Arlen Specter is at it again.
His recently introduced bill, the Cures Acceleration Network and National Institutes of Health Reauthorization Act of 2009 (S. 914), would create an independent agency – the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) – outside of DHHS to “identify and promote revolutionary advances in basic research, translating scientific discoveries from bench to bedside.” (and the NIH does what exactly?)
The bill also elevates the NCMHD (minority health/health disparities) to institute status and authorizes appropriations for NIH at $40 billion for FY 2010 and “such sums as may be necessary” for FYs 2011 and 2012.
The CAN would fund “independent investigators, research organizations, biotechnology companies, academic research institutions, and other entities … to accelerate the development of cures and treatments.” Cures Acceleration Grant Awards would provide up to $15 million per year per project with no requirement for matching funds. The Cures Acceleration Partnership Awards also provide up to $15 million per year but require a 1:3 match by grantees. The first year appropriation would be $1 billion per award program.
Sounds damn appealing. The governance part is less so. CSR study sections would review grant applications, though the second level of review would come from the 24-member CAN Board of Directors (appointed by the President) rather than NIH ICs. The AAMC summarizes who would serve at the President’s pleasure on this Board:
The board would include at least one individual “who is eminent” in each of the following fields: basic research, medicine, biopharmaceuticals, discovery and delivery of medical products, bioinformatics and gene therapy, medical instrumentation, and regulatory review and approval of medical products. The board also would include at least 4 leaders in professional venture capital or private equity organizations who have demonstrated experience in private equity investing and at least 8 individuals representing disease advocacy organizations. Representatives from NIH, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the VHA, the NSF, and the FDA would serve as ex officio members.
Hmmm. Sounds like a proposal that should be triaged to me.