NIO Policy Tour 2009 Recap

February 20, 2009

NIO Policy Tour 2009 Recap

NIO’s influence and impact on commercial neuroscience continued to grow during our 3rd public policy tour in Washington D.C. last week.

During this successful event our participants — from a diverse spectrum of neurotech companies, brain research institutes and advocates — provided U.S. policymakers with a personal connection to the promise of the industry.

On February 10-11, NIO members met with 40 elected representatives on Capitol Hill and officials from the NIH to discuss the opportunities and obstacles facing companies and organizations working to improve the lives of those with brain and nervous system illnesses.

Neurotechnology leaders from Adlyfe, Alfred Mann Foundation, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Aruna Biomedical, BiotechPartnering Solutions, Brain Aneurysm Foundation, BrainScope, Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health, Cognitive Drug Research, CureNeuro, K&L Gates, Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Research Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Medavante, North American Neuromodulation Society, Neuromodulation Therapy Access Coalition, NeuroVentures Capital, Remegenix, StemCells Inc., Sound Pharmaceuticals, and Third Rock Ventures participated in the tour.

These remarkable organizations helped push neurotechnology front and center in Washington, and made great strides in lobbying for the National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI), NIO’s flagship legislation which was created by NIO members. There continues to be solid momentum for the NNTI and we are looking forward to a timely introduction of the legislation into the 111th Congress.

Capitol Hill Meetings

NIO participants canvassed Capitol Hill in support of the National Neurotechnology Initiative legislation meeting with over forty key Senators, Representatives of the House and their staffers at their offices. Despite being in the middle of the stimulus legislation discussions, members were greeted with substantial interest and enthusiasm for the legislation.

Elected officials were particularly interested in learning about exciting new treatments and diagnostics in development by member companies and wanted to know more about how the bill would (1) increase coordination and efficiency of research among federal agencies (2) create new jobs (3) promote development of treatments for disorders important to the military like traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder, (4) promote development of treatments for chronic illness of aging which will increase the burden on our healthcare economy in the coming years and (5) secure the United States’ position as the world’s leading nexus for this rapidly growing industry

Participants met with the following Senators, Representatives of the House and their staffers at their Capitol Hill offices: Sen. Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Bennett (R-UT), Sen. Bond (R-MO), Sen. Brown (D-OH), Sen. Burr (R-NC), Sen. Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Cardin (D-MD), Sen. Coburn (R-OK), Sen. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Enzi (R-WY), Sen. Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Lautenburg (D-NJ), Sen. Levin (D-MI), Sen. Martinez (R-FL), Sen. Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Murray (D-WA), Sen. Nelson (D-FL), Sen. Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Warner (D-VA), Rep. Akin (R-MO), Rep. Broun (R-GA), Rep. Burgess (R-TX), Rep. Davis (D-IL), Rep. Filner (D-CA), Rep. Inslee (D-WA), Rep. Harman (CA), Rep. Kennedy (D-RI), Rep. Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Thompson (D-CA), Rep. Lynch (D-MA), Rep. McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Sutton (D-OH), Rep. Upton (R-MI), Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Wu (D-OR).

Despite the economic climate, there remains a high level of interest among members of Congress and their staffs about the NNTI legislation. Once the bill is introduced we will continue to extend our requests for support of the legislation through meetings, special hearings and letters of support from member companies and other stakeholders.

NIH Meeting

Three representatives from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health came into DC to meet with tour participants and to discuss of ways to facilitate increased and improved interaction between the neurotechnology industry and federally-supported R&D programs. Laurie Arrants, Technology Development Coordinator, NINDS Technology Transfer Office; Jill Heemskerk, Acting Director, Office of Translational Research at NINDS; and Joe Pancrazio, Program Director, Repair & Plasticity at NINDS gave insightful overviews of ongoing projects.

The main topic of discussion was how NIH institutes can facilitate the elusive “hand-off” to industry. This was the beginning of an important conversation NIO will continue to spearhead with NIH. If you are interested in receiving copies of the presentations presented by the NINDS staff at this meeting please do not hesitate to contact me. These efforts will also be the focus of a session on technology transfer opportunities at NIO’s annual Neurotech Industry Conference May 11-13 in San Francisco.

Once again, thank you to all who took the time out of their busy schedules to join NIO in giving the brain a voice in Washington. I look forward to providing updates on the initiatives that were discussed with our legislators and agency partners and to seeing you on next year’s policy tour.


Zack Lynch