Earlier this week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced a new plan to increase funding for biomedical research. His proposed “American Cures Act” would boost federal funding by $150 billion over 10 years for research focused on discovery and innovation at four of the nation’s top research agencies: the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Defense health programs and the VA’s Medical and Prosthetic Research Program.
Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, applauded the proposal.
“Senator Durbin’s proposal will provide much-needed federal support and certainty for research that drives advances in patient care and health outcomes,” he said. “Investment in science is good from the standpoint of discovering cures for serious diseases and reducing human suffering. But it also makes sense from a business standpoint by creating high paying jobs for skilled people and maintaining our international lead in this critical high tech area.”
Durbin was introduced at a press conference by Peter Kovler, of the Kovler family who has generously supported the Marjorie B. Kovler Viral Oncology Laboratories and the Kovler Diabetes Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, along with other research initiatives around the country. In his speech, Durbin said:
America is wealthier and the world is healthier today because of charitable contributions to medical research, ranging from the philanthropy of the Kovler family and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, to the dimes and dollars donated by school children. But what I want to talk about today is the role of the federal government in medical research and discovery …
… In every field of scientific discovery, the U.S. government-funded research has led to extraordinary advances, both nationally and globally. But it is federal investments in medical research that have helped produce the greatest discoveries in our history – and hold the greatest promise for our future.
Durbin also pointed to the career of the late Janet Rowley, MD, whose groundbreaking research at the University of Chicago on the genetic mutation causing chronic myelogenous leukemia was funded in part by the NIH. Rowley’s discoveries led to targeted therapies for previously untreatable cancers, the kind of breakthrough, Durbin said, made possible by federal investments in medical research.