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Bipartisan legislation will provide an overdue boost for medical innovation

With the 21st Century Cures Act, the House of Representatives has recognized the importance of adequately funding medical research.

The new emphasis on medical innovation offers some hope to patients with little of it, including Michael J. Maloney of Cheektowaga, who has been diagnosed with ALS, an incurable nervous system disorder also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Candace Johnson, president and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said the “sustained and predictable funding is really a much-needed boost for researchers, and it’s the first in a decade.”

As reported by News Washington bureau chief Jerry Zremski, the House passed the measure by the overwhelming bipartisan margin of 344 to 77.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, credits the efforts of Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in working with Democrats and Republicans. Upton showed that bipartisan compromise can be achieved even in what has become one of the most divisive stretches of congressional discord.

Given the strong support in the House and the backing of the Obama administration, the Senate is likely to go along.

Democrats have been pushing for more medical research funding, and this bill adds nearly $8.75 billion over five years for the National Institutes of Health. The funding is exempt from the sequestration process, which did not sit well with the fiscally conservative Republicans who voted against it. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, has campaigned for an increase in medical research funding for years and accurately points out that Roswell Park and other facilities at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus will benefit.

Higgins does have concerns the bill might go too far in streamlining the approval process for new drugs. It is a process that will require extreme caution. Maloney, the ALS patient from Cheektowaga, visited Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., along with Collins and Higgins, while in Washington, D.C. His message: “Time is of the essence.”

The legislation will encourage the FDA to respond quickly to changing science in allowing the approval of new drugs and devices. That, plus the increase in research dollars, could have a significant impact on the growing medical innovation hub at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.