Supporting medical research beyond talk

April 27, 2015

photo of Francis Collins and Margaret Anderson at Global Conference panel“For those who have read Charles Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities,' for biomedical science, this is the best of times and the worst of times as we look at the unparalleled scientific opportunity yet the lack of federal commitment to sustaining America’s biomedical system,” lamented Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute and founder of FasterCures. Milken spoke during the panel entitled “Accelerating Medical Research: The Bipartisan Quest for Cures” at the Global Conference. Moderator Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures, led the discussion, which brought to light how nontraditional partners are banding together to protect and accelerate innovation.

Robert Hugin, CEO of biotechnology leader Celgene, hopes his industry can plant these issues in the broader global agenda. We need to be better advocates for the positive economic returns generated by the crown jewel of the world’s biomedical system,” Hugin said. “The failure to invest in U.S.-based research and innovation will have consequences for all of society. We can’t put this off for 10 or 15 years. For example, every year we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease will save our nation $200 billion.”

Robert Hugin, Chairman and CEO, Celgene

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, agreed. “We are at an inflection point. We are witnessing the continual, gradual dismantling of the greatest biomedical engine the world has ever known. Everyone says they support medical research, but talk is cheap. Other countries are reading our playbook. Last year, China filed more patents in the life sciences than the U.S. These issues are critical to science, our economy and national security.”

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health

Milken continued on that theme, noting: “China is tapping Chinese-born scientists living outside their country, tempting them to return with promises of millions of dollars to fund their labs.” This stands in contrast to prospects young American scientists face. “This year, philanthropists attending Global Conference will hear from me and others that the best investment in top universities will be supporting young scientists. We’re issuing a call to action to protect our pipeline of young talent.”

“California is the most vibrant bioscience cluster in our nation, representing 270,000 direct jobs and $27.4 billion in wages. California Life Sciences Association is helping scientists learn how to run successful biotechnology businesses, pitch their ideas to investors and connect to patients who can inform their priorities,” said Sara Radcliffe, president and CEO of the group, which represents 750 organizations working in the biosciences and health care. “In fact, the voice of the informed patient is key to everything. It keeps the engine of innovation humming.”

Anderson invited Congressman Joe Barton, chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to share the history of how the committee’s 21st Century Cures Initiative was launched. The initiative highlighted the need for patient perspectives to be better integrated into medical product development and regulation. Barton traced its origins to conversations with Chairman Fred Upton and then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “Rep. Upton issued a discussion draft in January and another one will be released this week. There is going to be a lot of tugging and hauling to get it right, but we will have a bill signing ceremony at the White House for 21st Century Cures.”

Closing the session, Anderson committed FasterCures to help with the “tugging and hauling” it will take to advance policy and collaboration toward better outcomes. “This is another chapter in the story of the American Dream. It illustrates the power of ingenuity, the power of ideas, the power of united action, and the power of relationships.”

Global Conference 2015
Accelerating Medical Research: The Bipartisan Quest for Cures

Margaret Anderson, Executive Director, FasterCures, a Center of the Milken Institute

Joe Barton, U.S. Congressman, Texas
Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health
Robert Hugin, Chairman and CEO, Celgene
Michael Milken, Chairman, Milken Institute
Sara Radcliffe, President and CEO, California Life Sciences Association