An intriguing panel at Washington Post Live focused on "Fostering Innovation and Job Growth." Congressman John Dingell of Michigan, Janet Woodcock of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Marc Boutin of the National Health Council all weighed in.
Boutin, executive vice president and chief operating officer at National Health Council, placed lots of emphasis on incentives and patent protection. Without the right incentives, and without the right level of protection, researchers aren't even going to enter the field, he said. Woodcock built on Boutin's thoughts by talking about all the trials that are leaving the U.S.for cheaper overseas locations. The expense, in essence, is sucking the research expertise out of the U.S.
Congressman Dingell says, "We're running out of good, basic science. We need basic research to better understand what's going on with these health problems." Biopharma companies such as Lilly (at $4B+ in 2011) continue to invest heavily in research, but government funding is being pulled back in the headwinds of our steep deficits. "But if we don't spend money (on research) we are simply not going to prosper," Dingell said.
The panelists were universally concerned about sequestration -- the pending process that will cut more than $1 trillion from federal spending. Everything from defense to health care will see cuts, and that means fewer dollars available for federally funded medical research. Congressman Dingell said cuts could result in 2,500 fewer federal grants for research and 33,000 fewer jobs in health care nationally -- big, meaningful numbers in the face of our challenges.
How will the funding be maintained, or enhanced? Woodcock and Boutin both talked about the influence of patient advocacy groups. Woodcock noted the dire need of ALS patients -- and the important demands they are making of researchers. Boutin built upon her comments to underscore the work of AIDS patients decades ago in driving more research. "It was transformational," he said said.