Editor’s Note: State and National efforts to combat Alzheimer’s will be discussed at our Town Hall series starting in October. Raise your voice, attend a Town Hall near you!
By Congresswoman Suzan DelBene
Medicine is changing rapidly. Innovations in precision medicine, immunotherapy, population health and genomics are dramatically transforming the outlook for hundreds of heartbreaking conditions — including Alzheimer’s. But to harness the full potential of these advances, Congress must be forward-looking in protecting and strengthening the life-saving medical research underway in labs across the country, including right here in Washington state.
This summer, I had the opportunity to meet with scientists at the University of Washington’s Alzheimer’s disease Research Center (ADRC), a pioneering research center funded through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The lab is making incredible strides toward improving the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s through the use of precision medicine, which is tailored to individual patients based on their unique genetic markers.
The cutting-edge work taking place at ADRC is part of a nationwide network of Alzheimer’s research centers funded by NIH, illustrating just how crucial these investments are to saving lives and improving care for those affected by the disease.
Another exciting treatment in the pipeline, based on research conducted at Washington State University, was also made possible through federal investments in research. Clinical trials will soon begin in Seattle for a breakthrough medication that has been shown to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s by regenerating connections between brain cells — offering new hope in the fight against the disease. And it would not have been possible without the initial NIH support.
That’s why I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues in Congress to strengthen and protect federal investments in medical research. I am pleased these bipartisan efforts have resulted in $4 billion in new resources for NIH-funded research in the last few years, including as recently as April, when Congress dedicated another significant boost to the agency’s funding. We need to sustain this momentum and not take a step backward.
Unfortunately, there are some who fail to recognize the critical importance of these investments. The massive cuts to NIH proposed in the President’s budget would be devastating to our nation’s health and our capacity for medical innovation in the 21st century. The more than $7 billion in proposed cuts also threatens to halt economic growth in communities across the country, where federal funding for NIH supports more than 400,000 good-paying jobs and generates more than $60 billion in new economic activity each year.
As a member of the House Budget Committee, I’m calling on congressional leaders to ignore these short-sighted reductions. Instead, I have led a bipartisan group of more than 160 House members calling for an additional $2 billion for medical research next year. These resources deliver a significant return on our investment today and for generations to come.
I am also leading a bipartisan effort to maintain federal support for facilities and administrative (F&A) research costs, which help cover critical components of doing research — such as hazardous waste disposal, proper and secure storage of dangerous pathogens, maintenance of high-tech labs and essential personnel. Accelerating the development of new cures, therapies and vaccines demands that we continue to support vital research costs like these.
Now is the time to commit ourselves to developing long-term solutions for Americans with Alzheimer’s, and none of us can do it alone. I look forward to continuing to partner on these efforts with my colleagues in Congress, scientists on the cutting-edge of innovation and the inspiring members of the Alzheimer’s Association, Washington State Chapter. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in turning the tide against Alzheimer’s.