Posted 17 March 2016
By Zachary Brennan
The Senate’s response to the House-passed 21st Century Cures bill is slowly shifting into a series of bills, the latest of which would seek to help the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) attract top new employees.
Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced the bill, known as the FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act, which enables FDA to more fully participate in the Biomedical Research Service, a program currently used primarily by NIH. The bill also raises the number of people eligible for the service at both agencies from 500 to 2,000.
FDA’s ability to hire and retain top scientists and pay them a salary that is more competitive with the private sector would also be increased by the bill. Furthermore, it would allow FDA to conduct a pilot program to test the best ways to boost communication between different centers at the agency, allowing scientists focused on treatments and cures for a particular disease to better share information.
In addition, the bill further modernizes Reagan-Udall, an independent, non-profit established by Congress to help FDA keep up with the science and make it easier for FDA to partner and collaborate with those in the private sector.
“I’m pleased that the committee has reached agreement on legislation to help ensure the FDA and NIH are able to keep the best researchers, doctors and scientists on staff, and to break down barriers that may impede important collaboration,” Murray said.
She also pushed for bipartisan way to agree on “strong mandatory investments in the NIH and the FDA,” which has been a sticking point across party lines. The committee last week advanced seven bills, including one to reauthorize the pediatric rare disease priority review program, and back in February the committee advanced another seven bills.
Members of the Senate committee will debate and vote on this personnel bill and others during the committee’s third and final innovation meeting on 6 April.