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The Cancer Letter – Senate Bill Gives FDA More Control Over Its Hiring, Salaries and Structure

The Cancer Letter – Senate Bill Gives FDA More Control Over Its Hiring, Salaries and Structure

The FDA and NIH Workforce Authorities Modernization Act was introduced in the Senate by Republican and Democratic leaders of the health committee. The bill aims to help FDA and NIH “attract top talent during this exciting time in science.”

The bill, introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), looks to improve coordination within and between FDA medical product centers and allow the FDA to update its structure, as well as make it easier for the agency to hire; improve access to scientific meetings for federal employees; and streamline processes for NIH research information collection.

“With so many patients and families waiting and hoping for new, safe, effective cures and treatments, we should absolutely work to strengthen hiring practices and break down siloed research that get in the way of innovation,” said Murray. “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. 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.”

The bill allows the FDA to conduct a pilot program to test the best ways to boost communication between different centers at the FDA—allowing scientists focused on treatments and cures for a particular disease to better share information, and also exempts NIH research relying on voluntary data collection from the Paperwork Reduction Act, which in this instance is duplicative and slows researchers from moving forward in research, the two senators said in a statement.

“This bipartisan bill takes a significant step to improve FDA and NIH’s ability to deliver on the promise of this exciting time in science, by helping them hire and retain top performers and cutting red tape that actually obstructs their ability to keep up with the newest scientific advancements,” said Alexander.

Members of the Senate’s health committee are scheduled to debate and vote on the bill April 6.

“Senator Alexander and Senator Murray have taken an important and crucial step forward by acknowledging the opportunity and need for innovation at the FDA,” said Ellen Sigal, chair and founder of Friends of Cancer Research.

The bill also plans to increase the FDA’s ability to retain talent, and pay a salary that is more competitive with the private sector.

“Improvements in human resources management and capability are essential if the FDA is to ensure that safe and effective new medicines, which are being developed with increasingly complex science, reach patients as efficiently and quickly as possible,” said Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.