Sunday, March 22, 2009

Innovation Topic at Briefing

“American leadership in medical innovation must be part of our economic recovery plan,” said Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt a founding member of the new “Council for American Medical Innovation”. The Council was formed as a working partnership to urge Congress to adopt a national policy agenda to make possible medical innovation and discoveries in the life sciences.

To discuss the Council’s aims, several of its leaders met at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on March 19th for a panel discussion. With Dick Gephardt as the moderator, the other panelists included Dr. Edward Benz, CEO, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Francis Collins, Former Director of NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, Billy Tauzin, President and CEO PhRMA, and Marc Boutin Executive Vice President and COO, of the National Health Council.

Dick Gephardt said that the need for our country to increase medical innovation is a personal matter for him and that is why he became instrumental in starting the Council. He recounted the story that his son at the age of 18 months developed cancer and was treated with the most current medicines available at the time. Because researchers had the resources and were able to develop medications, since access to this information was available, and insurance was in place to pay for treatments, his son now 39 survived cancer and is married with two children.

Billy Tauzin a cancer survivor said that when he was diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he would die. He was fortunately offered an experimental new medicine and he survived. He stressed that the U.S. is falling behind in research and innovative techniques and to continue U.S. leadership in the world, we need to maintain a lead role in scientific, technological, and medical innovation.

The panelists pointed out that a study released last month by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that while the United States currently ranks sixth among 40 countries and regions in innovation and competitiveness, the U.S. placed last in terms of progress made over the last decade. Singapore, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, and South Korea now outrank the U.S.

“Science and technology has contributed to more than half of the U.S. economic growth since World War II,” said Francis Collins, however, we have allowed that to slip. We need to establish a bold and coordinated plan of action to prepare out children for careers in innovation, provide support for scientific research, and get our economy back on track.”

“We are dependent on a strong environment for medical innovation as we stake out new territory in the fight against cancer and for the health and well-being of all Americans,” said Dr. Edward Benz, “Research means hope for millions of patients and families and medical innovation creates the cures and miracles of science that help keep Americans healthy and thriving.

All of the panelists are very concerned about the state of clinical trials in this country. Since it is hard to find people for clinical trials, more and more companies are conducting clinical trials in Asia Pacific countries. As a result, only 6% of the eligible patients in the U.S. actually participate in clinical trials with only 3% of U.S. adults with cancer participating in trials.

Other problems contributing to the declining lack of medical innovation in the U.S can be contributed to the reverse brain drain that is happening when skilled scientists, engineers, doctors, and researchers are turned away by U.S. immigration policies, Asia’s science and technology is growing and continues to outpace the U.S. and this growth continues to threaten America’s leadership in scientific and technology innovation, increased foreign competitiveness has led to a decrease in the U.S. global share of patents, plus the fact that the rate at which new drugs are being created has now slowed considerably.

The plan for the Council composed of leaders from research, medicine, academia, education, labor and business communities is to advocate for a comprehensive national medical innovation policy that will address how to:

  • Attract companies and well-paying jobs to the U.S.
  • Promote risk-taking in research and development
  • Encourage more students to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education
  • Attract the best and brightest researchers to the U.S.
  • Support basic scientific research and development

For more information, go to