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Autism Speaks Hails Senator Arlen Specter’s Planned Introduction of the Cures Acceleration Network Act

April 25, 2009

NEW YORK, NY (April 25, 2009) – Autism Speaks, the nation’'s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today applauded Senator Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) announcement that he would introduce the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Act, groundbreaking legislation focused on accelerating the process of moving the most promising research discoveries from the lab bench to the bedside. Senator Specter, who outlined CAN in a speech in Chicago today, plans to introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

The CAN Act would reauthorize the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at a new baseline funding level of $40 billion per year, in essence making recently-added stimulus funds a permanent part of the NIH budget. The second major aspect of the bill is the creation of a new, independent federal agency, the Cures Acceleration Network, specifically tasked with more quickly translating research discoveries into practical medical applications.

"“This legislation will create the urgency we desperately need at the federal level to push science toward real impact on people'’s lives,"” said Geraldine Dawson, PhD, Autism Speaks chief science officer. "“In the area of autism research, in particular, much needs to be done to translate important discoveries into treatments and therapies that can help individuals living with autism today.”"

“"Senator Specter'’s important legislation deserves the enthusiastic support of anyone who has been affected, directly or indirectly, by autism, cancer, diabetes and the other terrible diseases of our time,"” said Bob Wright, Autism Speaks co-founder. “"Now is the time to redouble our federal government’s commitment to science and innovation in the search for better treatments and cures.”"

According to Senator Specter, CAN will make awards outside of traditional funding streams with the goal of accelerating the development of cures and treatments, including drugs, medical devices and behavioral therapies. The new agency will have a flexible and expedited review process to get funds to grantees as quickly as possible. According to Senator Specter, the CAN funding will be complementary to – and not competitive with NIH funding.

The Cures Acceleration Network will fund both researchers who have access to private matching funds and those who do not. Biotech companies, universities, research institutions, patient advocacy organizations and pharmaceutical companies will all be eligible to apply. A board comprised of businesspeople, scientists, patient advocates and others will evaluate grant proposals.

“Nothing is more important than curing the diseases that damage our spirits, hurt our families and take our lives,” said Senator Specter, himself a cancer survivor. “More money alone won’t get us faster cures…we must do this on the scale and with the focus of the way we sent astronauts to the moon. And we need to start now. Americans battling cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes and so many other dreaded diseases have not a minute to waste.”
> Download a PDF of this release
> Read Senator Specter's press release on the CAN Act (PDF)
Read Senator Specter's floor comments (April 28, 2009) (PDF)
Download a copy of the CAN Act as introduced on Aptil 28, 2009 (PDF)