Murray, Domenici Introduce Bill to Streamline Fight Against Brain Illnesses

May 07 2008

Bipartisan legislation brings key agencies together; funds research, training, and hiring

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) introduced bipartisan legislation that makes a strong federal commitment to making progress against neurological illnesses. The bill, the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act, aims to develop new treatments for brain illnesses through coordination or research efforts and additional funding for current National Institutes of Health (NIH) programs. 

"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 more 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.”

One hundred million Americans – one in three – suffer from some kind of brain or nervous system illness, injury, or disorder.  These illnesses are among the most debilitating to live with and care for, and include Alzheimer's disease, depression, Down syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, sleep disorders, and Traumatic Brain Injury. The combined economic burden of these and other brain illnesses and disorders is over $1 trillion annually – and is rising quickly as our population ages. 

To make more rapid progress against neurological diseases and disorders, a strong federal commitment is needed. Currently, a lack of research coordination, insufficient resources, and slow and unclear regulatory approval for neurological drugs, devices, and diagnostics at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are hindering progress.

The National Neurotechnology Initiative Act addresses these issues by:

  • creating a national neurotechnology coordination office at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate between HHS, the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and other key agencies;
  • authorizing and funding the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, an ongoing but underfunded coordination effort at NIH;
  • bolstering neuroscience-related Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs; and
  • enabling FDA to hire and train more neurotechnology experts, and to set clear standards. 

The Senators’ effort to invest in America's neurological health is being supported in the House of Representatives by Reps. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) who have sponsored companion legislation.