - that devastate families and drive up health costs.

“The NIH is a world-class institution responsible for turning scientific discoveries into better health for us all. Because of the innovative work at NIH and its employees, we’ve cut the cancer death rate by 11 percent in women and 19 percent in men, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence and polio & small pox are all but eradicated in this country.

“That’s just the start of NIH breakthroughs. In 2013 alone, NIH was a major source of support for eight of 10 most highly touted scientific discoveries of the year. Not a bad year’s work! But I know and hope that more is to come because our families need it, even if you just look at diseases and conditions that start with the letter ‘A’: Alzheimer’s, autism, asthma, and arthritis.

“We got disturbing news last week about autism. The Centers for Disease Control reports a 30 percent increase in autism in the last two years. Today, one in 68 kids is on the spectrum. Just two years ago it was one in 88 kids. This is a condition that overwhelmingly impacts our young boys - one in 42 boys has autism, four and a half times as many as girls. I met last week with Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger in Maryland. Kennedy Krieger is the largest provider of care to kids with autism. They see 2,500 kids every year. This is a real problem that needs real solutions. I look forward to hearing what NIH is doing in this area to combat this rising epidemic.

“Looking at another ‘A’ disease, like many people, my family has personally been impacted by Alzheimer’s. My father had Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, my experience is all too common. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. Not only does this terrible disease cost our loved ones their memories and their lives. It also costs our health care system a tremendous amount. In 2013, Alzheimer’s cost our nation $203 billion. That number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050 but I know NIH is on the case with a little help from Appropriations Committee!

“In fiscal year 2014, NIH spent approximately $562 million on Alzheimer’s research. In fiscal year 2015, they expect to spend around $566 million given the tremendous toll this disease takes on families and our health care system. My hope is they devote even more.

“The fiscal year 2014 omnibus included $40 million for the ‘BRAIN Initiative’. The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget requests $100 million for this initiative. This is a multi-agency effort with National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and private partners, a revolutionary initiative that will help scientists unlock secrets of the brain. BRAIN stands for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Nanotechnologies. Scientists are using new cutting edge nanotechnologies to map the brain so they can prevent, diagnose, treat and cure neurological and psychiatric disorders. These new technologies and tools will hopefully lead to breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia. I am so glad this research initiative is based at NIH - I can’t think of a better home for the future of neurology & nanotechnology!

“The President’s fiscal year 2015 budget also requests $1.17 million for the National Institute on Aging to help support Alzheimer’s disease research, a $1 MILLION increase over fiscal year 2014. I look forward to hearing how NIA plans to use this money to achieve the NIH’s goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.

“I also look forward to hearing more from Dr. Collins about the ‘Accelerating Medicines Partnership’, a truly innovative and unique partnership announced earlier this year between NIH and 10 major drug companies to pool the brightest minds and the best lab discoveries to fight Alzheimer’s, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus in ways that these companies and NIH haven’t been able to do on their own. This is a big deal. Drug companies usually protect their information. It’s all very top secret – like the recipe for Coke. But these companies are coming together with NIH for the greater good. I’m excited to see what you all come up with.

“Last but not least, I want to mention the NIH Office of Women’s Health Research. When I first came to Congress, women’s health was not a priority. Women were systematically excluded from NIH research. We all remember the famous study on heart disease factors - an aspirin a day keeps a heart attack away? They talked to 10,000 men – but not one woman.

“I called my fellow women colleagues in Congress, we got in car and went right over to NIH on a hot September day in 1990. Change came to NIH when President Bush announced Dr. Bernadine Healey would be NIH Director. And we had another pal and partner in Senator Ted Kennedy. He and I teamed up to establish The Office of Research on Women’s Health. Sen. Kennedy chaired the authorizing committee and put the law in the books and then took the legislative framework to Senator Tom Harkin on the LaborHHS Appropriations Subcommittee who put funding in federal checkbook. And now we have an Office of Women’s Health. I’m very pleased to see that the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget includes $40.9 million for this vitally important office.

“The work done at NIH and the work they support world-wide is unrivaled. As Dr. Collins has said to me before, ‘If an investment in hope is not worth supporting, I don’t know what is.’ He’s right, but I also know that NIH cannot be expected to accomplish our shared goals if they are operating paycheck-to-paycheck, crisis-to-crisis or shutdown-to-shutdown.

“They need stable and reliable funding. They need to know that their budget can support multi-year grants. They need to be able to tell young researchers that the U.S. government values them, and will support their work in years to come. I know this is an issue many Senators care about. Senator Durbin has introduced a bill, and I am a cosponsor, which would help ensure that NIH and other agencies doing biomedical research receive stable funding year after year.

“I think Senator Durbin’s bill makes sense. If you think about it, the doubling of NIH’s budget happened a decade ago and since then NIH’s purchasing power has declined markedly. If we want NIH to help us combat Alzheimer’s, autism, Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, we need to help them out a little. We need to help NIH be NIH, and that requires a robust and reliable Federal investment.â€?