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About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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March 19, 2008

NIO Public Policy Tour 2008 Recap

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I'm pleased to report that the Neurotechnology Industry Organization's second annual public policy tour in Washington DC last week was a resounding success. As this event demonstrates, NIO's influence and impact on commercial neuroscience continued to grow as we help connect the diverse spectrum of neurotechnology companies and advocates to policymakers.

US%20Capitol.jpgOn March 12 and 13, NIO members met with over fifty elected representatives on Capitol Hill and over thirty officials at the FDA and CMS to discuss the opportunities and obstacles facing those working to improve the lives of patients with brain and nervous system ailments. A full description of our meetings and listings of those we met with can be found here, and below I'll recount some of the highlights.

Capitol Hill

NIO representatives canvassed Capitol Hill in support of the National Neurotechnology Initiative (NNTI), NIO's flagship legislation created by NIO members. Elected representatives and their key staff members expressed substantial interest in the legislation and its promise to help ease bench-to-bedside bottlenecks, accelerating the development and commercialization of treatments and cures for brain-related illnesses.

In particular, Congressional representatives were interested to learn more about how the NNTI will:
· Increase coordination and efficiency of research among federal agencies
· Impact treatments important to the military, such as for TBI and PTSD
· Address aging illnesses whose economic burden threaten the economy
· Secure the U.S.'s position as the world's leader for this rapidly growing industry

During the afternoon Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a champion for mental health, announced at a reception for NIO members that he plans to introduce the National Neurotechnology Initiative Act in the House of Representatives. Thanks to the superb advocacy work of our tour participants, we have already received indications that several co-sponsors plan to sign on in the very near future.

CMS and FDA

The next day many tour participants continued high-level meetings on Capitol Hill while others traveled to the offices of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to introduce NIO and discuss ways for the industry to work with CMS to support our objectives.

Among other important topics of conversation, CMS solicited and NIO agreed to develop a horizon scanning project to identify brain and nervous system drugs, devices and diagnostics that will likely impact CMS reimbursement within the next 2-5 years. See here for additional topics of discussion and important contacts at the organization for NIO members.

Later the entire NIO policy tour group reconvened at the FDA where we met with officials from CDER, CBER and CDRH. Meeting highlights include an overview of the Critical Path Opportunity Program (including an in-depth discussion on CPO 38 - issues affecting epilepsy trials -- at the request of NIO member The Epilepsy Therapy Project); developing more effective working relationships with CDRH; and some of CBER's most pressing technological needs. See here for more in-depth information about the meetings and a full participant list from the FDA.

Next Steps

Following these meetings, there will be several more opportunities for NIO supporters to promote the NNTI within Congress (stay tuned for more on how you can specifically help) as well as form key working groups to strengthen our burgeoning alliances with the FDA and CMS.

I'd like to thank all of our participants and partners who worked so hard to make this event such a success. Without the commitment from Accera, Adlyfe, Advanced Neuromodulation Systems, Alseres Pharmaceuticals, BiotechPartnering Solutions, Boston Scientific, Brain Aneurysm Foundation, Cogmed America, Cognitive Drug Research, CorTechs Labs, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Epilepsy Study Consortium, Feinstein Kean Healthcare, International Neuromodulation Society, Kappametrics, K&L Gates, KidsDx, Medtronic, NeuroInsights, NeuroNexus Technologies, NeuroScience Associates, Neurotech Development Foundation, Neurotech Network, Neurotech Reports, North American Neuromodulation Society, Pfizer, PhotoThera, Posit Science, and Sound Pharmaceuticals, this would never have been possible.

I look forward to working with each of you again - and those of you unable to attend this year - on NIO's third annual public policy tour of Washington DC in March 2009.

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