Bipartisan Group of Senators and Representatives Introduce Bill to Battle Brain-related Illness

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

SAN FRANCISCO & WASHINGTON, D.C., May 7, 2008 - A bipartisan 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.

Championing the NNTI, Senators Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) and 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 has reached $1.3 trillion per year in the U.S. due to healthcare costs and lost income.

"The sheer 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 by small businesses and have a meaningful impact on the lives of those suffering from devastating diseases and injuries."

Designed to increase the speed at which discoveries reach 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.

"With nearly one in three Americans suffering from some kind of neurological illness, disorder, or injury, I believe it is time we take a serious look at how we approach and fund research into neuroscience and neurotechnology," Senator Domenici said. "Neuroscience dovetails nicely with the work I've long advocated for greater research on the brain and nervous system disease and disorders, particularly in relation to mental health. This new legislation, I believe, offers an excellent vehicle for us to make greater advances in this area."

"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.

"The time has arrived to offer a serious and comprehensive legislative approach to help the countless Americans struggling and living with brain and nervous system illnesses," said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. "To not act on this important issue is to relegate millions of our citizens to second class status and a lifetime of disabilities. This legislation would develop a comprehensive federal response to research and treatment for brain related diseases. I urge my colleagues to join us in this most noble endeavor."

The National Neurotechnology Initiative is designed to:

  • Facilitate coordination of neuroscience research between the NIH, Defense Department, VA and other federal agencies;
  • Coordinate, support, and extend the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research;
  • Coordinate and support neuroscience Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs;
  • Facilitate FDA testing and evaluation of advances in neuromedicine, including drugs, diagnostics, and devices; and
  • Coordinate and promote the study of the social, ethical, and legal aspects of neurotechnology.

The NNTI plans to distribute $200 million per year in Federal funding as follows:

National Neurotechnology Coordination Office
· $5M to create and run a National Neurotechnology Coordination Office and advisory council (improves national coordination among agencies)

National Institutes of Health
· $80M to fund the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research (expands basic neuroscience infrastructure available to 16 NIH Institutes involved in the brain and nervous system)
· $75M to fund neurotechnology-related SBIR and STTR at the NIH (additional funding beyond current program to accelerate translational innovation and small business funding)

Food and Drug Administration
· $30M for the FDA to increase neuroscience-related staff and to develop workshops to develop neurotech standards (increases timeliness & safety of neurotech review process)

Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
· $10M to develop a research center to conduct studies on the ethical, legal and social implications of neurotech (increases national coordination and industry growth)

About NIO

The Neurotechnology Industry Organization represents companies involved in neuroscience - drugs, devices and diagnostics, academic brain research centers, and patient advocacy groups across the world. Since NIO's founding in August 2006, over 70 organizations have joined to "give the brain a voice." For more information, visit www.neurotechindustry.org.

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Press Contact:
Zack Lynch
Neurotechnology Industry Organization
Zack@neurotechindustry.org
415-341-0193

Ross Gillfillan
Feinstein Kean Healthcare
Ross.gillfillan@fkhealth.com
415-677-2804

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