October 6, 2010 / 4:13 PM / 9 years ago

FDA to push for more investment in science

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Health regulators plan to spend millions of dollars to step up their scientific prowess in a move that officials say will help quickly get new treatments to patients and protect the public against possible health threats.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in a proposal released on Wednesday, said it aims to invest in a wide range of efforts, from developing methods to assess new products to creating better tests to identify food contaminants.

All of them are aimed at keeping up with rapidly changing science and technology.

“We need new approaches, new collaborations and new ways to take advantage of 21st century technologies,” the agency said in a white paper announcing the effort. Ultimately, the plan should “bolster” regulatory science “and — above all — creative approaches to product development and safety for both food and medical products.”

The plan was released ahead of a televised speech by FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg at the National Press Club in Washington.

Hamburg, a public health expert and former health commissioner for New York, has vowed to boost the agency’s scientific focus since taking over the FDA under President Barack Obama last year.

The agency has already launched a recent handful of initiatives aimed at collaborating with other government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health as well as universities and medical industries.

But its latest plan aims to formalize and broaden the effort using $25 million from Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011, which began this month.

It is unclear whether the FDA would have the money to boost science to the extent it wants. Obama had requested a 23 percent funding increase for a total of $4 billion for the FDA, but most agencies are being funded at 2010 levels since Congress failed to pass next year’s budget.

Reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Gerald E. McCormick

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