Rapundalo/Greenwood Op-Ed: Discussion, Investment Crucial in Finding Cures
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Viewpoint: Discussion, investment crucial in finding cures in Michigan
By Stephen Rapundalo, president and CEO of MichBio, and James C. Greenwood, president and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization
How can we accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new medical treatments and cures for patients? That's the question asked by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI 6th) at a roundtable discussion Tuesday in Kalamazoo. The roundtable is one of many being held across the country as part of the 21st Century Cures Initiative. The U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee launched the initiative – led by Chairman Upton and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) – to engage in a national discussion devoted to identifying big ideas and proposals for accelerating the next generation of cures and treatments.
We applaud Chairman Upton for undertaking this initiative because it is imperative that we find new solutions. This can be accomplished only if we continue to invest in scientific research, encourage the development and adoption of more efficient approaches to drug development, support collaborations and partnerships in the research and development endeavor, empower regulatory agencies to keep pace with science, promote the effective transfer of new technology, establish and defend policies that protect intellectual property, and promote reimbursement policies that ensure continued innovation and access to medicines for patients. A forward-thinking innovation ecosystem will ensure that patients continue to receive the benefits of new therapies and new cures as we move further into the 21st Century.
Michigan's robust bioscience industry, which employs nearly 42,000 men and women across 1,700 businesses in the state, will also be an important part of the solution, as will academic research and support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Michigan's research universities conducted more than $1.2 billion in bioscience-related R&D in 2012, and Michigan institutions received over $575 million in research funding from the NIH for fiscal year 2013.
Any effort to advance medical innovation will need to address the growing burden placed on patients and our healthcare system by chronic diseases. Alzheimer's disease is one – and perhaps the most striking – example. Over one million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer's today, a number that is projected to triple by 2050. If new treatments to cure, prevent, or delay Alzheimer's are not found, the financial cost to the healthcare system of caring for patients with the disease is projected to rise to over $1 trillion by 2050.
In order to address this growing threat, as well as that posed by other chronic conditions, BIO has proposed the development and execution of a large-scale, longitudinal study to sequence the genomes of 100,000 volunteers in age cohorts from those in their 20s through those in their 80s, obtain biospecimens and additional health care data from those individuals, and develop biological markers that may predict Alzheimer's and other chronic diseases for which the cause is unknown or poorly understood.
This large-scale, long-range study will build on, coordinate with, complement, and enhance important ongoing efforts - here and abroad; will add to the base of data necessary to find ways to cure and prevent Alzheimer's; and will help researchers' efforts to find ways to treat hundreds of other diseases for which we still lack adequate therapies.
We want to thank Chairman Upton for his leadership in spearheading the 21st Century Cures Initiative and for bringing together stakeholders representing Michigan's life sciences industry, academic, and government sectors to find ways in which we can all advance our shared goal of discovering, developing, and delivering new therapies for the patients who are relying on them.
[Read article online.]