JACKSON, Miss. – University of Mississippi Medical Center scientists and leaders are celebrating the 21st Century Cures Act and its promise to advance biomedical innovation in the United States.
Passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 30th, and the U.S. Senate Thursday, the omnibus bipartisan bill provides more than $6 billion to fulfill the nation’s health-care priorities. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill.
“I was very pleased to see the strong commitment in funding for biomedical research contained within the 21st Century Cures Act,” said Dr. Richard Summers, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research.
According to the bill, the National Institutes of Health will receive $4.8 billion in addition to its regular budget to focus on three objectives: the Cancer Moonshot, the Precision Medicine Initiative, and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies or BRAIN Initiative.
UMMC scientists in related disciplines are hopeful the new funding will translate to enhanced resources for the Medical Center’s discovery enterprise.
The Cancer Moonshot, proposed by Vice President Joe Biden in 2016, aims to advance cancer research and make new treatments more available for their families.
“Mississippi has a significantly high cancer incidence and burden,” said Dr. Srinivasan Vijayakumar, professor and chair of radiation oncology and outgoing director of the UMMC Cancer Institute.
In addition to its prevention and treatment services, the UMMC Cancer Institute conducts basic and clinical research in the areas of tumor cell biology, genetics and therapeutics.
“Because of the diversity of our population, Mississippi can serve as a microcosm for our nation. UMMC and the Cancer Institute can be leaders in researching the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” Vijayakumar said.
The Precision Medicine Initiative, proposed by the President in 2015, is a patient-and data-driven project to improve the health of Americans.
“The relationships between genetics, environment and lifestyle choices are the basis for the development of precision medicine-based therapies that will effectively treat, and hopefully someday prevent, our most serious diseases,” said Dr. Gailen Marshall, UMMC Professor of Medicine andMedical Director of the UMMC Clinical Research and Trials Units.
“The potential benefits of the 21st Century Cures Act for Precision Medicine research in general and for the citizens of our state cannot be overstated,” Marshall said. Through recent strategic investments, “UMMC is being rapidly positioned to become a comprehensive ‘bench to bedside and back again’ research center that will allow us to participate even more effectively in acquiring funds from these new NIH resources.”
The BRAIN Initiative, proposed by the President in 2013, pledges to help scientists find new ways to image the brain, accelerating research on conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to traumatic brain injury.
Another entity that will benefit from the Cures Act is UMMC’s Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia, or MIND Center.
“This important piece of legislation will direct billions of additional dollars to research at NIH over the next decade including funds to accelerate the development of new treatments for many brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and related dementias,” said Dr. Tom Mosley, UMMC Professor ofMedicine and Director of the MIND Center.
The 21st Century Cures Act also grants the NIH the authority to conduct a prize competition, called Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures, and is key for Alzheimer’s or EUREKA, a bill co-authored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS).