While the FDA reform provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act give the agency backing to carefully advance some of its long-term objectives, an analysis of the bill’s details suggests that when it comes to NIH, at best the legislation is a missed opportunity to make meaningful changes at the world’s largest biomedical funding agency, leaving long-term problems untouched.
At worst, Cures will be a step backward that will politicize research and skew grant-making toward flashy, short-term translational science projects that are not designed to fill the knowledge gaps that prevent biopharma companies from developing scientific advances into new medicines.
Cures was propelled through Congress by passionate support for boosting NIH funding in the belief that more money will quickly lead to medical breakthroughs. In fact, the addition of $4.8 billion over a decade is unlikely to yield quick dividends.
Increased funding for NIH was the Democrats’ price for supporting Cures legislation.
The version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2015 would have created