On Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the 21st Century Cures Act into law. Two local congressmen, one from each major political party, stood together with representatives of numerous health and patient interests to celebrate the act's passage.
Congressmen Chris Collins and Brian Higgins joined together at the Alzheimer's Association Western New York Chapter to hail an act that will provide billions of dollars that, supporters say, will enable the ability to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of life-saving medication to treat various debilitating diseases.
The National Institutes of Health will receive $4.8 billion by the act. The Food and Drug Administration will receive $500 million to streamline the regulatory process.
"We increased the budget to the FDA," said Collins. "To do what? Part of my role in this was to focus on the FDA piece to let them hire more senior biomedical researchers, the people that have 20 and 30 years experience in the pharmaceutical field, so they can make faster decisions with more confidence that they're not going to have a negative impact on patient safety."
Collins cited the head of NIH, Dr. Francis Collins (who is no relation to the Congressman), and suggested that according to Dr. Collins, many diseases once thought insurmountable may be treated or even cured years from now.
The legislation will also require that patient feedback be included as part of the drug approval process.
"We're going to move the federal bureaucracy aside and try to humanize it as much as we can," said Higgins.
The 21st Century Cures Act provides funding to support Vice President Joseph Biden's so-called "Cancer Moonshot" challenge, to realize tens years worth of advancements in only five years' time. It also funds the BRAIN Initiative, which seeks to further understand conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease.
Also speaking in support of the Act is Mike Maloney of the ALS Association, who is also an ALS patient. He has actively pushed for passage of the new legislation and said seeing it accomplished made all the trips to Washington D.C. "worthwhile."
"We can make the difference. If not today, five years, ten years, give hope," Maloney said.
Congressman Brian Higgins added that Buffalo and Western New York are pioneers in chemotherapy, which began at Roswell Park Cancer Institute more than a century ago, and the first documented public funding of medical research. Collins suggested the 21st Century Cures Act will most likely be the last piece of major legislation signed by President Obama. He suggested it is nice to give the outgoing president a strongly supported bipartisan bill as one of his final acts.