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Sebelius Cites Support for Genomics in HHS Confirmation Hearing

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius mentioned "providing support for genomics research" first on a list of the many tasks that would come under her domain as HHS secretary during her confirmation hearing today.

In her opening testimony before a US Senate committee, Sebelius did not expand on her ambitions for genomics research, except to point out to the committee that it was at the front lines of biomedical research and could be used in a number of various disease areas.

Early on, the questioning and opening statements from Senator Edward Kennedy (D – Mass.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and former Senator Robert Dole (R – Kan.), were focused on healthcare reform, which is expected to be the central focus of the Obama Administration's health policies.

Dole gave testimony in support of Sebelius for the position, saying that she "knows health care," which he called the "number one topic of the year," and he said he expected she would need to work across partisan lines to "see that it gets done."

Before her governorship, Sebelius served as insurance commissioner for Kansas.

In her cursory notes about the duties of HHS, Sebelius also talked about the importance of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.

The secretary-designate said there is a "growing concern that the FDA may no longer have the confidence of the public and the Congress," and that she would work to restore "the trust of the American people" in the agency.

The mission of NIH is "science in the pursuit of knowledge, and its applications," she continued. "If confirmed, I will work to strengthen NIH," and would focus on the dual objectives of confronting healthcare challenges while maintaining "the nation's economic edge that comes through innovation."

As healthcare reform is destined to be a centerpiece of this administration, advancing and implementing health information technologies is essential to achieving that goal, Sebelius explained.

She said that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which set aside $19 billion for health IT, "lays the foundation for a 21st Century system" of healthcare.

Sebelius also said that through the $1.1 billion tabbed for comparative effectiveness research in the recovery act, the administration is supporting an effort to consider "relative strengths and weaknesses" of drugs and other therapies that will inform healthcare policies and practices in the future.

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