WASHINGTON – Following reductions to the number of pediatric medical researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) re-introduced bipartisan legislation to invest in pediatric scientists and research. The Pediatricians Accelerate Childhood Therapies (PACT) Act would address challenges in researcher recruitment and retention and create a pipeline of early-career pediatric researchers with a focus on those historically underrepresented in research such as women and people of color.
“Investing in early-career pediatric scientists and research will go a long way toward supporting the health of our nation’s children,” said Senator Coons. “By bolstering the pediatric-scientist workforce, with a focus on those historically underrepresented in pediatric research, we are investing in our next generation of science leaders and creating opportunities for advancements that will improve the health of kids in Delaware and across the country.”
“It’s important we help children get access to the innovative cures and treatments they need, and a big part of that is supporting research and researchers,” said Senator Ernst. “This bipartisan bill will bolster pediatric-focused research and in turn help to improve the lives and health of Iowa kids and families.”
“I applaud Senator Coons and Senator Ernst for their bipartisan leadership in reintroducing a bill that includes critical provisions needed to support the development of the next generation of researchers focused on children’s health,”said Larry Moss, MD, president and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health System, which is a member of the Coalition for Pediatric Medical Research. “Supporting early career investigators must be a key priority for the research community, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill is an important step toward improving the health of our country’s children.”
In addition to Coons and Ernst, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).
The bill text can be found here.
Over the past several years, the number of pediatric medical researchers supported by the NIH has been reduced. This includes reductions of Child Health Research Center Awards, which supports fewer than half of the young investigators that it did in 2010. The Pediatric Scientist Development Program has also seen cuts in recent years. These reductions contrast with the consistent increases Congress has provided to the overall NIH budget.
The PACT Act would establish an NIH-wide grant to support early-career pediatric researchers, with a focus on those who have been historically underrepresented in pediatric research, including women and people of color, and researchers from institutions disproportionately serving them. Awards will support a variety of activities that ultimately seek to enable recipients to achieve research independence. The bill also directs the NIH Pediatric Research Consortium to set priorities, improve coordination and collaboration, and identify gaps and opportunities to support the development of new treatments and cures for diseases and conditions that affect children across the country.
In addition to the endorsement of Nemours Children’s Health System and the Coalition for Pediatric Medical Research, the bipartisan legislation is supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the International Eosinophil Society, Kids v. Cancer, and the CURED Foundation. An additional letter of support can be found here.