National Neurotechnology Initiative Act seeks to accelerate development of new treatments for brain and nervous system conditions

SAN FRANCISCO & WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12 - A team of prominent members of both houses of Congress introduced today the National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI) Act, a bill designed to foster new discoveries and accelerate the development of new and safer treatments for the one in three Americans living with a brain-related illness, injury or disease.

The sponsors of the NNTI Act, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI 1st) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL 18th), have called upon Congress to reverse the growing economic burden generated by brain-related illness, which exceeds $1 trillion per year in the U.S. due to healthcare costs and lost income.

"The huge numbers speak for themselves: There are 100 million Americans suffering from a brain-related illness, with an enormous economic burden that continues to grow as the population ages," said Zack Lynch, Executive Director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization. "For a modest investment, Congress has the opportunity to streamline research efforts, accelerate the development of new treatments, promote innovation and job creation by small businesses and have a meaningful impact on the lives of those suffering from devastating diseases and injuries."

Designed to increase private investment and accelerate the development of treatments reaching the market, the NNTI employs targeted increases in funding to improve Federal research coordination and ease bottlenecks that inhibit the development of treatments for brain-related illnesses. The bill accomplishes these goals with less than 4 percent of the total Federal neuroscience research budget - $200 million - and reflects a more balanced disease-cost to research-dollars-expended ratio.

"While our ability to understand how the brain works grows each day, our ability to understand and repair brain illnesses remains limited," said Senator Murray. "For the millions of Americans that suffer from a brain related illness, and the thousands of Americans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD, a new federal commitment to research and treatment can't wait. This bill will place a premium on sharing the information researchers gain everyday and will support ongoing but underfunded programs at NIH."

"With so many Americans suffering from brain-related illnesses, it is crucial for us as a society to maximize our efforts and continue learning about the many facets of the brain, leading to a healthier life for all Americans," said Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

"This legislation will turn America into a nation where brain injuries and diseases are tackled through innovative technology, state of the art medical equipment and top notch neuroscientists. Together we can make this a reality," said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The National Neurotechnology Initiative is designed to address four key bottlenecks that slow the process of developing brain treatments:

  • Agencies do not coordinate their neurotechnology research. The NNTI establishes a National Neurotechnology Coordinating Office within the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that NIH, DOD, and VA are working together and not duplicating effort.
  • The 16 Institutes within the NIH that focus on brain research are insufficiently coordinated. The NNTI fully funds and supports the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, an ongoing inter-institute research effort.
  • NIH has insufficient funding to push treatments out of the lab and into development. The NNTI funds SBIR and STTR programs at NIH to accelerate this process.
  • FDA approval processes for brain-related drugs, devices, and diagnostics are slower and more expensive than for other treatments, and approval pathways are uncertain. The NNTI provides funding for FDA to hire and train neurotech experts and set much-needed neurotechnology standards.

The bill also creates a research center that will focus on the ethical, legal, and social implications of neurotechnology.

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Follow this legislation: Senate Bill 586 and House Bill 1483

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Authored Date: 
03/2009