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Members of the panel during the Oct. 30 roundtable.

Baylor College of Medicine hosted U.S. Reps. Michael Burgess, Gene Green and Pete Olson on Oct. 30 for a roundtable discussion with leaders and researchers from the Texas Medical Center focusing on barriers, challenges and possibilities shaping translational research.

The informal yet informative roundtable discussion held at the Bioscience Research Collaborative building was part of the 21st Century Cures Initiative of the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Over the past several months, the Committee and its members have held dozens of hearings in Washington and roundtables across the country in support of this initiative. Their goal is to determine what steps Congress can take to ensure we are taking full advantage of the advances this country has made in science and technology and use these resources to keep America as the innovation capital of the world. We’re honored that the Committee has chosen to visit Houston and the Texas Medical Center to hear from us,” said Dr. Paul Klotman, president, CEO and executive dean at Baylor.

The panel included Klotman and Dr. Richard Gibbs, Dr. Malcolm Brenner, Dr. Peter Hotez and Dr. Jeffrey Sutton, all of Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Bobby Robbins, TMC CEO and Bill McKeon, also of the TMC; Dr. Mauro Ferrari, Houston Methodist Research Institute; Dr. Thomas Kent, Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Dr. Kirstin Matthews, Rice University; Dr. Jiajie Zhang, UT Health, along with Reps. Green, Olson and Burgess.

“Houston is home to cutting-edge research, innovation and models of care. As the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Initiative moves forward, it is critical that Houston’s healthcare leaders be part of the conversation. I am so pleased to have such experienced and dedicated scientists and health professionals participate in our roundtable, and I look forward to continuing this collaborative effort to bring our healthcare system in to the 21st Century,” Green said. 

The discussion focused on the barriers and challenges as well as possibilities for furthering research, and how the federal government can support institutions to advance research. Some of the key topics discussed included addressing FDA regulations and the role they play in research and the need for new solutions in the face of less NIH funding and pharmaceutical company involvement in research and development.

The new TMC Accelerator was mentioned by roundtable panelists as an innovative and possibly transformative solution to developing new technologies in healthcare. The accelerator, located at the McGovern Campus in the TMC, offers life science and digital health entrepreneurs with a collaborative ecosystem to accelerate their path to market. 

The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas also was applauded as an example of successful cooperation between government and healthcare institutions.

"Healthcare innovation is growing at a breakneck speed and if our laws stand in the way of getting these innovations to the people who need them, everyone loses. America has long been a leader in medical breakthroughs and we want to keep it that way. That's why our committee leadership asked us to go directly to the experts, the people in the labs, on the hospital floor, in the patient room and figure out where the gaps are so that government and our laws can help speed up cures rather than hinder them,” Olson said. 

Prior to the roundtable,  a demonstration was held to highlight the ongoing science, technology, and career development activities at the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which is a NASA-funded consortium of institutions led by Baylor to study the health risks related to long-duration spaceflight and located in the Bioscience Research Collaborative building. 

Learn more about the 21st Century Cures Initiative.