'21st Century Cures Act' allocates funding to Rutgers Cancer Institute
On Dec. 13, former President Barack Obama signed the "21st Century Cures Act" into law — his last public bill signing in office.
The law passed through the 114th Congress with major bipartisan support, with the House voting 392-26 and the Senate voting 94-5 to pass the bill.
New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6) served as lead House Democratic negotiator for this legislation. He worked closely with Energy and Commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and negotiated with other House and Senate leaders, according to a public statement released by Rep. Pallone's office.
“'21st Century Cures' will help New Jersey’s research institutions and pharmaceutical companies to continue revolutionizing the way we manufacture prescription drugs,” Pallone said in a public statement. “Rutgers and NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology), right here in New Jersey, can be international leaders in reducing the cost and increasing the quality of medicine.”
The purpose of the legislation is to accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of "21st-century cures," according to the law.
The act designates $6.3 billion to be spent over seven years on a vast array of healthcare reforms and allocates funding to research and develop key areas.
The law provides funding for the Precision Medicine Initiative, launched by the Obama administration in 2015 to tailor medical care to individual needs, and The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, which aims to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain and how to treat brain conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.
The law also focuses on addiction to heroin and pain pills, an issue of particular relevance to New Jersey.
According to NJ Advance Media, New Jersey's heroin death rate of 8.3 deaths per 100,000 people is over three times the national average of 2.6 deaths per 100,000 people. The state also has a disproportionately high rate of opioid addiction.
Of particular concern is the dramatic spike in the abuse of heroin and prescription opioids in college-aged people from 18 to 25 years, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The bill designates $1 billion to fight the national opioid epidemic by providing grants to states to support opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities, including prescription drug monitoring programs and expanding access to treatment and recovery programs, according to the press release.
A significant portion of the $26 million will come to New Jersey, Pallone said in a separate statement.
The largest sum of money will be designated to fund former Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, which includes more funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), according to the Obama administration's website.
During his speech recognizing the bill, Biden said what would normally take 10 years to complete, will be done in five.
In a transcript of the public bill signing, Obama said the bill will bring the United States closer to ending cancer by investing in promising new therapies, developing vaccines and improving cancer detection and prevention.
"Ultimately, it will help us reach our goal of getting a decade’s worth of research in half the time," he said.
For this purpose, the bill allocates funding for the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, New Brunswick Today reported.
“NIH’s budget has consistently been eroding over the last decade,” Pauline said in a recent statement. "But with '21st Century Cures,' New Jersey and our health and research organizations will receive a critical boost. From searching for a cure to cancer to working to prevent infectious disease epidemics, NIH funding is vital for New Jersey to stay on the cutting edge of life-saving research and high-level job creation.”
Christina Gaudino is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in public policy. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.