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U.S. Senate backs Wicker’s Alzheimer’s efforts


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., authored the “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s (EUREKA) Act,” S. 2067, last September to create prize-based incentives to encourage more public-private collaboration in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

As of July 14, the bipartisan bill has reached a total of 61 Senate cosponsors, according to a release from Sen. Wicker’s office.

“My EUREKA bill is an answer to a devastating disease that impacts more than five million Americans today,” Wicker said. “It would not take money away from taxpayers or current research initiatives. It would require funding only when pioneering advancements are made toward a cure for Alzheimer’s, truly making a difference in people’s lives. I am grateful that three-fifths of my Senate colleagues are ready to put the best minds together to achieve breakthroughs in treatments, prevention, and ultimately a cure. This is our charge for the 21st century, and we cannot rest until we achieve success.”

The legislation would not replace other funding and research initiatives for Alzheimer’s but add another route for breakthroughs. Further, the bill would authorize the Director of the NIH to work with other federal agencies to establish prize challenges informed by the research milestones contained in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. Challenges could focus on a number of areas:

  • Identification and validation of Alzheimer’s biomarkers;
  • Development of non-invasive and cost-effective early detection and diagnostic tools;
  • Repurposing of existing drugs to address Alzheimer’s disease; and
  • Development of new tools and approaches to care for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and improve their quality of life.

Prize challenges enable government sponsors to pay only when a prize team achieves specified goals or milestones. Although funds will be authorized and reserved for awards, prizes will only be granted when teams achieve clearly defined objectives, making the EUREKA Act a cost-effective tool to spur leading-edge research. Additionally, EUREKA would permit the receipt of donations from the private and philanthropic sectors to fund the competition and build the award fund.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has set a goal of curing Alzheimer’s by 2025. Today, Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and has a 100 percent fatality rate. According to a report released earlier this year, caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is estimated to cost the United States $226 billion in 2015, with one in five Medicare dollars spent on an Alzheimer’s victim. Unless a cure is found, treatment costs are expected to grow to an estimated $1.1 trillion by 2050.  In Mississippi, 12 percent of senior citizens have Alzheimer’s. The number of victims is expected to rise 27.5 percent by 2025, increasing from 51,000 to 65,000.

Original cosponsors include: Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Angus King, I-Maine; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and John Barrasso, R-Wyo. In addition to the original cosponsors, the following senators have backed the bill: Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Thom Tillis, R-S.C.; Mark Warner, D-Va.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Pat Toomey, R-Penn.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Bill Cassidy, R-La.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska; Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii; Mike Rounds, S.D.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Leahy, D-Vt.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Dan Coats, R-Ind.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Ron Johnson, R-Kan.; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jack Reed, D-R.I.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; Jon Tester, R-Mont.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; and David Vitter, R-La.

Wicker’s legislation is supported by more than 70 organizations, including the XPRIZE Foundation, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Association, Eli Lilly and Company, BrightFocus Foundation, and the MIND Center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

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