12.13.16

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Susan Collins Legislation Supporting Young Researchers Signed into Law

Next Generation Researchers Act was included in major bipartisan health care innovation legislation passed by Congress last week.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today bipartisan legislation supporting young researchers authored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) was signed into law by President Obama. At a time when America’s young researchers are facing a difficult funding environment, Senators Baldwin and Collins introduced the Next Generation Researchers Act to build opportunities for new researchers, address the debt burden that young researchers face today, and invest in the future of research, science, and innovation. The bipartisan legislation was included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which passed Congress last week.

“In order for America to out-innovate the rest of the world and create an economy built to last, we must protect and strengthen our investments in research, science, and innovation,” said Senator Baldwin. “We can’t accomplish this without supporting and investing in the next generation of researchers. Our best and brightest minds deserve to know that our country stands with them. This new law will make a strong commitment to our young scientists, who are being held back by state and federal budget cuts and are in need of greater support to pursue life-saving research and discover the next medical breakthrough.”

“Maintaining our nation’s competitive edge in both research and innovation depends greatly on the strength of our commitment to attracting, cultivating, and equipping world-class scientific minds,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan legislation strengthens our nation’s commitment to the next generation of cutting-edge researchers.  This critical investment will help to empower these young innovative researchers in Maine and across our country with the resources they need to continue to lead the world in groundbreaking scientific research and development.”

The Next Generation Researchers Act will establish the Next Generation of Researchers Initiative within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of the Director to coordinate all current and new NIH policies to promote opportunities for our new scientists and earlier research independence. This measure will also improve NIH’s loan repayment programs by increasing the amount of loans that NIH can forgive for trainees, from $35,000 a year to $50,000.

“UW-Madison is a world class research institution and home to many researchers who have launched their careers here and can benefit from the passage of the Next Generation of Researchers Initiative in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We are extremely grateful to Senator Tammy Baldwin for introducing this legislation, which makes a strong investment in the next generation of researchers,” says Marsha Mailick, UW-Madison’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. “This initiative will help researchers in the areas of biomedical and behavioral research who are hungry for additional support with training, mentorship programs, and much needed funding – all critical to their success as they build their research portfolios and conduct transformative research at UW-Madison.”

“The passage of the Next Generation Researchers Act affirms the bipartisan commitment to enabling our nations’ young scientists to establish their independent careers and push the envelope of basic and translational scientific discovery,” said Matt Hodges, PhD, Associate Professor at Medical College of Wisconsin. “Young scientists bring new ideas and drive the discovery process to new frontiers, which is vital to the future of medicine and health care in our country. However, obtaining funding for research is particularly difficult to obtain and maintain for young scientists, and the Next Generation Researchers Act directs attention to potential solutions to this problem. The community of young scientists congratulates Senator Baldwin and those in support of our nations next generation of biomedical researchers.”

“BioForward applauds Senator Baldwin’s passionate pursuit to increase funding towards the opioid epidemic and her commitment to expand new opportunities for young scientists through her Next Generation Researchers Act,” said Lisa Johnson, CEO of BioForward Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has already seen the negative impacts of not investing in our research universities and their young researchers. As a result of cuts at the state level, UW-Madison fell out of the top 5 in national research university rankings for the first time in over 40 years. Wisconsin has long been a leader in pioneering remarkable breakthroughs in science that have improved health, saved lives and created jobs. But, current state and federal policies are putting the brakes on research and innovation, jeopardizing our country’s leadership. Since 2003, the NIH budget has failed to keep up with inflation, decreasing the purchasing power of the NIH by over 22 percent while our global competitors accelerate their research capabilities. Federal budget cuts enacted in sequestration have slashed $1.5 billion from the NIH budget.

This trend is particularly devastating for our nation’s new and young researchers and has contributed to the stagnation of our biomedical workforce. The average age of a first-time NIH grant recipient is 42 years old— up from 36 in 1980. Without action, talented young scientists may decide to do something else, or leave the country to pursue their research. Scientific and medical innovation depends on our ability to foster and support the best and brightest scientific minds, and the Next Generation Researchers Act shows a commitment to our nation’s future researchers that our country stands with them.

The Next Generation Researchers Act was also supported by: AcademyHealth, American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), American Association for Dental Researchers (AADR), American Heart Association, American Society of Transplantation (AST), Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), BioForward, Inc., Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Medical College of Wisconsin, Research!America, University of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).