Alexander, Murray Unveil Bill For Next Medical Innovation Markup

The leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee introduced a bill Thursday they say will make it easier for the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health to hire top researchers.

The bill, the FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act, would authorize the FDA to pay employees salaries more similar to what they would make in the private sector and make it easier for the FDA to participate in the Biomedical Research Service, a program primarily used by the NIH to attract new talent, and raises the number of people eligible for the program at both agencies. It also aims to cut down on barriers of communication within centers of the FDA so researchers can more easily share information on developments.

The bill comes as the committee is working on companion legislation to the House’s 21st Century Cures Act by passing several smaller bills, such as this one, that Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) hopes will amount to a more comprehensive bill. This bill will be marked up at an April session, which Alexander has said will be the final markup for the smaller bills.

The challenges to reaching that goal — notably whether a bill should provide additional funding to the FDA and NIH — still threaten to derail Alexander’s plan though, as Murray made clear in a statement about the bill.

“I’m pleased that the committee has reached agreement on legislation to help ensure the FDA and NIH are able to keep the best researchers, doctors and scientists on staff, and to break down barriers that may impede important collaboration,” she said. “I’m very hopeful that we can continue working in a bipartisan way to agree on strong mandatory investments in the NIH and the FDA as well as policies to strengthen patient and consumer safety — each of which, as Democrats have made clear, are necessary to reach a final agreement.”

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