FY 2015 House Appropriations Committee Public Testimony
Written testimony of Margaret Anderson, Executive Director, FasterCures, A Center of the Milken Institute, for the Subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education, and related agencies
Chairman Kingston, Ranking Member DeLauro, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present my testimony urging the subcommittee to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to medical research by investing at least $32 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY 2015.
I am Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute. FasterCures is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization focused on improving the medical research and development system so that we can speed up the time it takes to get important new medicines from discovery to patients. We work across diseases, disciplines, and sectors – academic institutions, government agencies, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, investors, medical research foundations, philanthropic organizations, and patient advocacy groups – to identify and eliminate roadblocks slowing down medical progress. We strongly believe that for the medical research system to work effectively, we need the NIH to be able to function at peak performance so it can continue to support groundbreaking programs and pursue transformative, life-saving discoveries.
Investment in NIH Research Saves Lives
The past few decades have brought enormous breakthroughs in the fundamental knowledge necessary to understand, prevent, diagnose, and treat many diseases. Federal investment in research since the 1970s has helped double survival rates for multiple cancers. Consider the $7 a year per American investment to support HIV/AIDS research and how that has turned a life-threatening disease into a manageable condition, when access to therapies is assured. Breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS research enabled by the NIH have saved us over $1.4 trillion[i] and, just earlier this month, we heard about the second baby born with HIV that has shown no signs of the virus after being treated with antiretroviral drugs.[ii] Meanwhile, NIH-driven cardiovascular research has led to treatments that saved more than a million American lives. But, there remains a formidable list of diseases that do not have therapeutic options.
One in three Americans suffer from cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and other illnesses for which there are still no cures—and, in many cases, few meaningful treatment options. That’s a lot of us, and we all need an NIH that is able to deliver high quality research that could yield life-saving medical advances.
NIH Yields Enormous Returns to the Economy
NIH-driven research saves lives, and is also a boon to the economy. In 2011, NIH investment supported 432,000 jobs and generated $62.13 billion in economic activity.[iii]
Choose any medical advance announced by a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, and chances are the basic science on which it was built emerged from an NIH-funded lab – 74% of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies having licensed patents from NIH-funded academic research.[iv] Consider a Wisconsin-based, multibillion dollar life science company known as TomoTherapy. Largely supported by NIH grants, a group of researchers at University of Washington developed a machine to improve the accuracy of cancer treatment by reducing the ability for radiation to damage non-cancerous organs near the area of treatment. Within 10 years of treating its first patient, TomoTherapy evolved into a major private sector company, employing more than 1,100 people worldwide, and its fiscal year 2012 revenue exceeding $400 million.[v]
Beyond job-creation, we’ve all seen how effective therapies yield highly productive employees. Thanks in large part to NIH research, Americans are living nearly 30 years longer than they did in 1900[vi]. Not only have these gains in longevity enriched many lives, they have added an estimated $3.2 trillion annually to the U.S. economy since 1970.[vii]
These numbers provide us with a strong argument for investing in the NIH. Scaling back now has major repercussions. Consider our aging population: demographers, epidemiologists, and economists project that the rising costs of age-related chronic conditions will surpass our ability to pay for care, leaving us with bleak choices between widespread suffering and financial ruin. Every year, American taxpayers spend $203 billion on Medicare and Medicaid expenses related to Alzheimer’s disease alone. If substantial progress is not made in stopping Alzheimer’s through effective prevention and treatment options, Medicare and Medicaid spending will reach $1.1 trillion in today’s dollars by 2050 if we don’t change its course. And Alzheimer’s is just one of many examples.[viii]
NIH Research Positions U.S. Leadership in Innovation
At a time of unprecedented scientific opportunity, forward-thinking investments in our biomedical research infrastructure not only saves lives and creates jobs, it also reinforces the U.S. as the global leader in innovation.
For more than a decade now, NIH funding has been steadily weakening.[ix] China, India, Japan, the U.K., Singapore, and other nations are catching up quickly as they increase research budgets as much as 30% a year[x], while the NIH budget has lost nearly 20% of its purchasing power since 2003. China alone has pledged to devote $308.5 billion just to biotechnology between 2012 and 2017, compared with a projected $160 billion for all NIH programs.[xi]
We Cannot Squander the Promise of Science
In an opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, FasterCures chairman Michael Milken and former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni wrote that “it makes no sense to eat our seed corn with across-the-board cuts that don't distinguish between programs that can safely be eliminated and those that produce high returns.”[xii]
At FasterCures, we’re buoyed by the enthusiasm we see in young scientists who have just received their first grants and the biomedical research entrepreneurs whose ideas are turning into thriving companies. We are energized by the novel solutions driven by patient organizations. We have seen the potential for personalized medicine to deliver high quality, cost-effective care. But, we also know that these pockets of transformative innovation will not, cannot, be scaled without a strong NIH.
The decisions we make today will have implications long into the future. Now is the time to lean in and ensure everyone understands the NIH’s value proposition and relevance to patients and the economy, because it already takes too long to get from an idea to a treatment. In the U.S., every 68 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer's disease. Every 24 seconds, someone is diagnosed with cancer. Every 18 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes. Patients' lives are literally on the line. Time equals lives, so goes our mantra at FasterCures. We cannot let the possibility of a cure sit in a cupboard instead of pursuing its full potential to benefit patients, families, and communities.
We understand the nation's long-term fiscal challenges and recognize that overall spending must be sustainable. Precisely because of these pressures, not in spite of them, we should invest in the NIH and make it a national priority.
Thank you again, distinguished Committee members, for your service to our nation. I appreciate the opportunity to present this written testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you have or provide additional information.
[i] Forbes: Legendary Drug Industry Executives Warn U.S. Science Cuts Endanger The Future. March 6, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2013/03/06/drug-industry-greats-say-the-u-s-must-reverse-the-cuts-to-our-investment-in-science/.
[ii] New York Times: Early Treatment Is Found to Clear H.I.V. in a 2nd Baby. March 5, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/health/second-success-raises-hope-for-a-way-to-rid-babies-of-hiv.html.
[iii] United for Medical Research: NIH’s Role in Sustaining the U.S. Economy. 2012. http://www.unitedformedicalresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/NIHs-Role-in-Sustaining-the-US-Economy-2011.pdf.
[iv] Burnham Institute for Medical Research Congressional Briefing: Economic Impact of NIH Funded Research. February 25, 2009.
[v] United for Medical Research: Profiles of Prosperity: How NIH-Supported Research is Fueling Private Sector Growth and Innovation. July 2013. http://www.unitedformedicalresearch.com/advocacy_reports/profiles-of-prosperity-how-nih-supported-research-is-fueling-private-sector-growth-and-innovation/.
[vi] U.S. Life Expectancy. Centers for Disease Control National Vital Statistics Report 2012. http://www.nih.gov/about/impact/life_expectancy_graph.htm.
[viii] USAgainstAlzheimer’s: The Cost of Alzheimers. http://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/crisis
[ix] Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB): Budget Cuts Reduce Biomedical Research. May, 2013. http://www.faseb.org/portals/2/PDFs/opa/5.16.13%20NIH%20Funding%20Cuts%202-pager.pdf.
[x] New England Journal of Medicine: Asia’s Ascent — Global Trends in Biomedical R&D Expenditures. January, 2014. http://rwjcsp.unc.edu/downloads/news/2014/20140102_NEJM.pdf
[xi] United for Medical Research: Leadership in Decline. http://www.unitedformedicalresearch.com/advocacy_reports/leadership-in-decline/
[xii] Baltimore Sun. Sickening cuts to NIH. March 21, 2013. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2013-03-21/news/bs-ed-nih-20130321_1_nih-grants-medical-research-scientists