Washington, D.C. - The Subcommittee on Research and Technology today convened a hearing to explore current policy options to incentivize breakthrough advances in disease treatments. Members heard from a distinguished panel that included one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome and a Nobel Laureate in medicine.

Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.): “As a cardio-thoracic surgeon and medical professional, I know firsthand there are many complexities surrounding the human body. And understanding human disease is one of the most challenging problems facing the scientific and medical communities. The creative drive of American science is the individual investigator, and I have faith they will continue to tackle, understand and contribute original approaches to these problems.”

An industry that did not exist 30 years ago, U.S. biotechnology has brought new products and processes to the international marketplace, including more than 300 biotech drugs and vaccines, with potential for many more advances. Modern advances have also converged to create new research fields that further biomedical science.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “National Science Foundation (NSF)  research could help us better understand conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, stroke, dementia, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, and many other neurological disorders. Countless lives have unfortunately been lost to these diseases.  And the economic impact and physical and emotional toll they can put on families can make them even more devastating. Efficient and effective use of NSF funding geared toward basic research will help us better understand medical conditions and lead to medical breakthroughs that benefit both doctors and patients alike.”

Medical science has benefited enormously from fields as diverse as applied mathematics, computer science, physics, engineering, molecular biology, and chemistry. More importantly, basic science research results from NSF funded research will be the future experimental tools for hypothesis-based data-driven research for medical science researchers.

The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, supports basic research that has the potential to improve the daily lives of Americans. The FIRST Act increases funding for subjects such as mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, computer sciences, and engineering for Fiscal Year 2015. The FIRST Act, which was successfully reported out of Committee in May, includes a $270 million increase for Fiscal Year 2015 over current NSF spending for these important subject areas. Witnesses today discussed additional policies to spur more innovation and investment for medical breakthroughs.

The following witnesses testified today:
Dr. Harold Varmus, Director, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
Dr. Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President and Carson Family Professor, Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair, The Rockefeller University
Dr. Jay Keasling, Hubbard Howe Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering, Professor, Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, and Professor, Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley; and Director, Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center
Dr. Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer, J. Craig Venter Institute, Synthetic Genomics, Inc., and Human Longevity, Inc.

For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony and the hearing webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology website.