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August 26, 2010

Whitehouse Reports Progress on Recovery Act and Innovation

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This week, Vice President Joe Biden announced the release of a report regarding the impact the Recovery Act has had on Innovation in the U.S. In discussing the significant achievements thus far, Biden acknowledged that the Recovery Act’s “$100 billion investment in innovation is not only transforming the economy and creating new jobs, but helping accelerate significant advances in science and technology that cut costs for consumers, save lives and help keep America competitive in the 21st century economy.”

 He also recognized that although the government has provided this initial amount of funding to “plant the seeds of innovation, its private companies and the nation’s top researchers that are helping them grow, launching entire new industries, transforming our economy and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process.”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., NIH Director, recognized that "the Recovery Act funding is not only producing thousands of jobs in the biomedical research community, it is also helping speed important medical discoveries that will benefit the health of Americans nationwide."

One of the major roles this funding has played for health care funding is helping to bring down the cost of a personal human genome map to under $1,000 in five years. The report announced that with the help of the Recovery Act, the National Institutes of Health are on track to slash the cost of DNA sequencing to $1,000 per genome – fifty times cheaper than what is currently possible. The significance of bringing down these costs is important because:

  • With a more affordable price tag, DNA information could become a routine part of medical care.  Just like a simple blood test, an inexpensive whole-genome DNA scan could help health care providers in the future choose effective, personalized treatments.       
  • Scientists have believed that being able to map and compare human genomes could unlock cures and insights into some of the most debilitating diseases existing today, while also creating many new skilled jobs in the process.
  • Seven projects funded by the Recovery Act are attempting to drive down the cost of human genome sequencing, each with a different technological strategy.   
  • Ultimately, success in this endeavor will mean that the promises of treatment offered by this science will not only be available to the super wealthy, but will be available to tens of millions of Americans in every corner of the country.

With the success thus far of funding for innovation, the Obama administration must continue its commitment to medical innovation by working with medical device and pharmaceutical companies to make sure incentives and regulations encourage more research and development, instead of chilling research and collaboration.

In the end, while it is important to make progress through innovation in various areas, the President must put more attention on medical innovation in order to carry out health care reform. This will mean dedicating the funding and resources to the proper health agencies, and establishing policies that encourage partnerships with industry to help develop and create new technologies that will treat millions of Americans and continue to make our country a healthier place to live.

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