Why the next decade of medical research matters

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, July 29, 2015

by Randy Forbes

In the midst of all the politically charged, negative news around us, I find myself seeking out small glimmers of hope. I often find them in stories of medical achievement and discovery: A baby born as early as 21 weeks miraculously surviving. A child’s own bone marrow being used to generate a windpipe. An acquaintance successfully undergoing triple bypass heart surgery.

These stories remind us of the incredible advancements our nation has made in science and medicine, and allow us an opportunity to begin thinking about what the future of America could be if we continue to prioritize our medical research infrastructure.

One issue that I have championed throughout my time in Congress is the advancement of medical research and, in particular, adult stem cell research. Every year, we’re seeing amazing advances in adult stem cell research. It’s been used to treat multiple sclerosis, repair cartilage damage, and grow new corneas to restore sight for blind patients. It’s showing significant promise to successfully treat spinal cord injury, breast cancer, Type 1 diabetes, and heart disease. These are life altering diseases that, if cured, can make a difference in the lives of individual Americans, accelerate our understanding of chronic conditions, and catapult America’s global competitiveness.

Adult stem cell research is also an issue where we see some refreshing agreement in the midst of a politically charged environment. Adult stem cells are non-embryonic and noncontroversial, taken from a live human being through umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, and other tissues, and used to regenerate and repair tissues and organs. The science is amazing, and many scientists, researchers, and medical doctors agree that adult stem cells can be a successful method for treating patients.

It’s an area where, if we prioritize our efforts, we could see results even faster. That’s why I’ve introduced the Patients First Act, H.R. 2921. This bipartisan legislation would prioritize stem cell research that has the greatest potential for near-term clinical benefits. It prioritizes funding for promising stem cell research without authorizing any new spending. It streamlines our investment so our research dollars are going further, providing the most benefit to patients in the most efficient manner possible.

Over the years, our nation has pursued scientific and medical challenges with curiosity, creativity, and persistence. When we’ve invested our time and resources efficiently and smartly, we’ve produced medical breakthroughs that have led us to new eras of health and quality of life for Americans.

A friend recently asked me how I remain positive and optimistic even under the weight of so many challenges facing our nation today. Several things come to mind that help me remain optimistic about our future. Issues like this one are one of them — they are a reminder that we as a nation have an opportunity to advance medical research and offer hope for millions of Americans who live everyday with life altering diseases.

Medical research is important to me not only because of the value that it brings to individuals and families, but for the potential it holds in terms of our economic engine and global competition. It provides the glimmer of hope that we need as Americans to push us through – to give us something to look towards with expectation and to lead us to a new era of medical discovery, innovation, and hope.

RANDY FORBES represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. For contact information, see http://randyforbes.house.gov.