Message to Congress: Restoring National Institutes of Health Funding Should Be Top Priority

Roll Call, February 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Message to Congress: Restoring National Institutes of Health Funding Should Be Top Priority


Cracking the genetic code is arguably the greatest life science research triumph of the last century. Thanks to our country's investments in basic and clinical research over several decades, America now leads the world in harnessing the genetic code to understand, prevent and cure disease.

A more recent triumph comes from the field of cancer research. Our country's sustained investments have revealed the promise of enlisting the body's immune system in the fight against cancer. This led to the development of a new class of immune stimulating drugs now saving thousands of lives.

However, despite past successes of federally funded medical research projects, even larger challenges lie ahead.

We're currently witnessing a dramatic increase in life spans. The number of Americans older than age 60, a stage in life associated with costly diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease, is on the rise. Over the past 10 years, our nation has worked vigorously to optimize health care delivery to prepare us for an expected flood of chronic, age-related diseases. Given our long track record of health research successes, you might imagine our nation has also accelerated its investments. Sadly, that is not the case.

Funding for the National Institutes of Health, our nation's medical research agency, has dwindled by nearly 25 percent since 2003, when adjusted for inflation. This decline threatens America's long-standing pre-eminence in medical discovery. More importantly, it is threatening the health of our citizens for generations to come. Hundreds of potentially life-saving research ideas proposed each year are never pursued. As a result, real people - our family, friends and neighbors - pay the price.

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, we've launched an ambitious cancer Moon Shots Program to reduce cancer cases and mortality at a faster pace. It is a goal-oriented program that harnesses the best minds across several health disciplines and transformative technologies to unravel the mysteries of cancer. We then quickly convert that knowledge into drugs, diagnostics and policies that can save lives in the near term.

These ambitions are within reach because of our nation's history of investing in the NIH, the primary source of research support in our nation's universities, medical schools, businesses and other research institutions in every state. …

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