Developments Yesterday on Capitol Hill

A couple of important developments broke in Congress yesterday evening after we sent the NABR Update to our members. The "21st Century Cures Act" passed in the House of Representatives and Congress is expected to adopt a long-term stopgap spending bill to fund the federal government. Read more details below.

Landmark Healthcare Reform Bill Passes House

Last night, the “21st Century Cures Act” passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 392-26. The bipartisan omnibus health care package was first introduced in May 2015 by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) and consists of measures to expedite and improve research for lifesaving cures. It also includes reforms for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Medicare, Medicaid, mental health and other health care issues. Most notably, the act will provide $4.796 billion of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) between FYs 2017 and 2026.

Highlights of the bill include:

  • $30 million to expand clinical research for regenerative medicine using adult stem cells, between FYs 2017 and 2020
  • $1.8 billion for cancer research, between FYs 2017 and 2023
  • $1.455 billion for the Precision Medicine Initiative, between FYs 2017 and 2026
  • $1.511 billion for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, between FYs 2017 and 2026

“21st Century Cures is the innovation game-changer that patients, their loved ones, and the nation’s researchers and scientists so desperately need. The White House has expressed its enthusiastic endorsement of this critical legislation. So it’s now on to the Senate, where we are just one final vote away from delivering #CuresNow,” said Upton and Diana DeGette in a press release by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The next step for the bill is a vote in the Senate, which is expected to pass the bill without amendment early next week.

Long-Term Spending Bill Inevitable

Additionally, it is now expected that Congress will adopt a new longer-term stopgap spending bill. Although, according to the Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) recently stated that Congress prefers a short-term Appropriations bill to fund the government into President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, Congress is simply running out of time to complete action. Yesterday, Republicans in the House and Senate contended that a new longer-term Continuing Resolution (CR) stretching into at least April will be inevitable because of the Senate’s tight schedule, which will include important votes confirming President-elect Trump’s Cabinet members. Congress has until next week (December 9), when the current CR expires, to approve the new long-term CR.

Please continue to check your email and www.NABR.org for the latest news from NABR. Please also follow NABR on Twitter to get breaking news instantly.

President-elect Names HHS Secretary Nominee

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump (R) to serve as the incoming U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Price has represented the 6th district of Georgia since 2004, following twenty years as an orthopedic surgeon. He currently presides as chair of the House Committee on the Budget and serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means. He is also a member of the Congressional Health Care Caucus and the Doctors Caucus. He received his undergraduate and M.D. degrees from the University of Michigan and completed his residency at Emory University, where he later held an academic appointment and trained residents at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital.  "There is much work to be done to ensure we have a health care system that works for patients, families, and doctors; that leads the world in the cure and prevention of illness; and that is based on sensible rules to protect the well-being of the country while embracing its innovative spirit,” said Price in a statement released upon nomination.

Dr. Price has been a critic of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obama Care), which some predict will be a major point of focus during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.  Nature reports there's evidence Price has pushed to cut federal spending overall, but his plans and positions on biomedical research issues and funding will likely become clearer during his upcoming confirmation hearings. Confirmation hearings for nominations will begin in 2017.

The Five Most Expensive Diseases and the Animals Helping to Combat Them

The United States spends over one trillion dollars each year on healthcare, but did you know that over 80% of this spending results from combatting just five diseases? NABR has compiled a must-see review of the United States’ five most expensive diseases—heart disease, diabetes, dementia, cancer and obesity—which collectively, cost the country $832 billion per year. This massive expense, paired with an aging population and rising health concerns, confirms that animal research will continue to play a vital role in not only curing disease but also in keeping the cost of healthcare down.

Animal studies involving mice, rats, dogs, cats and other species have paved the way for medical discoveries that have saved countless lives from the aforementioned diseases, while helping to decrease healthcare costs for everyday Americans.

With healthcare costs at $193 billion, heart disease ranks as the most expensive disease in the U.S. Thankfully with the development of coronary bypass surgery through studies with dogs, the mortality rate of heart disease has decreased by 50% in the past 30 years.

Animal research has also made strong contributions to understanding and treating diabetes, a disease prominent in both humans and our beloved pets. Other studies involving rats and mice have allowed researchers to develop therapies for dementia, screening and fighting cancer, and tackling obesity.

Without animal research, these diseases would lead to a continued rise in healthcare costs for millions of people around the country. Click here to read more about the role animals play in keeping healthcare costs down for the nation’s five most expensive diseases.

Last Week’s NABR-Exclusive Webinar Now Available for Online Viewing

Last week's NABR webinar, "Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy Process," is now available online for on-demand viewing.  If you missed the webinar or would like to watch it again, it has been posted in the Members Only section of our website.

Please click here to view "Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy Process."  You will need your NABR members-only log-in credentials to watch the presentation.

If you have problems logging in, please contact us at info@nabr.org.

BIO CEO Pens Op-Ed Lauding the Results of Translational Animal Research

Jim Greenwood, CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and board member of the National Audubon Society, has written an enlightening submission to the Capitol Hill news site, The Hill, which highlights the connections humans have with animals.  It is already known that fostering relationships with animals has been scientifically shown to be beneficial for one’s mental health. Now, as Greenwood explains, the relationship goes even deeper.

Animal research has been shown to greatly improve the lives of both humans and animals.  To put this fact in perspective, sixty percent of all human diseases can be spread by animals, and livestock are particularly at risk.  To mediate this problem, scientists have carefully modified the genomes of livestock to make them less susceptible to spreading disease.  One example provided by Greenwood are chickens.  These ubiquitous birds have been modified to prevent the transmission of bird flu to other chickens, which then decreases the threat of a bird flu epidemic in humans.  In addition, other researchers have found ways to combat other deadly diseases, like Ebola and the Zika virus, by using animal models such as cows and mosquitos.

Greenwood goes on to note that animal studies are “key to discovering, developing and manufacturing new treatments for human diseases. Animal models of human diseases have helped scientists understand how and why a particular disease develops and what can be done to halt or reverse the process.”

Research performed with animals has saved the lives of many people and with continued use of animal research, scientists can save the lives of millions more. As Greenwood states, “Today, many people with once-fatal diseases are alive and healthy thanks to scientific breakthroughs made possible by studying animals. Tomorrow, thanks to ongoing advances in animal biotechnology, we can envision an even more hopeful and humane future for our planet, its people and our animal friends.”

To read Greenwood’s op-ed, please click here.

Are Primates Still Important for Medical Progress? The Answer: Yes

Opponents to animal research always ask, “Is research with primates still needed?”  According to Dr. Andrew Jackson of Britain’s Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience in a recent BBC Science & Environment article, primates are still vital for medical research, especially for studies with the brain.

Dr. Jackson has been recently researching the relationship between motion and the brain with rhesus macaque monkeys and a specially designed videogame. The monkeys play the game and when they win, they receive fruit as a reward. All the while, Dr. Jackson studies the monitors to see how neurons react to create the primates’ movement.  He explains that this research could help find ways to restore mobility to people who have suffering from paralysis.  Why a monkey? The research is performed with monkeys, rather than mice because the physiology of a monkey’s brain is much more similar to that of a human.  In addition, mice do not manipulate objects with their front paws like monkeys and people do with their hands.

In the article, an international animal rights group claims that primate research is unnecessary because of the existence of brain neural imaging and computer models, whose data is based of off previous animal studies. As the article notes, soon after publishing arguments in opposition to Dr. Jackson’s study, over six hundred scientists who are actively involved in animal research signed an open letter rejecting those claims.
Those scientists explain that nonhuman primates are very important for medical development and great lengths are taken to ensure their safety and comfort.  Labs come with elaborate enclosures, social groups, and more secluded areas to allow primates to have some time to themselves.  Dr. Jackson concurs that the wellbeing of the animals is very important for the experiments noting that stressed or uncomfortable animals can skew data and make it impossible to perform research.

To read the article, please click here. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of primates in research, please see the resources located on NABR’s website.

The World’s Five Deadliest Diseases and the Animals Helping to Fight Them

The critical need for animals in research has been well-established, but do you know its impact on the world’s deadliest diseases? In the on-going effort to emphasize the benefits of animal studies in treating the world’s five deadliest diseases, NABR has released a brief, easy to digest review of animals in the research to cure coronary artery disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), and lung cancer.  Shockingly, 22 million people per year, or 40% of all deaths in the world, occur because of these five diseases.  While these numbers can make the future look bleak, there is hope.

Many animals such as dogs, rabbits, mice, cats, and even ferrets and guinea pigs have contributed to incredible medical breakthroughs which have saved countless lives from these afflictions, and continue to help search for cures every day.  However, it is not just human lives that these animals are saving, animals have also greatly benefited from the research as well.

Dogs were instrumental in developing coronary artery bypass surgery and Taylor, a Doberman-German shepherd mix, was the first to receive open heart surgery to fix a rare congenital defect.  Now even more pets are undergoing the surgery to greatly improve their health and extend their lives.

With animal research breakthroughs, medical treatments are being developed right now to help save the lives of both people and animals, just like Taylor, who are struggling with chronic, severe illness.

Click here to read more about the role animals have played in improving the lives of millions of people afflicted with the five deadliest diseases in the world. Feel free to share this resource with your friends, family, colleagues, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Mouse Models Help Researchers Prepare for the Future of Space Travel

As if it was a scene taken straight out of a movie, the United States aims to put a man on Mars in the next two decades.  Mars, at its closest point, is 33.9 million miles away, and animal research is showing that the long trip to the Red Planet could have health implications for astronauts and space travelers.

Using mouse models, researchers have found that exposure to cosmic rays, which are abundant in space, could lead to something dubbed “space brain.”  Mice exposed to energetic, charged particles, similar to cosmic rays, developed conditions leading to mental impairment and dementia. They also showed decreased levels of “fear extinction,” the way in which the brain stifles traumatic associations. These decreased levels could make one more prone to anxiety which could become problematic on the three year trip to Mars.

Without the use of animal models, it would become almost impossible to test the effects of space travel on astronauts’ bodies. Author of the study and professor of radiation oncology at the University of California, Charles Limoli, explains, “Exposure to these particles can lead to a range of potential central nervous system complications that can occur during and persist long after actual space travel – such as various performance decrements, memory deficits, anxiety, depression, and impaired decision-making.”  An astronaut’s job in space is so complicated that any decrease in performance can spell disaster for a whole mission.

Thankfully, with the use of animal models, it becomes easier to study the rigors of space travel.  While the results from these studies are only an approximation to the effects of space on humans, it is a vital first step towards further exploration of outer space and ensuring the safety of our intrepid astronauts.

To read about this study, please click here.

Sign-Up Today for NABR’s Rescheduled Webinar

Due to a major a Internet service outage in Washington, DC on Tuesday, NABR was forced to cancel Tuesday's previously scheduled webinar, Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy ProcessWe sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. The webinar has now been rescheduled for Thursday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. If you registered for the webinar before you must register again to attend. 

If you want to improve compliance while also fostering animal care, here's how you can help...

On Thursday, November 10 at 12:30 p.m. join Dr. Taylor Bennett, NABR's Senior Science Advisor, and Mike Dingell, NABR's Director of Public Policy, for NABR's next exclusive webinar, Help Us Help You: Participating in the Public Policy ProcessThis webinar will share an insider's perspective into Washington that highlights important aspects of policy-making by using recent legislative initiatives and Federal Register notices to demonstrate the importance of participation. This valuable presentation will provide participants with the necessary information to become an active participant in the regulatory and legislative processes and provide guidance about how to help shape the environment in which NABR members work. NABR staff will also cover the results of the Election and discuss what impact it may have on the lab animal community.

NABR is the only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to advocating for sound public policy that recognizes the vital role animals play in biomedical research. But we can't do it alone. We need your help! NABR members play a unique and irreplaceable role in public policy process, especially when Congress considers legislation impacting biomedical research and when federal agencies propose new regulations. This webinar will give you the valuable tools and knowledge to assist NABR's efforts in the coming years.

As always, space is limited for NABR's webinars so please be sure to register ASAP to guarantee your spot for Help Us Help You: Participating in Public Policy Process. Please click here to reserve your spot.

Are Mice the Key to Unlocking a Vaccine Against Breast Cancer?

Scientists may have found a new way to protect high-risk individuals from developing breast cancer, a disease that will impact about 1 in 8 women in her lifetime.  According to recent news coverage, researchers from the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and from the Medical University of Vienna have successfully tested a vaccine with artificial HER2 antigens.  HER2 proteins cause breast cancer tumors to grow and it is present at above normal levels in about 30% of breast tumors. Thanks to research with mice this new vaccine could be on its way to patients to prevent breast cancer.

The immune system does not attack mutated cancer cells.  However, artificial tumor antigens, otherwise known as mimotopes, can stimulate an immune response. Unfortunately, these mimotopes need to have a carrier to be effective and with past carriers the mimotopes have changed their structure, decreasing their effectiveness in the body.

Researchers have found the vaccine is much more effective if the HER2 mimotopes are paired with particles of a virus.  The viral particles are too small to cause disease but are enough to cause an aggressive immune response.  This immune response is associated with the mimotopes and the body then begins to attack breast cancer cells.  In mouse models, those vaccinated with the antigen were shielded at significant levels from growing tumors; while the control group developed the cancer.

This potential vaccine could protect people and those who have had breast cancer in the past.  And, in a surprising twist, it can also be used in man’s best friend.  The HER2 protein performs similar functions in human and canine breast cancer.  The research team found that the protein corresponds about 90% between dogs and people.

To read more about this new discovery, please click here.

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