Monday, June 15, 2009

How can we move medical innovation forward?

Chronicles of a Science Policy Intern
How can we move medical innovation forward? This was the focus of an event last Friday hosted by the Council for American Medical Innovation and the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) (note: that’s the first time I’ve typed D-PA next to Sen. Specter’s name!) keynoted the event to provide insight about the perspectives on medical innovation from Capitol Hill. I have to give the Senator from Pennsylvania high marks for being one of the most personable, approachable senator’s I’ve listened to in person. When he solicited questions from the audience, and no one responded, he walked off the stage in to the room like he was going to cold call someone for a question. That perked people up and the questions started flowing like a conversation.

Sen. Specter charged the conference attendees with developing new ideas for advancing medical innovation. Here is a summary of some of the ideas that were generated:
  • Form a blue-ribbon commission to make recommendations about medical innovation. This was a very “inside-the-beltway” solution suggested by Billy Tauzin, President and CEO of PhRMA. This seems like low-hanging fruit to me. How often do commission suggestions get implemented anyways? Does anyone have a statistic here?
  • Allow Congress to create a capital expenditure budget for R&D spending. Here is a gross simplification of Accounting 3001: the current spending model, PAYGO (pay-as-you-go), demands paying for R&D spending with funds available while the programs are in place. A capital expenditure budget, referred to as CAP EX, would allow Congress to invest in R&D similar to a corporation—spend now in anticipation of future benefits.
  • Make being a scientist “cool” again. The proposed suggestion: plop the to-be-created ‘Scientist of the Year’ award recipient next to First Lady Michelle Obama during the next State of the Union Address. Doesn't she make everything cool?!
CNN political contributor Paul Begala made a statement that should serve as a resounding call to action for all the New Voices for Research out there: (I’m paraphrasing here)
Politicians don’t lead—they follow the public.
Coming from a former White House advisor, this is all the more a reason to make our voices for research louder.


  1. Now that the anti-science, superstition-based initiative presidency is over, we need Manhattan projects to make us great again and boost us out of this Grotesque Depression. First we must provide free advertising-based wireless internet to everyone to end land line monopolies. Better yet, renationalize the telephone companies like in 1917 and now put them and the DTV fiasco and the internet under a renationalized post office. Then we must criscross the land with high speed rail. Because bovine flatulence is the major source of greenhouse gases, we must develop home growable microbes to provide all of our protein. Then we must create microbes which turn our sewage and waste into fuel right at home. This will end energy monopoly by putting fuel in our hands. We must finally join the metric system and take advantage of DTV problems to create a unified global standard for television and cellular telephones instead of this Anglo Saxon competitive waste. We must address that most illness starts from behavior, especially from parents. Since paranoid schizophrenia is the cause of racism, bigotry, homelessness, terrorism, ignorance, exploitation and criminality, we must provide put the appropriate medications, like lithium, in the water supply and require dangerous wingnuts who refuse free mental health care to be implanted with drug release devices. Churches should be licensed to reduce supersition and all clergy dealing with small children should be psychiatrically monitored to prevent molesting. Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh were the ultimate superstition based initiatives. Aborting future terrorists and sterilizing their parents is the most effective homeland security. Preganancy is a shelfish, environmentally desturctive act and must be punished, not rewarded with benefits, preference and leave. Widen navigation straits (Gibraltar, Suez, Malacca, Danube, Panama and Hellspont) with deep nukes to prevent war. In order to fund this we must nationalize the entire financial, electrical and transportation system and extinguish the silly feudal notion that each industry should be regulated by its peers. Technology mandates a transformation of tax subsidies from feudal forecloseable debt to risk sharing equity. Real estate and insurance, the engines of feudalism, must be brought under the Federal Reserve so we may replace all buildings with hazardous materials to provide public works. Insects, flooding and fire spread asbestos, lead and mold which prematurely disables the disadvantaged. Disposable manufactured housing assures children are not prematurely disabled and disadvantaged. Because feudalism is the threat to progress everywhere, we must abolish large land holdings by farmers, foresters or religions and instead make all such large landholding part of the forest service so our trees may diminish greenhouse gases. Darwin led to the worst colonial, militarist, attrocity and stock market abuses in history - Lamarkian inhertiance and mitochondrial DNA show that Darwin was not all he is crackered up to be. We must abolish executive pay and make sure all employees in a company are all paid equally. We must abolish this exploitative idea of trade and monopoly and make every manufactured disposable cottage self sufficient through the microbes we invent. Southern Oligarchs destroyed the Democarts in the sixties and destroyed the Republicans this decade - they would not allow viable candidates like Colin Powell, Mitt Romney or Condi Rice to even be considered!

  2. At any rate, I liked some of the NIH cartoons on VADLO search engine!