May 09, 2019
Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 9, 2019) – Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA) introduced the Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act (HR 2620), to fund translational research and advance treatments and cures for blindness and other eye conditions. The bill also lays the groundwork for a new financial instrument speeding treatments and cures across the spectrum of disease and disability.

The Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act would establish a five-year pilot program to create unique financial instruments called Eye Bonds. These bonds would finance packages of loans for projects at small labs, universities and other research centers. They have the potential to mobilize as much as $1 billion in research funding by incentivizing private investment backed by a limited federal guarantee which would receive repayment priority and thus ensure taxpayer protection.

“America has led the world in medical innovation, and in order for us to continue to find cures and breakthroughs, we need innovative approaches to research,” said McMorris Rodgers. “This legislation will create unique financial institutions to help support projects at small labs, universities, and other research centers. I’m proud to lead on this legislation with Rep. Bishop so we can continue to find lifesaving solutions.”

“For far too long, we have had federally-funded research sitting on the shelf, waiting for private investors to put it into practice,” said Congressman Bishop. “When it comes to turning research into cures, we must seek new ways to tackle old problems. The Eye Bonds created by the Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act will give health research the boost it needs to help Americans. These bonds will fund research that has the potential to deliver new treatments for a range of conditions including macular degeneration, glaucoma, blindness caused by diabetes and sickle cell disease, and many others. And this is just the first step, if this pilot program is successful, a similar approach could be used to support groundbreaking research for other conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.”

In the United States, there are more than 4 million adults and almost half-a-million children who are blind or have severely impaired vision. Projects supported by Eye Bonds would further research for treatments and cures for a wide range of vision-related conditions, including glaucoma and sickle-cell anemia retinopathy. In addition, Eye Bonds funded research would help with treatment for severe vision trauma that is sadly one of the most common injuries suffered by military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of war. Research on treatments and cures for age-related macular degeneration, diabetes retinopathy, and many causes of childhood vision loss would also see significant support from Eye Bond funding.

The Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act includes numerous safeguards to ensure taxpayers’ interests are protected and to quickly reimburse taxpayers for the small initial outlay needed to launch the pilot program. The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would select eligible projects so that only legitimate, viable research would receive funding. Furthermore, taxpayers are repaid first – not last – as researchers advance treatments and repay obligations. The legislation also provides for controls at each stage of this pilot program to maximize taxpayer protections, speed cures, and prevent conflicts of interest.

Eye Bonds would NOT replace existing federal funding to the NEI.

The Faster Treatments and Cures for Eye Diseases Act is supported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, Blinded Veterans of America, and numerous other vision and biomedical-research groups.

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