WASHINGTON, D.C.—At a meeting today with patients, families, and representatives from five Ohio children’s hospitals—including Akron Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s, Rainbow Babies & Children’s, Nationwide Children’s, and Dayton Children’s—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced that he plans to reintroduce his Pediatric Research Consortia Establishment Act, aimed at strengthening and expanding pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“A healthy and productive adulthood begins with a healthy childhood. Although children make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population, the National Institutes of Health dedicates only about 5 percent of its annual research budget to pediatrics. This is deeply concerning—not only for the health of our children, but because a number of serious illnesses—like diabetes and heart disease—have their roots during early infancy and childhood,” Brown said. “As one of our nation’s premier research institutions, NIH has the potential to promote tremendously valuable research that can help save lives. We must increase our efforts to cure and treat pediatric illnesses—and that begins at the NIH.”
Despite the fact that children make up about 20 percent of the entire U.S. population, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) dedicates only about 5 percent of its annual extramural research budget to pediatric research. If this rate of investment is not expanded, discoveries of new treatments and therapies for some of the most devastating childhood diseases and conditions will be hindered, and the next generation of researchers will be less likely to enter the field of pediatrics. The Pediatric Research Consortia Establishment Act would work to reverse the current situation by strengthening and expanding NIH's investments into pediatric research. This expanded investment will help accelerate new discoveries and directly impact the health and well-being of children throughout the country.
The centerpiece of the legislation will be the authorization of up to 20 National Pediatric Research Consortiums at institutions throughout the nation. The consortiums will be modeled after the highly successful National Cancer Institute (NCI) Centers and will conduct both basic and translational research. The centers will ensure adequate funds are dedicated exclusively toward both basic and translational pediatric research and increase efficiency of collaborative research efforts by further developing inter-institutional networking. And while NIH is working to advance translational research through Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program centers, those centers are far-reaching and focused primarily on adult diseases and clinical research, while the pediatric centers would be dedicated toward pediatric research at the basic and translational levels.
Brown has led the fight in Congress to expand research into pediatric illnesses and their treatments, and has worked to increase funding to train medical professionals that treat children. While serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Brown authored the Children’s Hospitals Education and Research Act of 1998, which first proposed the CHGME program. In March, Brown led 19 other senators in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urging him to preserve the funding. In May, he led 15 senators in urging Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Mary Wakefield to allocate ample funding for Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program in the 2012 operating budget. Ohio is home to seven institutions that depend on more than $30 million annually in CHGME funds. Brown is also the author of the Creating Hope Act, which works to spur private-sector innovation aimed at treating rare and neglected pediatric diseases.
Brown has kept up the pressure on federal authorities to find a cause of the pediatric cancer cluster in Clyde, Ohio, that has claimed the lives of several children and sickened dozens more. He urged Congress to pass the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act, which established a national patient registry for pediatric cancer patients at the CDC. It also authorized additional funding for pediatric cancer research at the National Institutes of Health. While the bill passed, funding has yet to be allocated to the NIH. Brown continues to fight to secure money for the program.