HR 34: 21st Century Cures Act

Congress has passed a package of health-related legislation, including a bill that aims to boost investments in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) over the next three years. The bill authorizes—but does not fund—NIH at $36.5 billion in fiscal year 2020. NIH is currently funded at $31.4 billion. To attain the higher funding level, Congress will have to appropriate the additional funds in annual spending bills.

In that regard, things are already off to a good start, as $352 million above the current funding level was included for NIH in the recently adopted continuing resolution. Overall, the $872 million in the temporary spending bill was the same amount authorized in the “21st Century Cures Act.”

The $4.8 billion in additional authorized funding would be directed to specific initiatives created by the Obama Administration: $1.4 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, $1.8 billion for the cancer moonshot, and $1.6 billion for the BRAIN Initiative.

The package also includes $1 billion for expanded opioid treatment programs. It calls for NIH to produce a comprehensive strategic plan and for the White House to form a new board to streamline regulations for universities and other grantees. Other new initiatives include a program to provide career opportunities for young scientists and incentives for certain areas of research, including fields where public and private investment in research is small compared to the cost of preventing and treating the disease.

The legislation passed the House with only 26 dissenting votes and passed the Senate with five Senators opposed.