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Sens. Bob Casey, Richard Burr, Push for Increased NIH Funding.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).
The office of Sen. Bob Casey.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), known for his penchant for working across the aisle to craft legislation that ultimately has statewide ramifications, has partnered with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to force the issue of National Institutes of Health funding.

The two veteran Senators are making the push as fiscal year appropriations are being finalized.

The two veteran lawmakers sent joint letters Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) - the chairwoman and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, respectively, and to the leadership of the subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education and related agencies, highlighting the need for increased NIH funding, pointing out the funding will help spur innovation while creating jobs.

“There are many reasons to invest in medical research, but the two most important reasons are: it saves lives and it creates jobs,” Casey said. “We simply cannot afford, from a public health or economic standpoint, to ignore medical research.”

Increased NIH funding would have a great impact on Pennsylvania. According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, The University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University Hershey Medical Center, and Pennsylvania State University at University Park received NIH grants totaling $472, $428, $56, and $51 million, respectively, in FY 2011.

And in FY2012, Pennsylvania received 3369 NIH-funded grants through normal appropriations process, totaling over $1,460,422,797.

Casey and Burr’s joint letter – endorsed by a bipartisan group of 50 Senators – urged for increased NIH funding in the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill.

“As you and your colleagues begin to work on the Fiscal Year FY2014 appropriations bills, we respectfully request that you maintain a strong commitment to funding for the National Institutes of Health in the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill. We believe that it is essential to continue federal support for medical research because of the potential health benefits for all Americans and the importance of ensuring that our Nation remains at the forefront of medical research,” read a portion of the Casey-Burr letter. “The NIH is our country’s premier institution for medical research, supporting research in all fifty states. It offers our best hope for treating or curing debilitating diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so many other illnesses that American families battle every day. It is through the innovative medical research supported by the NIH that we may have a chance to contain the increasing health care costs associated with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation… a large portion of the projected increase in health care expenditures in the coming decades is due to demographic changes and the escalating costs associated with many medical conditions and chronic diseases that cost the federal government and private sector billions of dollars each year.

“Our investment in the NIH has yielded an unprecedented number of scientific advances that have improved health outcomes and contributed significantly to the Nation’s economic growth. NIH grants fund basic medical and translational research that turns bench-side findings into bedside interventions for patients,” the Senator’s letter continued. “Unfortunately, America is losing ground as the world leader in research and development and researchers are struggling to secure funding. As NIH grants get more competitive, researchers can easily spend half their careers working before receiving a grant, resulting in promising, talented young researchers being discouraged from the field of biomedical research and some investigators deciding to abandon scientific research altogether or to conduct their research outside the United States.”

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