Skip navigation

Calls to Action

President Obama signs landmark biomedical innovations legislation

Bipartisan bill aims to accelerate medical innovation, including development of personalized medicines that could benefit those with autism
December 14, 2016

President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the landmark biomedical innovations bill known as the 21st Century Cures Act to increase funding of the National Institutes of Health, modernize clinical trials and accelerate the rate of innovations, including the development of personalized and precision medicines that could benefit people with autism.

In a signing ceremony at the White House, President Obama said, "We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health challenges of our time."

Autism Speaks worked closely with grassroots advocates and champions in Congress to include provisions that would potentially accelerate biomedical innovations for people with autism and improve patient input in the drug approval process.

Earlier this month, the Senate approved the legislation by a vote of 94-5. The Senate acted after the House passed the legislation by a 392-26 margin.

The legislation was authored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), full committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-Texas).  It was also driven through the support of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee leadership, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“After three years, our legislative work is finally complete. Twenty-first Century Cures is ready for the president,” said Upton and DeGette at the bill’s passage. “With this innovation game-changer, a new day for medical research is on the horizon. Today’s vote is for patients and their loved ones. We all have more reason for hope.” 

“There is no doubt that more funding is needed to advance research into causes and better interventions for autism,” said Angela Geiger, Autism Speaks president and CEO. “This legislation provides funding for research programs that will help better inform our understanding of autism.”

To date, Autism Speaks’ MSSNG project has sequenced more than 7,000 whole genomes from families affected by autism – making it the world’s largest genomic database on autism. More than 90 leading investigators have already received approval for accessing the database and its cutting-edge analytic tools to advance their work, deepening understanding of autism and paving the way for personalized treatments. Through the data and new knowledge provided by MSSNG, Autism Speaks is powering the translation of basic research into improved diagnostics, therapies and life supports.

Precision medicine is a game-changing opportunity for autism,” said Mat Pletcher, Autism Speaks interim chief science officer. “We are learning much about the potential to segment it into many disorders through our MSSNG genome project. This legislation will not only fuel inquiry in this area, but brings the patient in to inform the regulatory process to better understand treatment need.”