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Kansas Common Sense: Medical Research Turning Discovery into Health


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On Wednesday, I attended a Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing on the 2013 budget proposal for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world. NIH supports more than 325,000 scientists and research personnel, who work at more than 3,000 institutions across the United States and abroad. Among those testifying at the hearing were NIH Director Francis Collins and Harold Varmus, Director of NIH's National Cancer Institute.

During the hearing, I asked Dr. Collins and Dr. Varmus about NIH's mission of turning basic scientific discoveries into advances in health treatments and cures and how these objectives are being pursued in Kansas. In particular, we discussed a ground-breaking private-public collaboration between the University of Kansas Cancer Center, NIH, and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society to expedite the development of therapies for rare blood cancers. The goal of this unique collaboration is to conduct clinical studies that drug companies can then use to develop and market medical discoveries. The first project will test whether a certain arthritis drug could be useful in treating a major type of leukemia that typically affects older individuals. This project will enable Kansans to participate in clinical trials close to their homes at KU. These trials have the potential to help change the course of a patient's treatment for the better. I believe that collaborations such as this one are critical to advancing medical discovery and maximizing the return on the investment of federal dollars.

At the hearing, we also discussed the integral role that NIH plays in establishing the U.S. as a world leader in research and innovation. Given the vast amount of progress made over the last century and the great potential current research holds, now is not the time to waiver on America's commitment to advancing disease cures and treatments. If researchers cannot rely on consistent support from Congress, we will squander current progress, stunt America's global competitiveness, and lose younger generations of doctors and scientists to alternative career paths. In 2010, NIH investment led to the creation of nearly 490,000 quality jobs and produced more than $68 billion in new economic activity across the country.

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