Bennet, Ernst, Colleagues Push Bipartisan Bill Prioritizing Children’s Health Care Research

The bipartisan bill would direct the NIH to prioritize pediatric research

Washington, D.C. — Following sharp reductions in pediatric medical researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to increase pediatric-focused research at the NIH. The bill will address challenges in researcher recruitment and retention in addition to creating a pipeline of early-career pediatric researchers. 

“Pediatric medical researchers generate scientific insights that are critical to reshaping the way we treat diseases that affect children in Colorado and around the country. In recent years, we have seen groundbreaking research on pediatric diseases such as sickle cell disease and leukemia as a result of this dedicated research,” said Bennet. “I am proud to co-sponsor the PACT Act to provide much-needed assistance to strengthen our nation’s commitment to supporting medical researchers who have dedicated their lives to studying lifesaving treatments for pediatric diseases.” 

“A strong pipeline of pediatric researchers is essential to ensuring kids in Iowa, and across the country, have access to innovative cures and treatments for the complex medical conditions that they and their families are facing,” said Ernst. “We must work to ensure that children are being adequately represented in federal research. That’s why I’ve put forward this bipartisan bill that will bolster pediatric-focused research and in turn help to improve the lives and health of our children and families.” 

“We are grateful for Senator Bennet signing on as an original cosponsor of the Pediatricians Accelerate Childhood Therapies (PACT) Act of 2019. This legislation is a critical step to accelerating child health and addressing challenges in the pediatric workforce by supporting physician-scientists nationwide, including those who practice here at Children’s Hospital Colorado,” said Stephen Daniels, Pediatrician-in-Chief of Children’s Hospital Colorado. 

In the past several years, pediatric research slots have seen sharp reductions within the NIH. 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, having been reduced from supporting 17 training slots per institution down to 10 per institution. These reductions contrast with the consistent increases Congress has provided to the overall NIH budget. 

The Pediatricians Accelerate Childhood Therapies (PACT) Act would establish an NIH-wide grant to support early-career pediatric researchers. 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 in Iowa, and across the country. 

In addition to Bennet and Ernst, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).