Following sharp reductions in pediatric medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) is introducing bipartisan legislation to increase pediatric-focused research at the NIH by addressing challenges in researcher recruitment and retention and by creating a pipeline of early-career pediatric researchers.
“A strong pipeline of pediatric researchers is essential to ensuring kids in Iowa, and across the country, have access to innovative cures and treatments for the complex medical conditions that they and their families are facing,” said Senator Ernst. “We must work to ensure that children are being adequately represented in federal research. That’s why I’ve put forward this bipartisan bill that will bolster pediatric-focused research and in turn help to improve the lives and health of our children and families.”
Ernst’s legislation is cosponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Bob Casey (D-PA), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
“I am proud to support investments in pediatric scientists and research that will help reduce the suffering experienced by our nation’s children. By bolstering the pediatric-scientist workforce, we are creating opportunities for scientific advancements that will not only improve the health and livelihood of kids across the country but also reduce the burden of disease faced by Americans in later-life,” said Senator Coons.
“The PACT Act would work to stop the steady decline in pediatric research workforce development through a new focus on recruiting and retaining more physician-scientists to work on better treatments and cures for childhood diseases. Children in Mississippi and across the nation will benefit from increased access to cutting-edge care at places like Children’s of Mississippi and St. Jude,” said Senator Hyde-Smith.
“Expanding pediatric medical research opportunities is vital to ensure paths to the highest quality care for children and innovation in medicine,” said Senator Casey.
“Cutting-edge medical research supported by NIH has improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people,” said Senator Wicker. “This legislation would provide important incentives to increase the number of physician-scientists working to improve the quality of life for children suffering from a wide variety of medical conditions.”
“Pediatric medical researchers generate scientific insights that are critical to reshaping the way we treat diseases that affect children in Colorado and around the country. In recent years, we have seen groundbreaking research on pediatric diseases such as sickle cell disease and leukemia as a result of this dedicated research,” said Senator Bennet. “I am proud to co-sponsor the PACT Act to provide much-needed assistance to strengthen our nation’s commitment to supporting medical researchers who have dedicated their lives to studying lifesaving treatments for pediatric diseases.”
“To tackle childhood diseases, we must invest in pediatric education and research,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation will help increase support for pediatric medical researchers and their groundbreaking research that continues to save lives.”
“The Iowa Pediatric Collaborative fully supports implementation of the PACT Act of 2019,” said Teri Wahlig, M.D., ChildServe CEO and Iowa Pediatric Collaborative spokesperson. “As the primary pediatric specialty providers in Iowa, we see a direct correlation between a robust pediatric research workforce and our ability to provide the most current, effective and innovative treatments for children. The PACT Act recognizes the difficulties in attracting and retaining physician-scientists to the field of pediatric research – especially as Iowa’s healthcare workforce ages. The future of pediatric medicine depends on a continuous pipeline of scientists interested in advancing child health, and we applaud Senator Ernst for her efforts in introducing this important legislation.”
The Iowa Pediatric Collaborative is comprised of Blank Children’s Hospital, ChildServe, MercyOne Children’s Hospital, and the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
In the past several years, pediatric research slots have seen sharp reductions within the NIH. This includes reductions of Child Health Research Center Awards, which supports fewer than half of the young investigators than it did in 2010. The Pediatric Scientist Development Program has also seen cuts, having been reduced from supporting 17 training slots per institution down to 10 per institution. These reductions contrast with the consistent increases Congress has provided to the overall NIH budget.
The Pediatricians Accelerate Childhood Therapies (PACT) Act would establish an NIH-wide grant to support early-career pediatric researchers. The bill also directs the NIH Pediatric Research Consortium to set priorities, improve coordination and collaboration, and identify gaps and opportunities to support the development of new treatments and cures for diseases and conditions that affect children in Iowa, and across the country.
This legislation is supported by the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Blank Children’s Hospital, MercyOne Children’s Hospital, ChildServe, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the Coalition for Pediatric Medical Research