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Senate sends massive biomedical innovation bill to Obama for signing

By a 94-to-five vote, the Senate today approved the 21st Century Cures Act, clearing the way for President Barack Obama to sign the measure into law. The massive bill dedicates $4.8 billion over the next decade to research initiatives at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and makes an array of changes at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to speed the approval of new drugs and medical devices. It also creates a new federal advisory board aimed at cutting burdensome regulation on academic researchers. The House of Representatives on 30 November passed the bill on a 392-to-26 vote.

Read ScienceInsider’s previous coverage of the Cures legislation.

Many research and university groups applauded the Senate vote.

“At a time when bipartisanship is a rare commodity, this bill affirms the resolve across party and ideological lines to find cures for devastating illnesses and strengthen investment in American research and innovation,” said Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities in Washington, D.C., in a statement.

The bill “includes provisions that take a significant step toward improving representation of women and minorities in research at [NIH],” noted singer and actor Barbra Streisand, co-founder of the Women’s Heart Alliance, a group that advocated for Cures provisions focused on how sex and gender influence disease, in a statement. “Our ability to analyze sex differences in biomedical research is critical to advancing medical innovation.”

"The Cures Act makes important investments that will save lives," Obama said in a statement. "This bill will make a big difference, and I look forward to signing it as soon as it reaches my desk."

Some critics argue Cures will give drug and medical device companies too much leeway at FDA, but those concerns failed to block passage of the bill.