Preparing for a Tsunami of Public Health Challenges

Jim Greenwoodby The Honorable Jim Greenwood

Biopharmaceutical companies are at the forefront of expanding our understanding of the genetic and biomolecular basis of disease, and their researchers are committed to developing the next generation of modern medicines. However, this goal can be realized only in an environment of forward-looking public policies that sustain scientific discovery and promote biomedical advancement.

We are excited to work with Chairman Upton, Congresswoman DeGette, and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee as they seek ways to ensure our nation maintains its position as the innovation capital of the world through the 21st Century Cures Initiative.

The urgency of finding and developing 21st Century Cures cannot be overstated. It is difficult to find anyone whose life has not been affected by devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or rare genetic conditions. The biopharmaceutical industry holds the greatest promise for finding a cure.

Alzheimer’s disease represents a tsunami of public health challenges. Without intervention or prevention to delay or slow Alzheimer’s progression in patients, the disease will overwhelm the healthcare system within the next 25-30 years. That is why we have proposed a large-scale study to track Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions in order to identify precursors and early signs of disease or disease risk to unlock the root causes of these conditions that threaten the health of our loved ones and undermine our nations’ own fiscal health. The study would sequence genomes of participants and obtain biological samples from individuals in age cohorts through age 90 that may predict Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic diseases for which the cause is unknown or poorly understood.

There is broad agreement that advancements in biologic and drug development will best be accomplished through collaborations that bring together knowledge, skills, and expertise from the public and private sectors. Efforts to understand the disease, determine how best to develop therapies, and address the enormous challenges facing caregivers are already underway in a number of areas with high public health impact, including Alzheimer’s. These multiple efforts need to be coordinated effectively for the greatest return on investment to expedite prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Certainly, this is a big undertaking that would require government funding, and we feel it is important that this funding should not be diverted from other crucial public health programs. Through the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative, we will continue to work with the Congress to move forward policies that will help improve the drug discovery and approval process and bring cures and treatments to patients in need. We will work closely with all stakeholders to make this Initiative a reality in the next Congress. Our best hope for discovering new cures hinges on better understanding how to intervene to halt the progress of chronic diseases. We must act now for the patients and families who are counting on us.

The Honorable Jim Greenwood is President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, DC. He served Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District from 1993 to 2005. BIO is the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

Disclaimer: The views in guest essays are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the LEAD Coalition.