RARE Daily

Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Advance Biomedical Research Stalled by Pandemic

May 24, 2021

Rare Daily Staff

U.S. Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) have introduced the Long-term Opportunities for Advancing New Studies (LOANS) for Biomedical Research Act (H.R. 3437), new bipartisan legislation that would fund critical research on treatments and cures for diseases with unmet needs including Alzheimer’s, cancer, blindness, juvenile diabetes, and sickle cell anemia. 

The bill would authorize a loan program backed by the federal government for clinical trials that have received U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance and are focused on finding much-needed treatments and cures. 

“The accelerated development of COVID-19 vaccines over the past year has proved that significant investment in medical research and development can speed the development of cures and treatments.  Millions of Americans suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other terrible diseases cannot afford to wait for vital treatments and cures while clinical trials are disrupted,” said Rush.  “We must use every federal avenue to restart U.S. biomedical research and ensure that the clinical trials necessary to take basic research to the bedside receive the funding they urgently need. 

The COVID-19 pandemic severely disrupted clinical trials, negatively impacting patients who were enrolled in or awaiting clinical trials for deadly and debilitating conditions.  Recent research indicates that more than 1,000 clinical trials remain disrupted as funding and other resources continue to be diverted to address the ongoing pandemic.

“More funding is needed for critical research, treatment, and cures for deadly diseases,” said Fitzpatrick.  “We must do whatever we can to fight for patients, survivors, and those adversely affected by halted clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic and provide a unique funding mechanism going forward to restart stalled biomedical research in the United States.”

The LOANS for Biomedical Research Act would fill these funding gaps without additional deficit spending and at minimal cost to taxpayers by creating a new class of investments called BioBonds.  BioBonds are financial instruments comprised of loans to eligible biomedical companies and universities which have received FDA authorization for clinical trials advancing novel treatments and cures.  Since borrowers are required to be able to repay these extensions of credit regardless of project success, investors in BioBonds would be those with long-term, risk-adverse capital such as pension funds and insurers, rather than venture capitalists or pharmaceutical companies.  The legislation would help restart stalled biomedical research in the United States and reduce the perennial shortage of funds for critical research into diseases affecting millions.

BioBonds are structured similarly to well-established bond instruments such as green bonds, which are currently funding billions in renewable-energy and climate-risk reduction projects.  However, loan financing is generally absent in biomedical research, which relies largely on venture capital and biopharmaceutical company investments, which are generally only possible when there is a clear profit potential, for example, with late-stage research into to high-priced drugs for large patient populations.  The absence of funding for “translational” research, which takes projects from the lab to early-stage clinical trials, leaves much promising research behind.  Additionally, the current equity-based funding model for biomedical research is costly, thus increasing U.S. drug prices.

The LOANS for Biomedical Research Act is supported by the following organizations: Alliance for Aging Research, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Association, American College of Rheumatology, Blinded Veterans Association, Chordoma Foundation, Choroideremia Research Foundation, Foundation Fighting Blindness, The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, Melanoma Research Alliance, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, North Carolina Biotechnology Center, OculoTherapy, Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, Smashing Walnuts Foundation, Sophia Sees Hope, and the Usher Syndrome Coalition.  Research! America has expressed appreciation and support for the type of innovative funding model that the LOANS for Biomedical Research Act provides.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Sanford Bishop (D-Ala.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), and Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.).

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