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House, Senate Leaders Aim to Pass 21st Century Cures Bill by Year End

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Bipartisan leadership from the House and Senate yesterday announced support for the 21st Century Cures Act and expressed a commitment to signing the sweeping biomedical research funding bill into law before the end of the year, despite ongoing challenges the legislation has faced.

"We have been working hard for months, and we will continue to work toward an agreement that can pass both chambers and be signed by the president," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) said in a statement along with Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), and Gene Green (D-TX). "At hand is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we're committed to getting 21st Century Cures signed into law this fall."

In mid-2015, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of the act, which would increase National Institutes of Health funding by $10 billion over five years; create a special fund for basic, translational, and clinical research at the NIH; and implement changes to the US Food and Drug Administration approval process, among other things.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) took a different approach to the legislation, voting on separate narrower bills related to its different aspects. Earlier this year it passed a total of 19 bills, although it did not vote on this issue of NIH funding.

Since then, however, the bill's progress has stalled as Senate Republicans and Democrats wrangle over how to pay for the legislation's programs.

"We continue our work on bipartisan legislation to spur cures and treatments and better health for Americans," HELP committee leaders Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a separate statement issued yesterday. "We've been working for a year and a half on behalf of patients and scientists, and we are committed to getting a result this year that will lead to lifesaving medical breakthroughs and advance President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative and Vice President Biden's Cancer Moonshot."